The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, called the current “One Country, Two Systems” policy imposed on Hong Kong “the best way to achieve national reunification” on Tuesday, revealing Beijing’s ultimate goal of imposing itself on both Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The “One Country, Two Systems” policy that Beijing agreed on in 1997 when the United Kingdom handed the city of Hong Kong back to China requires Hong Kong to acknowledge that China is sovereign over it, but allows Hong Kong to retain its capitalist economic system and, in theory, would allow it to remain a democratic, free outpost in the communist country. China has increasingly moved to curtail freedoms on Hong Kong in the last 22 years, however, most recently attempting to impose a law that would allow Beijing to extradite anyone in Hong Kong it believed was violating Chinese law – which severely violates “unregulated” worship and criticism of the Communist Party.
The People’s Daily made the declaration in an article disparaging Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who urged Hong Kong to seek independence in a speech in New York on Friday. China has urged Taiwan to abandon its sovereignty, which Beijing does not acknowledge, and accept a “One Country, Two Systems” policy that would make it subservient to Beijing.
The Communist Party has repeatedly insisted that America not allow Tsai to transit through on her way to the Caribbean, where many of the countries that formally recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty are located. Under President Donald Trump, Washington has expanded its ties to Taiwan, recently agreeing to an arms deal with Taipei, despite the fact that the United States does not formally recognize Taiwan as a country.
China has made ignoring Taiwan’s sovereignty a prerequisite for any diplomatic or economic relationship with Beijing despite Taiwan’s fully functional and democratic government, its independent military, and its thriving economy.
“In the closed-door talks at Columbia University, Tsai Ing-wen tried to convince her audience that Taiwan is a sovereign state and took the opportunity to attack the practice of ‘one country, two systems’ in Hong Kong, exposing her intention to split China,” the People’s Daily lamented on Tuesday. Contrary to Tsai’s declaration, the newspaper argues, One Country, Two Systems “is the best solution for Hong Kong.”
“It has allowed the city to remain prosperous and stable and has proven to be successful in practice. ‘One country, two systems’ is also the best way to achieve national reunification, because it considers the reality of the situation and is conducive to long-term stability,” the People’s Daily asserted.
“National reunification” would necessarily result in Hong Kong adopting China’s repressive communist system completely, accepting Communist Party leader Xi Jinping as its head of government and all Chinese law as Hong Kong law. Such a move would likely face tremendous resistance in the city, where polls show the number of residents identifying as “Chinese” has hit record lows and 90 percent of Hong Kongers aged 18-29 said they were not proud of being Chinese citizens.
In Taiwan, which has functioned as an independent state for decades, Chinese patriotism is even lower – less than three percent of Taiwanese identify as “Chinese.”
Yet the Chinese Communist Party has continued to insist on imposing “One Country, Two Systems” on Taiwan. Xi Jinping urged Taiwan to abandon its sovereignty and allow China to annex it as recently as January, arguing that Beijing had developed the policy specifically for Taiwan and only imposed it on Hong Kong after the U.K. returned it to Chinese control. Xi’s government has pushed the policy while also freely admitting it has no desire to abide by it.
“Now that Hong Kong has returned to the embrace of the motherland for 20 years, the Sino-British Joint Declaration – as a historical document – no longer has any practical significance,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in 2017, referring to the document that enshrined “One Country, Two Systems” into law. “It also does not have any binding power on how the Chinese central government administers Hong Kong. Britain has no sovereignty, no governing power and no supervising power over Hong Kong.”
By highlighting the failures of the policy, the product of China’s open disdain for it,” Tsai “tried to throw a monkey wrench into the reunification process,” the People’s Daily claimed. “But like an ant trying to topple a giant tree, the effort is doomed to fail. China has made it very clear that reunification is inevitable, and it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the will of the Chinese government and people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
In her remarks in New York last week, Tsai urged the world to look at Taiwan’s “seemingly improbable success” as a functional democracy in China’s shadow as inspiration for liberation around the world. She referred to the millions of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, asserting that “the people of Taiwan stand with them” and warning them to abandon “One Country, Two Systems.”
“Hong Kong’s experience under ‘one country, two systems’ has shown the world once and for all that authoritarianism and democracy cannot coexist,” Tsai said. “Given the opportunity, authoritarianism will smother even the faintest flicker of democracy. The process may be gradual, so subtle that most don’t even feel it.”
“It is absolutely crucial for democracies to work together to counter the expansion of authoritarian influences,” she asserted.
The protests in Hong Kong followed the introduction of a bill in the city’s Legislative Council that would allow China to extradite anyone, not just Hong Kong residents, to the Chinese communist state if Beijing charges them with a crime. At its peak – shortly following Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement that the bill had been tabled – the movement attracted a crowd of 2 million people to Hong Kong’s downtown, home to 7 million people.
Taiwan expressed solidarity with the protesters early in the protest wave.
“It’s clear the Chinese Communist Party regime’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is nothing but a lie. I urge the global community to support the people’s struggle for freedom and fully democratic elections,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu said this month.
This month, to prevent the Legislative Council from reintroducing the bill after tabling it, protesters destroyed the legislative floor, leaving the parts of the building not necessary to legislate intact.