Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang has called Beijing’s issuance of the 2014 white paper on “One Country, Two Systems” a “turning point” in China’s policy towards the city. According to Tsang, the central government went from exercising a “high degree of autonomy”in Hong Kong to exercising “overall jurisdiction” over its Special Administrative Region.

The controversial white paper, issued on June 10, 2014, stated that “The high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralized power. It is the power to run local affairs as authorized by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is subject to the level of the central leadership’s authorization.”

In Hong Kong, the white paper triggered protests, one of which involved activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Albert Chan and Raphael Wong burning replicas of of the white paper. They were charged with “obstructing police officers” – but were later found not guilty. The document was also a contributing factor which sparked the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests in 2014.

Jasper Tsang. Photo: Facebook/Jasper Tsang.

In an AM730 column on Monday, Tsang said that “comprehensive jurisdiction” and “supervisory power” did not appear in the Basic Law and – prior to the White Paper – they were not mentioned by Chinese officials.

Rather, the articles in the Basic Law specified that “No department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law.”

At the ceremony of the establishment of the Hong Kong special administrative region in 1997, this point was also stressed by then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Tsang said.

Tsang added that between 1997 and 2014, every time the Communist Party mentioned Hong Kong and Macau, it said that it supported the government and the chief executive’s policies and did not imply any intention to supervise the region. It only reasserted confidence that fellow compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau will be able to govern the two places well.

The White Paper protesters and their supporters. Photo: 全民反政治打壓運動 via Facebook.

However, the implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong has shaken China’s confidence in the city’s future, Tsang said.

“Twenty years after the handover, no date has been set for the legislation of Article 23, national education has not been implemented, constitutional development triggered large-scale protests, [when] the Hong Kong government is constantly blocked in its policies; the central government will naturally ask: ‘Can we still sit with our arms crossed with regards to Hong Kong’s situation? Can we still feel reassured over Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong?”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.