How conservative are mainland Chinese
Hong Kong / Gunter Schubert - [Electronic ed.] - Bonn, 2001 - 22 pp. = 78 KB, text. - (FES analysis)
Electronic ed .: Bonn: FES Library, 2001
© Friedrich Ebert Foundation
Four years ago - on July 1, 1997 - the former British crown colony of Hong Kong was placed under the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China and integrated into its territory as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). Corresponding to that adopted in 1990 in the course of the handover preparations with the participation of Beijing Basic Law, a kind of "basic law" for the new SVR, the capitalist system of Hong Kong is to remain intact for at least 50 years. It also promises Basic Law Hong Kong has a "high degree of autonomy" from the central government in Beijing. The SVR essentially regulates its internal affairs itself and has its own system of government (including an independent judiciary) at its head Chief Secretary stands. In addition, the Hong Kong SAR can be an independent member of international organizations and sign international agreements. Only the foreign policy representation and the military defense are the sole responsibility of the People's Republic of China. The latter shapes its relations with Hong Kong according to the model "a Country, two systems "which causes the Chinese government to abstain from direct influence on the administrative matters of Hong Kong to a very large extent.
Regardless of this "blueprint" one must, however, ask oneself whether the historically unique experiment can work to allow an economic system that claims to be socialist to coexist under the rule of a one-party regime with a capitalist and constitutionally organized enclave. The contradiction between economic dirigism, which is still strong despite reforms, and political authoritarianism in the People's Republic of China on the one hand and economic authoritarianism seems too great laissez-faire, political freedoms and the traditional rule of law in Hong Kong, on the other hand. In the end, some skeptics predict that Hong Kong's liberalism will fall victim to the illiberalism of the communist regime in the PRC. Optimists, on the other hand, believe that the liberal “gains” of the PRC from the acquisition of Hong Kong could have a positive effect on the reform process there. According to this, Hong Kong will not only act as the Chinese "school of capitalism", but also as an amplifier of those forces in the PRC that want to build a functioning legal system and create more political pluralism.
The aftermath of the 1997/98 Asian crisis, which affected Hong Kong to a relatively large extent, clarified these points. It put the efficiency of the economic and political system of the new Special Administrative Region to the first severe test and created a problem pressure that was hitherto unknown in Hong Kong. The question arose as to whether the previously shared international conviction of the stability of the free market economy in Hong Kong was true handover and survive the crisis. Today it can be said that the immediate consequences
The crisis has been overcome relatively successfully, not least with the support of the People's Republic of China; however, the Hong Kong economy as a whole has not yet regained its former strength and is even being haunted by the specter of deflation. Also is for some supporters of the economic laissez faire remained a pale aftertaste, because without strong intervention by the SAR government, a devaluation of the Hong Kong dollar could not have been prevented. But this has put an end to Hong Kong's reputation for being an East Asian “minimal state”.
Apart from that, the Asian crisis has relentlessly exposed some profound structural problems in the Hong Kong economy, which the SAR government will have to face over the next few years. This applies above all to the need for the forced development of internationally competitive high-tech industries and the further development of the service sector. Only in this way will Hong Kong maintain the high growth rates of the past and be able to hold its own in the competition for the position of the leading financial and service center in the region against Shanghai, Canton and Singapore. In the future, we will also have to invest more in building new social security systems, because material poverty as a result of unemployment and chronic underemployment is increasing in Hong Kong just as rapidly as the widening income gap. These are problems that will arise in the future due to increasingly demanding qualification profiles on the domestic labor market, a further reduction in the industrial sector due to the accession of the PR China to the WTO and the increasing (legal and illegal) immigration of job seekers from mainland China to Hong Kong will tighten.
The current state of the Hong Kong political system is also a cause for concern. This is still supported by a relatively small, primarily local business community (tycoon plutocracy) and the group of middle-class professionals from the political class dominated. Its institutions are increasingly blocking each other. The systemic conflicts between the legislature and the executive not only have a negative effect on the political efficiency and legitimation of the “one country, two systems” model; they also threaten to trigger a new political apathy in large parts of the populationwhich, under the impression of the high turnout in the parliamentary elections of 1998, was believed to have been overcome. At the same time, the star of the Democratic Party, long-standing hope of a political liberalization of the SVR, seems to be sinking because of an electoral law that is disadvantageous for it and, last but not least, internal disputes about future strategy. But also the popularity curve of the government below Chief Executive Tung Chee-
hwa, elected to office in 1997 by a committee handpicked by Beijing, has since fallen sharply. He is assigned an essential responsibility for the frictional losses within the political system of the SVR.
After all, in spite of all fears to the contrary, Hong Kong's much-vaunted freedom of the press and freedom of expression was preserved after 1997although there have been conflicts with Chinese officials and their own local government, as well as signs of self-censorship. The right to demonstrate remained unaffected. The SAR government also demonstrates its independence by opposing Beijing's request, which was suppressed in the PRC but legally registered in Hong Kong, Falungong- Prohibit movement. The independence of the courts has been put to the test, particularly in the controversy over the right of residence for children of Hong Kong citizens born in mainland China, and has suffered damage in the process; However, viewed over the past four years as a whole, this has been quite limited.
