Ostensibly over the implementation of a controversial extradition bill, the protests also reflect wider concerns about the territory’s ongoing relationship with China and preserving Hong Kong’s distinctive political culture and democratic rights. In 2017, on the 20th anniversary of the British handover of the territory to China, Kerry Brown spoke to Jason Naselli about what the future holds for the territory.
Given the recent protests, how sustainable is the ‘one country, two systems’ framework between Hong Kong and China? Will the arrangement last the full 50 years, until 2047, as originally envisioned?
It is questionable whether the arrangement that exists today was the one envisioned in 1997 when the handover happened. It was always a very abstract, flexible system, granting Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy where it could maintain its capitalist system. Of course, in the lead up to 1997, all these things were broadly seen as being in Beijing’s interests to preserve.
Interestingly, one thing that few predicted in 1997 has come to pass, which is the People’s Republic has maintained one-party rule as a political system but become one of the world’s great economies too.
Hong Kong therefore has diminished in importance over the years, maintaining at least some semblance to the one country, two systems framework. But it has been nibbled at, compromised and seems to grow weaker by the day. Most in Hong Kong would say there is a system: one country, one system. That’s the deal.