Hong Kong Should Learn from Macao

So long as Hong Kong continues to firmly uphold the policy of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, there would be little room to take a wrong turn.

The date of December 20, 2020 marks the 21st anniversary of Macao’s return to the Mainland. Even though the handover of Macao happened later than Hong Kong, this special administrative region has successfully implemented the policy of “One Country, Two Systems” and sets a good example.

It has been 21 years since Macao’s return from Portugal back to China, and it has since transformed from a less developed society with poor social order, to an international metropolis. On December 19, 2019, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at a welcome banquet of the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to China, in which he commented that the past two decades were an ample witness to Macao’s fast-growing economy and improvement in citizens’ quality of life.

According to President Xi, such success rested on the following factors: gradual embracing by Macao’s society of the core value of “loving the motherland and loving Macao”; a  firm upholding of the authority of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of Macao; the  smooth functioning of an executive-led system; the efforts by Macao’s authorities to actively keep up with pace of national development; the establishment of citizens’ unity through policies which emphasize social inclusiveness and harmony.

What lessons could be learned?

Obviously, these five highlighted factors indicate that Hong Kong should work hard to achieve the same situation. Hong Kong should learn from Macao in the following aspects.

First, Hong Kong authorities should work hard to protect the national interest and security. Even though the policy of “One Country, Two Systems” is a new creation by the Central Government, and there is no precedent which can be referenced, a comprehensive and correct understanding of the policy of “One Country, Two Systems” is necessary for the smooth implementation of this policy throughout the Macao SAR. A correct understanding of “One Country, Two Systems” means acknowledging that this is an integrated concept – with “One Country” being a precondition to the existence of “Two Systems”. In this aspect, Macao authorities have well fulfilled the duty to respect and preservation of national interests by preventing the external forces from interfering with its governance and social system.

Secondly, it is very important that all administration, legislation and adjudication strictly follows the Constitution and the Basic Law. Hong Kong should learn that the three major institutions may have check and balance relationship, but all major decisions should be made in compliance of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and of the Basic Law of Macao for the purpose of improving the efficacy of these policies and improving the lives of Macao’s citizens.

Thirdly, Hong Kong should learn from Macao by concentrating on economic development and enhancing citizens’ livelihood. The major duties of the governing authorities in Macao are to concentrate on economic development and resolve citizens’ livelihood issues. The significant improvement of Macao’s originally sluggish economic situation over these 21 years are a result of the adherence of Macao’s government to such duties.

Furthermore, under the support of the Central Government, Macao has been authorized to develop parts of Henqin area of Zhuhai City in accordance with the policy of “One Country, Two Systems”. Although the Hong Kong Government has mapped out a long-term plan for development, due to a combination of factors such as the interference of external forces and the destabilizing conducts of local anti-government forces, this highly politicized environment has led to the obstruction of many major government projects.

Fourthly, social harmonization and stability are very important pillars to good governance. Macao’s society is made up of diversified interests and demands, but an ultimate interest of its citizens’ and stakeholders is that they want to live and work in peace. A healthy society can be tolerant of different demands, but all sectors within society should also uphold these universal interests and cooperate with the Government, which administrates in accordance with the law, to achieve these goals. On the other hand, some of Hong Kong’s population need to be educated not to put their own interests over the society as a whole because selfishness could only produce detrimental results.

Last but not least, Hong Kong should learn from Macao to actively participating in the construction of “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” (“the Greater Bay Area”). It is urgent that Hong Kong needs to invest more effort into becoming a leading engine in the construction of the Greater Bay Area.

Mainland tourists visit the Ruins of Saint Paul’s, Macau’s most iconic tourism landmark, after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forward looking of Hong Kong’s development

If Macao has shown such success in implementing the policy of “One Country, Two Systems” across areas such as politics, rule of law and governance etc., it would not be difficult for Hong Kong to do the same. So long as Hong Kong continues to firmly uphold the policy of “One Country, Two Systems”, there would be little room to take a wrong turn.

The urgent work is to restore social order and to build “Safe Hong Kong”. On October 29, 2020, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China adopted the committee’s proposals for the formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 (the “Proposals’).

In paragraph 57 of the Proposal, the emphasis is on implementing a legal system and enforcement mechanism for the protection of national security in special administration regions and resolutely preventing and dealing with the interference of external forces in Hong Kong and Macao Affairs.

Upon closer examination of paragraph 57, one can see that it stresses the importance of building a “Safe China”. This key term within the proposal reflects President Xi’s vision of citizens’ living and working in an environment characterized by peace and long-term social stability. Indeed, compared to Macao, Hong Kong has struggled to adopt a local national security law for almost 23 years due to the chaos and destruction to society caused by the “occupying central” movement and the anti-extradition law bill incidents in recent years.

It was under these emergency circumstances that the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature adopted the Hong Kong National Security Law, which then took effect on 30 June 2020. This important legislation marks the beginning of a returning to social stability and orderly governance and is crucial to safeguarding the continuity of the policy of “One Country, Two Systems”.

A “Safe China” also means a safe Hong Kong and Macao. While Macao has done well to prevent external forces from using it as a platform for disrupting China’s development, Hong Kong is still lacking in this respect. However, if Hong Kong works actively to enforce the National Security Law, it will undoubtedly benefit the Hong Kong stability and economy in the long-term.

The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.