Hong Kong is therefore currently at a crossroads in several respects: economically, the Special Administrative Region is on the way to consolidation, but it has to overcome difficult problems in order to be able to follow this path in the long term. Politically, it appears paralyzed in the face of the contradictions of the political system, which in the long term can compromise the achieved degree of rule of law and democratic culture. Ultimately, Hong Kong is threatened with polarization at the social level, which, without consistent sociopolitical efforts by the government and without a corresponding ideological reorientation of the most important parties, could lead to a dangerous destabilization of social peace. Ultimately, it must be observed how consistently the PR China will adhere to the formula it has repeatedly propagated that "Hong Kong is governed by Hong Kongers".
During the British rule, the Hong Kong system of government was characterized by a strong executive and a weak legislature. It is true that the last governor in office since 1992, Chris Patten, was determined to implement a new consultative political style and a series of reform laws in the few years before handover Setting an example and creating the conditions for a more democratic Hong Kong. But the new sovereign power did not agree to it. On the night of July 1 to July 2, 1997, the transitional parliament set up by Beijing, the Provisional Legislative Council, the
most of the patten laws on. Above all, the reformed electoral law fell victim to this intervention. The ability of the new SVR government under Tung Chee-hwa to act should by no means be impaired by a parliament ruled by anti-China forces and strong political parties.
Patten's plan to significantly increase the number of voters in Hong Kong's complicated electoral system beyond 1997 thus failed. In accordance with the Basic Law passed in 1990 (Basic Law) for the Hong Kong SAR, the 60 members of the Legislative Council only a maximum of half can be directly elected (1998: 20; 2000: 24; 2004: 30), while 30 mandates from indirect elections in so-called function constituencies (functional constituencies) that represent important professional groups. The rest of the seats (1998: 10; 2000: 6) will be allocated to a special election committee (Election Comcenter) chosen. Its members come from certain sectors of the economy, administration and society of Hong Kong, the ranks of the MPs of the previous one Legislative council, Hong Kong's local administrative bodies and, finally, the Hong Kong Delegates Group to the National People's Congress and the Political Consultative Conference of the PRC. Patten had expanded the electoral base in the functional constituencies to include the entire working population and thus introduced a "hidden" universal right to vote. This is exactly what he did Provisional Legislative Council immediately reversed under the guidance of Beijing. The simultaneous introduction of the corporate voting (one vote per company within a branch) remains the democratic principle one man, one vote in Hong Kong thus undermined at least during the first ten years of Chinese suzerainty - as it was for decades under the British before the Patten era.
The will open for the period from 2007 Basic Law at least implicitly the possibility of introducing direct elections for both the post of Chief Executive as well as for the Legislative Council. This requires a corresponding vote from two thirds of the members of parliament and the consent of the incumbent Chief Executivewhich will not be issued without a corresponding instruction from the Chinese central government; but at least this opens up opportunities for political lobbying and public mobilization, which the democratic parties in particular strive to exploit. You have long been fighting for the abolition of the constituencies and general elections for all seats in the legislative branch Council as well as for a popular election of the Chief Executive - Maximum goals that are intended to overcome the structural weakness of the legislature in the Hong Kong system of government, but which can hardly be achieved in the next five to ten years. However, one is comfortable
Also in Beijing it was clear that the position of the Legislative Council must be strengthened in order to counteract the increasingly noticeable friction losses in the relationship between the legislature and the executive.
It should be borne in mind that Parliament's self-confidence has changed significantly since the introduction of partial direct elections in 1991 at the latest. Since then it's been used in Hong Kong Institutionalization of a party system come, despite the low quorum of directly elected mandates in the Legislative Council an increasing dynamic unfolds. Because The party competition has unleashed profiling interests that are a major problem for the government. This is always in the crossfire of criticism, especially from the parties of the so-called democratic camp. The most important criterion for differentiating between the individual parties has so far been their proximity to the Chinese government. In Hong Kong, for example, a distinction is made between parties critical of Beijing and Beijing-friendly parties. However, this basic classification has to be modified in the meantime. The last parliamentary elections in September 2000 in particular showed that there has been movement in the party spectrum: In order to win over new groups of voters, the individual groups are trying to raise their socio-political profile. The ideological rifts between them could thereby be somewhat leveled in the future.
Strongest party in the Legislative Council is the Democratic Party (DP) under the leadership of the charismatic lawyer Martin Lee, which emerged in 1994 from a merger of two predecessor organizations. It is regarded as a party of the educated middle class and the lower middle class and so far has mainly advocated democracy and the rule of law as well as securing the autonomy of Hong Kong after 1997. The last parliamentary elections clearly showed that this fixation of content might no longer be sufficient in the future. The DP's share of the vote in the direct electoral districts (geographical constituencies) from 42.6 to 34.7 percent. Also the smaller parties in the camp critical of Beijing - especially that founded by Emily Lau in August 1996 Fronanimal-Political party and those of Christine Loh Founded in 1997 Citizens Party - lost votes; the latter could not even have a seat at all Legislative Council gain more. Both groups have so far mainly benefited from the popularity of their two leaders, who are internationally known politicians and symbolic figures of the Hong Kong democratic movement. However, this is now obviously too little to survive in the Hong Kong party landscape.
