Generation 40s – 四十世代

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If Chris Patten truly cares for Hong Kong, he should fight for equal rights for British National (Overseas) passport holders

CommentInsight & Opinion
Albert Cheng says the BN(O) passport is a grievous wound inflicted by the British government, a betrayal of the people of Hong Kong. The test of the former governor’s fine words will be whether he can help right that wrong

Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, was recently in town to promote his new book, First Confession. Patten is a charming, energetic and experienced politician, and his polished speeches hold great fascination for his audience. This time, he praised Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for doing a better job than Leung Chun-ying, and eulogised the new generation for adhering to their principles.

Patten’s pertinent comments on Hong Kong’s political environment have won him worldwide applause. However, at a lunch organised by the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation, Patten seemed rather baffled by an issue raised by veteran democrat Emily Lau Wai-hing. She asked if Patten, a member of the House of Lords, would raise in Parliament the issue of giving the right of abode to British National (Overseas) passport holders. Patten promised to raise the matter when the issue of whether to count foreign students in the government’s immigration target was tabled again, but also reminded Lau not to overestimate the influence of the upper chamber. The underlying message was that there was nothing he could do.

The BN(O) issue has inflicted a long-lasting and grievous wound on the Hong Kong people. Originally, there were about 3 million British Dependent Territories Citizen (BDTC) passport holders (including people born before July 1, 1997 in Hong Kong, and naturalised British subjects). However, due the handover, the British government amended its constitution, changing the BDTC classification to BN(O), who do not have the right of abode in the UK.

The British government went back on its word and betrayed the Hong Kong people. In fact, after the June 4 incident in 1989, due to strong community pressure, it reluctantly granted 50,000 right of abode places for Hong Kong families. But people instead flocked to emigrate to the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and so on. The arrogant attitude of the UK government caused an apathetic response to the “right of abode” scheme and it ended up being underutilised.

The idea of a BN(O) passport is absurd. It comes with the same cover as any British passport but can be used only as a travel document. Holders have no right of abode in the UK and are not treated equally when passing through immigration. I visited Britain recently and, from my observation, British customs officers have absolutely no idea what a BN(O) passport is. They direct holders to the European passports line, where they have to queue at the “foreigners” counter.

If Patten truly cared about Hong Kong people, as he claims, he would spend more effort fighting for equality on behalf of BN(O) passport holders. In fact, in February 1997, now-deceased House of Lords member Lord Avebury put forward a private member’s bill – the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act – proposing that BN(O) passport holders who did not hold Chinese citizenship could register to be British citizens. At that time, Patten strongly urged the government to support the bill, which was subsequently passed. In 2009, Lord Avebury proposed an amendment to the British Nationality Act Section 4B, that any BN(O) who involuntarily lost the citizenship of other countries would automatically become a British citizen. The proposal was accepted by the Labour government.

In the past 50 years, tens of thousands of Hongkongers have gone to Britain to study, bringing huge economic benefits to the country. However, this summer, students bound for Britain were stranded in Hong Kong due to some errors made by the visa service provider. It has been a painful procedure.

It has been 20 years since Hong Kong’s return to China; “one country, two systems” has been deformed and the promised “ high degree of autonomy” has diminished. The Chinese government has been acting against the Sino-British Joint Declaration, sparking concerns among Hong Kong people. Many have already applied for extensions of their BN(O) passports as a last resort. Patten should keep his promise and join hands with other House of Lords members who are concerned about Hong Kong people’s rights, to allow BN(O) passport holders to be treated equally with other British passport holders. This is the least Patten can do.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.


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With Hong Kong’s young faces of democracy in jail, is civil society being put in chains?

CommentInsight & Opinion
Michael Davis says the political symbolism of locking up young activists over excessive zeal is telling, and the lack of prosecutorial restraint may put at risk the reputation of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary

Last Thursday may qualify as one of the darkest days in Hong Kong’s history. The tragedy of young civic activists being dragged off to jail is bad enough. The political symbolism of Hong Kong’s three “faces of democracy,” being thrown in jail is even more telling. It is as if Hong Kong’s civil society is being jailed.

