Shih Wing-ching, Chairman of Centaline Holdings and owner of the am730 newspaper, in am730 (23 December 2019)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
Anti-government protesters have been using the slogan "Reclaim Hong Kong" as they feel that, since the handover in 1997, the concept of “one country, two systems” has gradually deteriorated into “one country, 1.5 systems”. The “reclaiming” therefore pertains to the missing 0.5.
The protestors feel that, because of China, political rights in Hong Kong are becoming increasingly restricted. For instance, they claim that China is attempting to control the election of the Hong Kong chief executive and the legislature. In addition, the growth of Chinese-funded institutions has also reduced the status of the Hong Kong business community.
Meanwhile, the increase in mainland tourists has allegedly disrupted the daily lives of Hong Kong people. What concerns the protestors the most is that 150 mainlanders move to Hong Kong every day and there is the fear that they will not only compete with the Hong Kong people for resources, but also make Hong Kong become more like the mainland. These are the reasons why they claim that “one country, two systems” has descended into “one country, 1.5 systems”.
While these criticisms are not entirely groundless, they are somewhat exaggerated, and it is somewhat alarmist to claim the system of Hong Kong is only a “0.5 system”. Even if Hong Kong today does not have the original pre-1997 system, it still has at least around 0.85 of the system.
This is because many of the basic elements of Hong Kong's original system have actually been preserved. These include capitalist-style protection of private property rights, British common law-style judicial independence, basic human rights, a simple tax system, and professional and highly self-regulatory organizations. In addition, the government remains efficient, with low social expenditure, is financially stable, and has a large reserve surplus.
These are characteristics unique to Hong Kong. The system, therefore, is completely different to the Mainland’s. In fact, the current system is closer to the West than to China. It is therefore more accurate to refer to the current system as a 0.85 system. Hong Kong people should not consider fighting for the missing 0.15 at the risk of destroying the remaining 0.85.