One of the main difficulties faced by those critical of Beijing is that they are too far removed from the social problems of their constituencies. In the aftermath of the Asian crisis in 1997/98, these have become much more burning than concerns about autonomy and independence
Hong Kong. Because the PRC complies with the provisions of Basic Law has not yet violated and has repeatedly asserted, at least verbally, to preserve Hong Kong's independence within the limits laid down by the Basic Law, the mobilizing power of the democratic parties has obviously declined. In addition, there is insufficient ties to the social movements in Hong Kong, which could significantly strengthen its role as a counterweight to the Beijing-friendly parties, which have hitherto been primarily oriented towards the interests of the local economy.
The pro-Chinese parties made up ground in the last parliamentary elections, mainly due to the positive performance of the 1992 Hong Kong representation of mainland Chinese interests Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB). It was able to significantly improve its share of the vote and reached 29.7 percent in last year's parliamentary elections (1998: 25.2 percent). In contrast, the much lower share of the vote remained for the likewise Pro-Chinese Hong Kong Progressive Alliance and the business conservatives Liberal party largely constant. Overall, the weight in the Legislative Council Slightly shifted in favor of the Beijing-friendly parties since 1997, even though there has been no change in numbers between the democratic (19 seats) and the pro-Chinese camp (23 seats), even taking into account the non-party MPs. However, the electoral mode for determining the mandates from the functional constituencies leads to a considerable distortion of the results, which the democratic party strongly disadvantaged and the Beijing-friendly small parties equally favored. The latter in particular have almost only the indirect mandates of the functional constituencies.
Table 1: The 1998 and 2000 Legislative Yuan elections - distribution of seats*
*taking into account the by-elections in December 2000 for one seat
It remains to be seen whether the aforementioned expansion of direct mandates in the next parliamentary elections in 2004 will lead to a strengthening of the Beijing-critical camp, or whether the Democratic Party stop their current downtrend. Much will depend on whether the population continues to gain confidence in Beijing's promise of autonomy or whether there are setbacks here. In this case, the democratic forces are likely to gain support. Otherwise they will make a name for themselves on the level of factual policy and have to take up more social and economic issues here. However, the DAB has also gained this insight, so that regardless of their ideological differences, the two strongest parties in Hong Kong may soon be wrestling for the same constituency: the large mass of workers and small salaried employees. It should be noted that the dynamic development of the party system and the resulting lively parliamentarianism contradict the factual (powerless) power of the Legislative Council stand. Above all, the structural minority of the democratic camp, which is ultimately unchangeable because of the constituencies of the functionaries, harbors the risk of a lasting paralysis of the legislative work of parliament. Whoever wins the majority of votes and who is already weak in relation to the executive branch Legislative Council cannot even form the majority faction, will fight all the more violently with the few weapons at his disposal against the political opponent and the government.
Ultimately, the problems of the Hong Kong political system are the result of one in that Basic Law built-in "system error". So has the Chief Executive similar far-reaching powers as formerly the British governors. He has the exclusive right to initiate legislation in matters of public spending policy, the functioning of the government and the structure of the political system. All other laws adopted by legislative branch Council must be approved before they come into force. The ones from Chief Executive appointed members of the Executive council, a body of appointed advisers, are formally just as unresponsive to Parliament as the one subordinate to it Civil Service with its three main secretariats for finance, justice and administration. Their leading minds, first and foremost the Chief Secretary for Administration as the number two of the executive branch, in fact act as chief ministers of the SVR government. The government's lack of responsibility towards parliamentarians, the political marginalization of the latter in large areas of the legislative process, the disrespectful treatment of the parliamentarians Legislative Council through Tung Chee-hwa, finally an increasing party competition that provoked media-effective attacks on the government, have since
handover led to numerous stalemates between the executive and legislative branches. Parliament repeatedly blocks government bills. The representatives of the Civil Service are consequently forced to implement their plans in lengthy and tough negotiation processes with the MPs, i.e. practically exercise a lobbyist function. The acclaimed efficiency and reputation of the Civil Service this development has damaged at least as much as the public appreciation for the leadership qualities of the incumbent Chief Executive. Powerlessness, frustration and profiling interests on the one hand, arrogance of power and the traditional top-down-Thoughts on the other hand now form a constellation of paralysis, which can only be got out of through far-reaching institutional reforms. The high pressure of problems and pressure on the government of the SVR to act in connection with the Asian crisis in 1997/98 made this necessity particularly clear.