One can only wonder what the Department of Justice was thinking in pushing the courts to lock up so far 16 of Hong Kong’s dedicated young men and women, over moments of excessive zeal. Is Hong Kong on its way to joining other unsavoury regimes in filling its jails with political prisoners, as the international response suggests? Would prosecutorial restraint have been warranted?

The only logic offered by the government and accepted by the Court of Appeal is “deterrence”. There are deeper social and political issues at stake. Deterring the occasional excess in an otherwise non-violent movement also deters the exercise of valued free expression rights.

To understand the importance of such risk, it is important to know how the Hong Kong political system works. The “one country, two systems” model under the Sino-British Joint Declaration provided Hong Kong with an open rule-of-law-based society, but without the democratic constitutional tools to defend it.

This open autonomous region is lodged under a hardline regime with a strong political ethic of control as a fundamental principle of national security. This regime in its normal practice shows little inclination to exercise restraint.

The executive and legislative branches of the local “autonomous” government are effectively under the appointment and control of the central government, in a largely authoritarian system.

Local officials and appointees depend on Beijing’s approval and have little incentive or inclination to defend Hong Kong’s autonomy or core values.

Rather, the incentives favour a well-developed tendency to lecture Hong Kong on Beijing’s concerns.

The difficult task of defending Hong Kong’s autonomy, rule of law and basic freedoms has been largely left to civil society. Seeking a government that will perform its autonomous role, civil society activists have long promoted democracy as the key to sustaining Hong Kong’s autonomy and associated rule of law, and have kept the drumbeats of freedom alive on the streets by resisting government encroachment.

The local courts have backed this up as the legal guardians of civil liberties. In the common law tradition, this has included restraint in convicting or punishing civil society activists where fundamental rights are at stake. The courts have long distinguished themselves as the only independent branch of government. Will the government’s resorting to the courts to exclude and lock up its political opponents put that reputation at risk?

In protests over Article 23, the high-speed rail, national education, development projects and democracy, civil society activists have long represented core concerns of Hong Kong people.

In the face of countless lectures about how grateful people should be for Beijing’s kindness in giving Hong Kong its freedoms, Hong Kong people have stood their ground to defend those freedoms, as they did again over the past weekend.

Given the complicity of the Hong Kong government in assisting Beijing’s efforts at control, one can only wonder what sort of Hong Kong we would have today without this pushback from civil society. Alternatively, if Beijing had fulfilled its Basic Law promise of democratic reform, would Hong Kong have been more peaceful and less contentious?

Hong Kong civil society has faced a parade of difficult challenges. In Beijing’s 2014 white paper on “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong lawyers and activists were accused of a “confused and lopsided” view. We were told all guarantees in the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law come from Beijing and can be taken away by Beijing.

The local parade of challenges have included Beijing’s foot-dragging over promised political reforms, years of pressure on the media through economic rewards and intimidation, the emergence of corruption as Beijing-friendly businesses and elites are favoured, efforts at national education aimed at brainwashing youngsters in Hong Kong schools, and efforts to stack university councils to vet appointments and bring world-class universities to heel.

With the “umbrella movement”, Hong Kong’s civil society stood up against this degradation, to defend the solemn commitments to democracy and the rule of law. While non-violent civil disobedience involves breaking the law, as recognised by the trial judges in both of this past week’s cases, it has a long tradition as a noble last resort. The common law encourages judicial restraint in overseeing prosecutions where such precious rights are involved.

It seems our politicians have not learned the lesson that repression and unwarranted interference under the undemocratic Hong Kong system will invariably encounter civil society resistance. A government that repeatedly does this has only itself to blame for the increased resistance that follows.

Over the many years since the handover, civil society activism – involving hundreds of thousands of protesters – has, with rare exception, been non-violent.

Now three young civic activist leaders have been given six to eight months in prison for essentially, as found by the magistrate at the trial, climbing a fence to claim the “Civic Square”.

