Hong Kong Letter to the Editor

To the editor,

I am writing in response to the article “Hong Kong Protest Hit CWRU” published on Oct. 9, 2014. In no doubt, Aquene Kimmel’s article about my hometown is very impressive, and I am touched that it is an article expressing concern for my hometown. The article provided Case Western Reserve University students an elementary view of the current situation in Hong Kong; I appreciate that there is an increase of awareness towards Hong Kong among CWRU students. Indeed, there is a more complicated situation in Hong Kong than that which The Observer reported. I feel obliged to share some thought on the contexts surrounding such a severe situation, which had not been addressed in Kimmel’s article.

Hong Kong, where I was born and raised until I came to study in America two years ago, is not just a normal city in China. As a child, I remember the Union Jack flying over this former crown colony and the Scottish bagpipe music, “Highland Cathedral,” was still heard every time the Royal Hong Kong police force participated in a parade. Everything changed on July 1, 1997: the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred to China. Hong Kong, which is a capitalist city-state, did not gain independence like the other former British colonies and was shadowed under a regime with very different political ideology.

One may wonder why the Hong Kongese did not vigorously resist “being returned” to China. The Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong provided the answer. In 1984, the British government and the Chinese government signed the aforementioned declaration to restore Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China. Most importantly, the declaration indicated Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs. In other words, Hong Kong was allowed to maintain an independent executive, legislative and judicial power (including that of final adjudication). The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong would remain unchanged, such as the lifestyle, rights and freedoms. The idea “One country, two systems” was established accordingly.

Based on the promise in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a quasi-constitution called The Basic Law was introduced in 1990 to ensure the autonomy of Hong Kong. In terms of the political structure, The Basic Law Article 45 stated, “The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People’s Government… The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.” Unfortunately, the Chinese government ruled out a fully democratic election in 2017 by imposing tight rules on nominations of candidates and the formation of an exclusive 1,200 member nominating Committee handpicked by the Chinese government.

Earlier this June, Beijing issued a “white paper”, which was condemned as trampling the basic law and “one country, two systems.” The “white paper” angered Hong Kongese and with the rejection of universal suffrage by the Chinese government, triggered the city’s determination for a civil disobedience movement. The cultural differences that generate high tension between Hong Kong and mainland China also contributed to the political unrest.

I am not saying Hong Kong should once again be colonized by Britain or completely disengage from China. There are indeed voices in Hong Kong saying, “We were once a British colony, now we are a Chinese colony.”

Frank Wu, the president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, said in Kimmel’s article, “People are omitting the potential for cooperation between Hong Kong and mainland China.” Unfortunately, the dishonouring of the promise given to Hong Kongese forced us to lose faith towards the Chinese government. I wish Wu’s statement was true and the relationship would be forever harmonious, but in reality this is not the case. As a Hong Kong citizen, I request that the governments, both Chinese and British, honor their promise and respect our fundamental rights of pursuing true freedom and democracy.

“Hong Kong belongs to Hong Kongese.”

Sincerely yours,
Jason H.C. Cheung
Class of 2016