Also the relationship between Tung Chee-hwa and that Civil Service has not remained untroubled. After taking office, Tung tried to use the traditional power of the civil servants by assigning ministerial tasks to the members of the appointed by him Executive Council to weaken. He failed miserably with this plan, however, when his advisors were cut off from any flow of information from the administrative departments and encountered a wall of refusals. As Anson Chan, the first woman and for the first time from the ranks of the native Chinese in 1993 by Chris Patten to the post of Chief Secretary for administration appointed, surprisingly announced her resignation in January 2001, persistent rumors of a falling out between her and Tung seemed to be confirmed. Ms. Chan, who has been repeatedly referred to as the "Hong Kong's good conscience" and, in her person, the independence and continuity of Hong Kong residents Civil service represented after 1997, gave family reasons for their decision. But there can be no doubt that the arguments between her and the Chief Executive over the administrative supremacy in the Special Administrative Region and because of differences of opinion on the question of the right policy towards the Chinese central government at least as heavily. Anson Chan would undoubtedly have a good chance of succeeding Tung Chee-hwas if she were to take up the position. With her as Chief Secretary would change the relationship between the Executive Council and the Civil Service certainly relax, even if she would hardly be the candidate of Beijing. In the meantime, however, Tung's re-election next year is almost certain. New Chief Secretary of Administration became in May 2000 as Financial Secretary do Donald Tsang. His relationship with Tung Chee-hwa is good, which has immediately earned him the reputation of a yes-man from critical observers. He is considered to
petitioner and civil servant of integrity, but does not (yet) have the reputation and charisma of his predecessor. However, it is certain that if Tsang attacks the independence of the authorities under his control again, they will defend them with the same intransigence as Anson Chan did.
Formally, the Hong Kong legal system remained after handover untouched. The organizational structure was retained, even if some instances were given different names. This is how the colonial one became Supreme Court through a High court replaced. Of particular importance was the im Basic Law Anchored Hong Kong Court of Final Assurance, effective July 1, through the establishment of the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) and in place of the British Privy Council kicked. Its five judges are dated Chief Executive appointed for life. Hong Kong's autonomy ultimately depends on the extent to which the CFA has authority over the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing. This is responsible for the right to interpret and change the Basic Law as well as the decision on whether a law passed in Hong Kong does basic Law injured and is therefore to be overridden. Beijing has thus reserved the last word on all questions regarding the legal design of the “one country, two systems” model. The Hong Kong courts also have the right to interpret the Basic Law. However, if they touch central government concerns, they should obtain an interpretation of the relevant provisions from the NPC before reaching a judgment. That says exactly when such a case occurs Basic Law though not. There is no obligation, not even the explicit right, for the SVR government to appeal to the NPK on disputed legal issues; but it can suggest changes to the provisions of the Basic Law submit if the Legislative Council and the group of Hong Kong NPC delegates agree with a two-thirds majority.
It is therefore clear that the independence of the third power in Hong Kong is conditioned and depends to a considerable extent on the political sensitivity of both the courts of the Special Administrative Region and the Chinese government or the NPC. This was soon after handover clearly, as a political dispute over the interpretation of Article 24 of the Basic Law conjured up a tangible constitutional crisis and threatened to put Hong Kong's autonomy at risk. Specifically, the question was whether the children of a Hong Kong parent with permanent right of residence in the SVR also automatically have this right if they are illegitimate or not
adopted children or if the parent concerned acquired their residence status only after the child was born. In view of the unmanageable number of legitimate and illegitimate descendants of Hong Kong citizens in the PRC, the SAR government had decreed that they could only apply for permanent residence in Hong Kong after having presented an official Chinese exit permit. This enabled her, in cooperation with the Chinese authorities, to prevent uncontrolled immigration from the PRC that was undesirable on both sides. The CFA declared this practice inadmissible in January 1999. In addition, he granted the descendants a permanent right of residence in the SVR even if their parents had only acquired such a right after their birth. The CVA went even further, however: it ruled that Hong Kong courts should issue acts of the NPC with regard to their conformity with the Basic Law can check; that this Basic Law will ultimately be interpreted by the CFA, but not by the NPC, provided the pending litigation is within the limits of Hong Kong's autonomy; and that the CFA and not the NVK decides when a case is to be submitted to the latter for clarification. The highest court thus had all the gray areas of the Basic Law used to define the greatest possible legal autonomy for Hong Kong vis-à-vis the People's Republic of China.
As expected, the verdict met with bitter resistance from the central government in Beijing, which was in no way prepared to accept a resetting of the NPC against the CFA. Under this pressure, the president of the court had to put on record a short time later that the constitutional part of the judgment in no way took over the authority of the NPC in questions of interpretation and modification of the Basic Law question. So you rowed back, although the material part of the judgment was not affected. The SVR government, in turn, rejected the verdict for reasons of social and financial policy. It estimated costs of HK $ 170 billion and painted the specter of a wave of migration of up to 1.7 million Chinese immigrants on the wall - at most a third of which, according to experts, was a serious figure. Nevertheless, these scenarios caused great unrest among the population, so that the SVR government was encouraged to renounce the NPC - without one explicit have the legal basis for this - an interpretation of the disputed Articles 22 and 24 of the Basic Law to ask. She invoked her general obligation to correctly apply the Basic Law and her responsibility to the central government in Beijing for the stability of Hong Kong. A few months later, the NPK overturned the verdict of the Court of Final Appeal, confirmed the previous admission practice of the SAR government and determined that only those children who had at least one parent with this status at the time of their birth have a permanent right of residence in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong judiciary submitted to this decision in a series of follow-up trials and thus - at least in the eyes of many international observers - "buckled" across the board.