In lockstep with Beijing, the Hong Kong government has now taken to using the courts to eliminate its political opposition.

Through the oath-taking saga, with the assistance of a timely Beijing interpretation, it first took control of the legislature. Now it has gone back to the courts to lock up its civic opponents.

It is in this volatile context, in the shadow of Hong Kong’s rich civil society tradition, that locking up the youthful “faces of democracy” in Hong Kong looks pretty much like an attempt to lock up Hong Kong’s civil society.

Professor Michael C. Davis specialises in constitutional law and human rights

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Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow are in jail because Hong Kong law demands it

CommentInsight & Opinion
Rimsky Yuen explains the legal basis behind the judgment, as those seeing ulterior or political motives, and fearing for the independence of Hong Kong’s courts, may not have grasped the basic facts of the case

On August 17, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment on the ­application to ­review the sentences involving Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung. The court sentenced the defendants to immediate custodial sentences of six to eight months.

The judgment has attracted ­extensive attention and discussions. Since the defendants have indicated an ­intention to appeal, it is not ­appropriate to go into matters which may affect the intended appeal. However, since some of the comments display a lack of understanding of the basic facts of the case or our legal system, it is important that there should be an explanation of the different stages of the legal and judicial process.

The first stage is prosecution. The defendants were prosecuted for offences involving unlawful ­assembly, which is defined in ­section 18 (1) of the Public Order ­Ordinance as follows: “When three or more persons, assembled ­together, conduct themselves in a disorderly, ­intimidating, insulting or provocative manner intended or likely to cause any person reasonably to fear that the persons so ­assembled will commit a breach of the peace, or will by such conduct provoke other persons to commit a breach of the peace, they are an ­unlawful assembly”.

Unlawful assembly is not concerned with the ideas (whether political or otherwise) that the people who organised or participated in the assembly sought to advocate. Rather, it focuses on whether the conduct of the people during the assembly was unlawful. Accordingly, the defendants were not prosecuted for their political ideas.

The second stage is the trial. There can be no doubt that the ­defendants were convicted after a fair and open trial. The defendants were legally represented, and they had every opportunity to make such submissions as they saw fit. At one stage, they lodged appeals against their convictions. However, they subsequently abandoned their ­appeals. Thus, they no longer take issue with their convictions.

The third stage is the review of sentence. The first review took place before the magistrate who convicted the defendants, pursuant to ­Section 104 of the Magistrates Ordinance. The second took place ­before the Court of Appeal, pursuant to section 81A of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance. Such a ­review can only be lodged if the sentence imposed by the trial judge “is not authorised by law, is wrong in principle or is manifestly excessive or manifestly inadequate”.

All these grounds for review only concern legal issues. Political considerations do not come into play, whether at the stage when the prosecution sought the review or when the Court of Appeal dealt with the application for review.

The hearing of the review was also open and transparent. All the submissions made by the prosecution were legal (as opposed to political). The defendants, again, were legally represented, and had every opportunity to advance such submissions as they saw fit.

If one reads the judgment (in particular, the leading judgment by Justice ­Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor), they will see that the reasons leading to the conclusion that imprisonment is appropriate are legal reasons, not political ones.

Further, as is made crystal clear in paragraph 171 of the judgment, the defendants were convicted and sentenced not because they exercised their right of assembly, demonstration or freedom of speech; but because they had overstepped the line allowed by the law and that they had committed serious unlawful acts.

Hong Kong has all along upheld judicial independence. The Hong Kong judiciary is well-known for their independence and quality. It is regrettable that some of the comments (including some by overseas media) sought to attack our judiciary. As I have repeatedly said, the public has a right to discuss judicial decisions, but no discussion should seek to undermine the integrity or impartiality of the judiciary.

As observed in an Australian decision: “The authority of the law rests on public confidence, and it is important for the stability of society that the confidence of the public should not be shaken by baseless attacks on the integrity or impartiality of courts or judges (Gallagher vs Durack, 1983)”.

