China’s “one country, two systems” plan dare not fail

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Deputy President David Mabuza arrives in Beijing ahead of his Working Visit to the Peoples Republic of China wherein he will co-chair the 7th Session of the South Africa-China Bi-National Commission. Beijing. 28/10/2019. Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

The Chan Tong-Kai case was in many ways more than just about a murder – it was also a diplomatic rattle. Since 1997, the world has waited for the “one country, two systems” plan to be given the opportunity to work. For a long time, pessimists have waited for this opportunity to say, “I told you so.” 

This system currently indicates that Hong Kong can indeed govern itself with as much freedom as if independent, and if this continues to be the case, we might have found a recipe to ensure conflict resolution in disputed territories around the world.

The challenge though is that in most disputed territories, the conflict is multi-faceted and includes talk of borders, types of government, refugees and levels of independence. It has thus become evident that for any plan to be successful, there is a requirement for there to be a presence of the watchful eye of a strong global body, for mutual respect between the two governments in the two territories and lastly, it helps for there to be a genuine want to build, develop and maintain a partnership of success.

Hong Kong would gain from a shared growing economy and other benefits if it was able to exist with clearly defined borders, its own internal social culture and with the right to govern the way the people of Hong Kong choose to elect their government.

The Chan Tong-Kai case showed the vulnerability that exists when United Nations (UN) resolutions are relied on as the gospel and when we apply blind faith in that they will be implemented and maintained as agreed upon, even decades down the line.

The UN has the mandate and responsibility to monitor and ensure compliance to its resolutions. But, it would seem that the louder the Hong Kong protests get, the more silent the UN have become. The more the people of Hong Kong fought for their rights, the less certain it seemed that anyone would be able to stop China.

In an area where boundary encroachment is an ever increasing concern, further resulting in the blatant attempt on the independence of both the judiciary and governance, that the last thing that we as political parties in any country can afford to do is allow silence in the bodies that are meant to watchdog the global community.

The DA respects the fact that it cannot interfere in the running of other countries. However, we have lent voice to global protests where human rights or the breach of resolutions have taken place. Domestically our position is to lobby government through the Minister and DIRCO to ensure that we use the memberships SA is subscribed to, to voice our protests and objections to certain events.

SA has a responsibility to its residents through the spending of fiscal monies on membership to these bodies, and must therefore express the sentiment and wishes of the majority of her citizens and to use her relationship with these countries to express opinion or concern when issues arise.

The DA firmly believes that if the “1 Country 2 System” policy begins to bear fruit in terms of stability, peace, growth, the respect of boundaries and right to self-govern, that this indeed could be the ingredients to more fruitful mediations around current global territorial disputes. For this project to work the UN, G8, et al, need to ensure that they are effective in enforcing these resolutions and interfering where a breach occurs.

The Chan Tong-Kai case has shown that there is cause for concern and that the pessimists have a right to be slowly nodding their heads. Vulnerability exists and the voice of the people is physically supressed. This is not the way to express confidence in the process.

South Africa is a strong ally of China and at the chair of the UN security council. They have an opportunity to assist. They further have an opportunity to inspire other regions with this system. Will they show South African citizens return on membership fees or will they continue to turn a blind eye to the protests and concerns?


Darren Bergman is a MP and the DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.