Has Hong Kong's legal autonomy been seriously damaged by this constitutional crisis? In any case, it has been clearly shown that the authority of the National People's Congress sets an immovable limit to the Hong Kong courts. Since the Special Administrative Region does not have constitutional has a guaranteed autonomous status, anything else would be more than astonishing. The Basic Law also grants the judiciary only "far-reaching" autonomy, which, however, has been unnecessarily compromised by imprudent behavior on the part of both the CFA and the SVR government. The highest court might have done better to go to the NPC before reaching a verdict, because questions about immigration from mainland China to Hong Kong always touch the central government. Instead, they even used the prerogative of the NPC with regard to the Basic Law on - a duel that could only be lost. Even more serious, however, is the fact that the SVR government called the NPC on its own initiative, without being forced to do so or even clearly justified. In doing so, it has demonstrated to its own people and the international public that, in cases of doubt, it gives Hong Kong's legal autonomy less weight than certain political measures. In the long run, such an attitude will certainly narrow the scope of Hong Kong's legally guaranteed autonomy. After all, one cannot accuse the Beijing authorities of having behaved "non-constitutionally" here: If the NPK had not been called, it probably would not have interfered further and with the reassuring explanation mentioned by the Chief Justice made his peace.
There have been a few other cases since 1997 where the conduct of the Hong Kong authorities at least challenged the legal independence of the Beijing SAR. This is how the judiciary saw an investigation against the Hong Kong representative of the official Chinese news agency Xinhua even though it probably violated the provisions of personal data protection. In addition, a law passed in 1998 grants the more or less official representations of the PR China in Hong Kong - in addition to the XinhuaOffice, these are the delegation of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the branch office of the Hong Kong and Macau government offices - a statutory special treatment in the application of the SAR's laws. The case of the owner of the also caused a stir Hong Kong standard, Sally Aw, who was not prosecuted despite a fraud report. As a member of the Beijing Political Consultative Conference and because of its close ties to the Chief Executive it seemed politically inviolable
be. Nevertheless, no hasty conclusions can be drawn from these and other cases. There is so far no evidence that the impartial rule of law in Hong Kong is in serious danger. However, the independence of the judiciary has been damaged and it will perhaps soon become clear how far its power goes in securing the autonomy of the SAR - especially with regard to Hong Kong's political freedoms.
Four years after the end of British colonial rule, a judgment about the protection of the political rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens is cautiously positive. It is more difficult to answer the question of which way the Special Administrative Region is here: Has the relatively liberal government practice of the colonial era been incorporated into the provisions of the Basic Law have it permanently committed? Or do the reports of recent years about attempts by the Chinese government to interfere in the Hong Kong press, self-censorship in the media and tightening of the right to organize and demonstrate, point to a creeping process of erosion in the protection of democracy and human rights?
A look at the current legal situation is only convincing at first glance. In its third chapter, the Hong Kong Basic Law guarantees, among other things, the unrestricted freedom of expression, association and demonstration as well as the freedom to practice one's religion. Also includes that Basic Law a guarantee of existence for the provisions of the two UN human rights pacts of 1966 (pact on civil and political rights; pact on economic, cultural and social rights), which Great Britain also ratified for Hong Kong in 1976. However, important changes in Hong Kong's executive laws to these pacts immediately after handover unequivocally indicates that the new rulers did not want to allow political events in the Special Administrative Region to be simply dictated by these guidelines. So the (only adopted in 1991) Bill of Rights Ordinance (BORO) changed as well as that Societies Ordinance (SO) and the Public Order Ordinance (PO).
From a legal point of view, the restrictions of the BORO played no role, because the core provisions of the two human rights pacts that apply to Hong Kong are in accordance with Basic Law can not be canceled anyway. The politically motivated adoption of this law by the British was rather counterproductive because it provoked the Chinese side and ran counter to their concerns, which were guaranteed in Hong Kong
Human rights protection rather "noiseless" in the time after handover to carry in. The changes to the other two Ordinances were, however, more far-reaching. They introduced a shorter period for the registration of new social and “politically active” organizations (SO) as well as a police approval requirement for demonstrations (PO). It is true that this only established the status quo ante of British legislation prior to the reforms of the 1990s. But there are two instruments with which the SAR government - and therefore indirectly also the Chinese leadership - can effectively intervene in Hong Kong's domestic policy. This also applies to the new ban on political organizations in Hong Kong from maintaining contact with foreign groups for reasons of “national security”. Last but not least, this is intended to counteract the risk of external financial support, e.g. for pro-democratic or pro-Taiwanese forces.