Some have queried the timing of the review applications, and alleged that there was an ulterior motive.

The timing of the review applications before the magistrate and the Court of Appeal are regulated by the relevant statutes. In the present case, the prosecution lodged the ­review applications within the relevant time prescribed by the statutes. The only reason it took almost a year for the Court of Appeal to hear the ­application was that it could not deal with the review of sentence until after the defendants’ appeals against conviction were disposed of (see section 81C (1) of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance).

The defendants’ appeals against conviction were scheduled to be heard on May 22. It was only after they abandoned their appeal on April 19 that the prosecution could proceed to fix a date for the hearing of the review of sentence, which eventually took place on August 9. In other words, the timing of these steps is not within the control of the prosecution, and any suggestion of an ulterior ­motive on the part of the prosecution [6] is simply groundless.

The law in Hong Kong protects people’s fundamental rights, ­including the right to assembly, demonstration and freedom of speech. However, any exercise of such rights should be in a lawful manner (see paragraphs 110-112 of the judgment). From the start of the prosecution up to the review of sentence by the Court of Appeal, the defendants were dealt with strictly in ­accordance with the law.

The defendants were convicted and sentenced for their unlawful conduct, not for their political ideas.

With these explanations, I hope the public and the international community will continue to respect our independent judiciary and ­refrain from baseless attacks.

Rimsky Yuen, SC, is Hong Kong’s secretary for justice

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How Hong Kong’s Basic Law can serve the interests of all China

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
Simon Young
Simon Young says a narrow view of the Basic Law is partly to blame for the ‘one country’ versus ‘two systems’ deadlock in Hong Kong. It’s time to widen the perspective to see what the SAR can offer the country

Looking at the Basic Law from different perspectives may yield different results. For the past 20 years, most people, including myself, have understood the Basic Law to be a legal instrument intended to continue and preserve Hong Kong’s way of life for at least 50 years under Chinese sovereignty. I call this the internal perspective, which looks at how the Basic Law serves the interests of Hong Kong and Hong Kong people.

However, the internal perspective has proven to be divisive, one that sees continuous tension and conflict between the “one country” and the “two systems”. The conflict is well known, if not tiresome. One sees it in recent speeches on the success or failure of the Basic Law.

The side trumpeting the “one country” hails the Basic Law’s first 20 years, pointing to Beijing’s restraint and the many ways in which Hong Kong has been allowed to prosper. To this group, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has made “only” five interpretations of the Basic Law, each measured and made for good reasons. Those calling for independence or self-determination are regarded as ungrateful, spoiled, and soon to be, if not already are, enemies of the state unless stronger measures are taken.

Those trumpeting the “two systems” highlight the “high degree” of autonomy promised to Hong Kong in the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. To them, one Standing Committee interpretation is one too many, and the five we have had have seriously damaged common law judicial independence. What is there to celebrate when press freedom has been deteriorating, Chinese mainland authorities have increasingly encroached on Hong Kong’s autonomy, and the local government has been unable to defend Hong Kong’s interests. The government’s “hardline approach” is to blame for the failure of “one country, two systems”, and independence talk is but a natural consequence of the political reform void.

As the internal perspective looks mainly to the interests and continuity of Hong Kong, there is little room to consider Hong Kong-mainland relations. The two sides are single entities unable to have a constructive dialogue on constitutional development. During the 2014 universal suffrage debacle, the central government’s Standing Committee decision was a top-down monologue, while local protesters’ provocative means drowned out their message and those of others.

In this internal perspective, Hong Kong remains a “borrowed place on borrowed time”, with 2047 standing in the place of 1997.

The two sides have divergent ideas on how to resolve the conflict. The “one country” camp would invest in a kind of brainwashing, and recommend for the incorrigible, first, elimination from the political system, then incarceration. For the autonomy camp, there are different responses: protest, obstruct, disobey, veto and exit. While those in the autonomy camp await a new president, those in the other camp await 2047.