Yet: So far there can be no talk of noticeable restrictions on the registration of social and political organizations. Even that which was declared illegal in the PRC as an "evil cult" and massively persecuted FalungongMovement can move freely in Hong Kong as the competent authorities believe that it is properly registered and that its actions do not violate any applicable regulations. However, more recent expressions of the Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, at Falungong it may be an "evil cult", the suspicion that the SVR government is under pressure on this issue and may soon have to give up its previous position. This is particularly likely if the movement continues to use Hong Kong as a platform for a sometimes very offensive criticism of the Chinese policy of oppression. From the conflict around Falungong there is another danger that the SVR government has so far successfully avoided. Thus, Article 23 of the Basic Lawthat Hong Kong passed laws regulating various offenses against the central government, most notably treason, subversion, secession and theft of state secrets. Not only the legal practice in the PRC has shown that such laws serve as general clauses for pseudo-legal action against political opponents or groups. In the eyes of the international public, such a law by the Hong Kong government would in any case be alarming.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's much-vaunted freedom of the press has not been spared damage through various episodes in recent years. The dismissal of some uncomfortable journalists critical of China, sharp criticism from high communist cadres of the reporting on certain sensitive topics, but above all signs of self-censorship immediately before and after handover have shown that when it comes to freedom of expression
comment not everything goes in Hong Kong. Print media that sympathize with the Democratic Party and are therefore under the special observation of the People's Republic of China have got into trouble due to the lack of advertising customers or even had to - such as the Eastern Express - stop appearing. Since these customers are mostly large companies with strong investment commitments and numerous personal relationships with the Chinese leadership, their behavior is of course not surprising. This is also a form of self-censorship. The general rule: Open criticism of the Chinese leadership (especially on human rights issues), attacks on the model of “one country, two systems” and sympathy for the political sovereignty or independence of Taiwan or Tibet are taboos, the non-observance of which leads to sharp reactions from Beijing.
Overall, the core of Hong Kong's freedom of the press has so far remained intact. The same applies to them as to the right to exist of political parties and the independence of the judiciary: it is not in the interest of the Chinese government to undermine international trust in the political institutions of the financial and service center of Hong Kong by substantially restricting the practice so far. However, there are limits that must not be exceeded. These can of course be tightened at any time if this should prove necessary for the PRC for domestic political reasons. The fears of the skeptics that freedom of expression and freedom of association are incompatible with the claim to power of an authoritarian system are therefore not necessarily wrong. It remains to be seen how long the other provinces of China will watch as a system under the rule of the Communist Party is established in Hong Kong, which is allowed to be so much more liberal than the rest of the country.
Soon after the outbreak of the Asian currency and financial crisis in Thailand in mid-1997, Hong Kong was also affected. Admittedly, the first major attacks Hedge-Funds on the Hong Kong dollar were successfully warded off in October 1997. However, under the impact of the crisis in neighboring countries, the collapse of the Hong Kong real estate market accelerated, which had been as speculative as in many other countries in the region since the 1980s. With him, one of the SAR's most important branches of industry plunged into a deep crisis. In 1998 domestic economic growth fell by more than five percent, while unemployment fell by 2.5 percent
Percent increase. Finally, the Hong Kong dollar, which has been firmly pegged to the US dollar since 1983, came into the crosshairs of international currency speculation again in the second half of 1998. The SVR government countered the devaluation pressure with all its might. An unexpected measure of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. It used a total of over $ 15 billion to buy stocks and futures contracts in August and September to support its own currency. This undertaking succeeded reasonably well. But here, along with other fiscal and credit policy measures, state interventions in the local financial markets had taken place, which damaged international investor confidence in the Hong Kong “minimal state” and triggered severe criticism.
Nevertheless, the economy has been able to recover since mid-1999. The most important reasons here are the US economy, which was still flourishing at the time, and the simultaneous rise in demand in the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong was able to export itself out of the crisis and achieved economic growth of 10.5 percent in 2000! This made the SVR the tenth largest export nation in the world this year with a share of 3.2 percent of total international exports. In view of the clearly looming recession in the USA, these numbers will hardly be sustainable over the next few years. But regardless of that, the Hong Kong economy is facing a tough time. This can be seen not least in the unchanged critical condition of the real estate sector, which accounts for almost 50 percent of Hong Kong's GNP. It is true that prices have fallen by around 50 percent since the peak times before the Asian crisis; However, home ownership is still too expensive for the vast majority of the population. Apart from that, many owners have great difficulties paying for their real estate: Since the size of the mortgage credit is tied to the actual property value and does not fully cover it anyway, since the collapse of the market the buyers have received less credit to finance their de facto devalued, but on the Based on the old sales contracts, extremely expensive objects. Since the Hong Kong people ultimately base their spending behavior on the index of real estate prices, the misery on this market is contributing significantly to the deflationary tendencies that have been observed in Hong Kong for some time.
In fact, despite extensive economic policy measures by the government, private domestic demand has not yet returned to its 1997 level. Deflation is also indicated by the consumer goods price index, which has been negative since 1999. This and an emerging drastic decline in export business means that the experts are only expecting economic growth of between 1-3 percent for 2001.
Hong Kong: Key Economic Indicators 1997-2001
(Changes compared to the previous year in%)
(Source: Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong; Economist Intelligence Unit)
The great importance of the real estate sector for the Hong Kong economy already points to structural distortions caused by the ever smaller manufacturing sector with simultaneous deficits in the area of the development of an efficient one High-tech-Industry will become even clearer. Thanks to a systematic strategy of outsourcing its production lines to mainland China, Hong Kong's industry only accounts for around 15 percent of GDP; in the manufacturing sector it is only just under 6 percent. This development has considerably reduced the supply on the labor market, especially for unskilled workers - a problem that is likely to worsen considerably over the next few years due to immigration from the PR China to the SAR. The service sector, which has grown rapidly at the same time and now accounts for around 85 percent of GNP, has absorbed a considerable part of this potential. But precisely its dynamic development has favored the undesirable developments on the real estate market enormously, because a large part of the activities in this sector is concentrated on this branch of the economy.
Not least because of this, everyone agrees that the special administrative region cannot secure its future without a strong industrial base at a high technological level. The SVR government is pursuing the goal of diversifying the economic structure and, above all, promoting the areas of information technology and telecommunications politically and financially. Her aim is to make Hong Kong an international center for innovation, technology and knowledge-based industries. One must pay particular attention in this context Cyberport-Project the SVR government. This involves the construction of a building complex in which, as of 2003, approx. 200 companies from the IT sector will have a complete infrastructure for research, development and presentation
is provided. Ultimately, it's supposed to be here the largest digital City of asia arise - a goal that is quite realistic given Hong Kong's proximity to the Chinese market, a growing number of highly qualified IT experts in the PRC and the attractiveness of the liberal legal and economic system of the SAR. There seems to be a lot of interest in this project. For example, Cisco, IBM, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft have one letter of intent deposited and may be among the first to look into the Cyberport establish. Another measure taken by the SVR government was the establishment of one Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in September 1999 to help young tech companies raise capital. It depends not least on the success of this political approach whether Hong Kong will solve its structural problems. The positive factor here is the full support of the People's Republic of China, which Hong Kong will undoubtedly support in the event of a new crisis - as was the case most recently with the decision in connection with the Asian crisis Renminbi considering the economic situation in the SVR not to be devalued.
On the economic side, the upcoming WTO accession of the PR China should be of great advantage for Hong Kong, as it promises the SAR important growth impulses in the service sector. It is to be expected that mainland Chinese companies with global market ambitions will make even greater use of the experience of Hong Kong financial service providers and banks. Apart from that, Hong Kong will of course benefit from the anticipated intensification of Chinese foreign trade. Hong Kong already conducts around 30 percent of its export business with the People's Republic of China; In the case of re-exports, i.e. the trade in goods mainly produced or refined on the mainland, which are returned to Hong Kong from there and then further exported to third countries, the figure was as high as 35 percent. With a share of almost 40 percent, the PR China was by far Hong Kong's largest trading partner at the end of 2000, ahead of the USA (15 percent) and the EU (12 percent). After China's accession to the WTO, Hong Kong will have to compete against more international competitors on the Chinese market who also want to produce and export cheaply; but at least seen in absolute terms, the share of this pie will continue to grow and drive Hong Kong's economic integration with mainland China to the benefit of both sides. This should compensate for the negative consequences of WTO membership of the People's Republic of China for Hong Kong - in addition to increased international competition, above all, the loss of the lucrative bridging function due to the direct trade and transport connections that then arise between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.
The question of Hong Kong's future viability cannot be answered without a look at the social problems in the SVR. This has clearly worsened in recent years, even if it is almost never reported in the western media. Most likely, the image of the cage people is still impressed in this country - those homeless pensioners and economically marginalized people who rent themselves in narrow, stacked wire crates in dark rear buildings. However, they only represent the lowest level of a hierarchy of poverty that encompasses an ever larger population group. Even before the Asian crisis, when Hong Kong was fourth in the world in terms of GDP per capita, 600,000 people - around ten percent of the total population - were living below the poverty line. This share increased to 15 percent by 1999 and, regardless of the economic recovery, did not decrease in the course of 1999/2000. On the other hand, there is an enormous concentration of income: The richest 20 percent of Hong Kong residents now account for around 50 percent of total income and benefited in the 1990s from real income growth of almost 30 percent. In contrast, the poorest 20 percent only achieve a good four percent of all incomes and have suffered an almost 30 percent devaluation of their wages and salaries in the past decade. Hong Kong's 200,000 richest households currently earn more than 23 times that of the 200,000 poorest families.
In addition, more than 90 percent of everyday goods are checked by fewer than ten family businesses or large corporations. A particularly prominent example is the tycoon Li Ka-shing, one of the richest men in the world. His vast corporate empire controls around a quarter of the Hong Kong stock market, valued at just under $ 170 billion. This overconcentration of wealth and economic control in the hands of a small business elite, which is also closely associated with the Hong Kong political class, has been arousing international concern for a number of years. For example, the European Parliament passed a declaration in September 2000 criticizing the monopoly of the Hong Kong economy and calling for new anti-cartel regulations.
Meanwhile, the SVR government is sticking to an extremely restrictive socio-political course. It only finances a rudimentary social security system. It is just as cautious about labor market policy measures and vocational training programs. The reason for this is - apart from the high cost burden - the logic of the "minimal state", which essentially provides social security for the population
Leave it to families and, if necessary, guarantee equal opportunities for training and job search. That is why the government rejects a statutory minimum wage. However, in recent years this policy has led to a drastic deterioration in the living situation of the lower income groups, who have come under enormous pressure due to the ongoing relocation of labor-intensive industries to southern China and the simultaneous immigration of low-skilled workers from the PRC. Thus, a social conflict is currently coming to a head in Hong Kong, the explosive political power of which is currently being masked by the concentration of national and international attention on compliance with the Chinese promise of autonomy. However, more and more non-governmental organizations and gradually the political parties are addressing the social question. This threatens hardship for the SVR government, because a heating up of the social climate would have a direct impact on international investor confidence. The structural change in Hong Kong must therefore be accompanied by a determined and courageous social policy. Should the government continue to focus only on the interests of the entrepreneurs and state employees with princely salaries, this could weaken its domestic political position further.
Hong Kong survived the first four years as a Chinese special administrative region relatively well, although the starting conditions due to the Asian crisis of 1997/98 were anything but ideal. The political institutions have remained stable despite the constitutional crisis surrounding the question of immigration law for Chinese citizens. Freedom of expression and organization continue to exist despite obvious cases of self-imposed censorship and regardless of critical objections from Beijing. Overall, the PR China adheres to its stipulation that "Hong Kong should be governed by Hong Kongers". However, a look at the political system has made it clear that the mutual paralysis of the executive and legislative branches is just as problematic for the future autonomy of Hong Kong as the unnecessary involvement of the National People's Congress on contentious issues between the government and the judiciary. After all, despite its apparent recovery last year, the Hong Kong economy is anything but over the top. The successful transition to an international high-tech and service center is an essential prerequisite for the future viability of Hong Kong, not least with a view to the competing Chinese metropolises of Shanghai and Canton. But the government must not ignore the social question either if it does not want to politicize the large mass of the low-income
wage earners get into trouble.
The SVR government must particularly fear a prolonged recession. Then the pressure on them is likely to increase noticeably - on the one hand from the ranks of someone who is dissatisfied with his extensive lack of influence Legislative councilwhose democratic forces would then even more vigorously oppose the Tung Chee-hwa government's legislation; on the other hand, through a politicized public, which measures the legitimacy of this government primarily by its economic successes and is likely to attack the powerful alliance of business, politics and administration even more strongly in the future if growth figures are negative. All of this would run counter to the Chinese government's desire for stability and could provoke its increasing intervention in Hong Kong - much to the detriment of autonomy and the degree of freedom, rule of law and democracy achieved in the SAR.
The economic condition of Hong Kong depends on the ability of its government to reform, of course, on the international and Chinese economies. It was not least the Chinese demand for investments and re-exports from Hong Kong that helped the SAR government out of the depths of the Asian crisis. It is also responsible for ensuring that the current recession in the USA does not affect Hong Kong to the same extent as it does the economies of South Korea, Singapore or Taiwan. It will therefore play an important role in the future that the Chinese economy will further reduce Hong Kong's dependence on exports from the USA and Europe through the dynamic development of its markets and thus at least considerably cushion the SVR's susceptibility to global economic downturns. At the same time, this will further deepen the economic integration of Hong Kong with China, which is particularly important for the development of the Chinese hinterland of Hong Kong.
The question of the long-term remains political Hong Kong's influence on the PRC. What influence does the fact that with the new special administrative region not only one capitalist enclave was created, but that with a view to the freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary as well as a lively pluralism of parties and parliamentarism by one "Special policy zone" can be spoken? Indeed, Hong Kong provides ample illustrative material for the political strategists in Beijing on how a system of separation of powers works on Chinese soil. The Hong Kong model could also accustom the Communist Party more to the idea of federalism in the future, in which many observers see an undeniable necessity for the modernization of the political system in the People's Republic of China. After all, it is striking how many
Delegations from Chinese provinces have visited Hong Kong in recent years to study the exact functioning of the one country, two systems ’model. It is true that one should not overestimate the direct impact of this model on continental China. However, should the rulers there decide to open up the political system of the PRC further and, above all, to grant the provinces more autonomy, the practice in Hong Kong should at least make the relevant decision-making process much easier in Beijing.
© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | October 2001
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