In contrast to the dismal internal perspective, there is another perspective of the Basic Law rarely mentioned. The external perspective sees the Basic Law as serving national interests and the nation’s interests in the global community.

This is not the same as the “one country” camp’s internal perspective of the Basic Law. The words “belt” and “road” do not appear in the Basic Law. Hong Kong is not compared with other parts of China. It is a distinct society with an unrealised potential to furthering national interests. The external perspective sees Hong Kong and Hong Kong people having a greater role in matters of state, as contemplated by Article 21 of the Basic Law. This goes beyond having local deputies in the NPC and ex-chief executives become vice-chairmen of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The external perspective recognises the contribution that Hong Kong already makes to China’s international standing.

The autonomy camp does not see the external perspective, or they see it as irrelevant, as they continue to fight micro battles with the “one country” camp and the Hong Kong or mainland governments. Some do not see the nation at all, whether because they are legally barred from entering the mainland or figuratively because of pro-independence thinking.

The vision in the external perspective remains largely unfulfilled because there are few opportunities for Hong Kong people to participate in the management of state affairs. It is doubtful that the central government trusts Hong Kong people with such responsibilities. Take the example of having mainland officials in Hong Kong in a co-location arrangement for boundary checks for the mainland-Hong Kong express rail link. It is likely to be one of the most challenging problems facing the new administration. There is, however, a solution to the problem in Article 20 of the Basic Law, which provides that Hong Kong may “enjoy other powers granted to it” by the mainland authorities.

Why not grant Hong Kong officials the power to conduct boundary checks on behalf of the mainland? A select group of Hong Kong officers could be specially trained by mainland officers and sworn to secrecy on the intelligence obtained from the mainland security network. Hong Kong would maintain its autonomy while contributing to a matter of national importance.

While the precise arrangements have yet to be announced, it seems highly unlikely the mainland government would entrust Hong Kong with such powers.

In State Council white papers and the speeches of the foreign minister, Wang Yi (王毅), even on topics of rule of law and human rights, Hong Kong is not cited as an exemplar. When mentioned in a recent speech by Wang, it was only to say that China had opposed “foreign interference in Hong Kong and Macau affairs”. Recently in London, Hong Kong’s secretary for justice lauded the city’s system of overseas judges in the Court of Final Appeal as an “innovative formula” that “proved to be a success”. I cannot recall ever hearing a mainland official giving similar praise. Rather, one hears voices in the “one country” camp calling for the system to be dismantled. The judiciary, which enjoys both public confidence and international repute, should instead be a matter of national pride. One wonders whether such calls do a disservice to the national interest.

The 2014 white paper on “one country, two systems” stated correctly that “Hong Kong’s experience can be of reference for the mainland to pursue innovative ways in social and economic management”. This is an understatement as Hong Kong experience and talent can help the mainland in many other ways if given the opportunity.

As we mark the first 20 years and reflect on the next 20, it is time for all to take a fresh look at the Basic Law to get beyond the conflict of the internal dimension. The very survival of the Basic Law beyond 2047 may well depend on finding common ground in a new perspective.

Simon Young Ngai-man is professor and associate dean in the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong

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Hong Kong’s handover anniversary is an opportunity to restore faith in ‘two systems’

CommentInsight & Opinion
Anson Chan says the inspired solution of ‘one country, two systems’ has clearly floundered in recent years, and now is the time for incoming chief executive Carrie Lam, as well as Beijing, to act so the healing can begin and hope can return

The 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty has prompted a flurry of reflection and commentary, in both local media and, significantly, in the overseas press.

Back in 1997, if one was betting on the success of “one country, two systems”, the stakes would have been high. The concept, hailed as the brainchild of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), is certainly one of the most imaginative constitutional balancing acts ever devised: an inspired solution to what seemed like the impossible ­dilemma of how to fit one of the world’s most thriving capitalist ­enclaves into the socialist straitjacket of Communist China.

At the same time, sustaining the concept over the 50 years of “no change”, prescribed under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, was always going to be challenging. Leafing through some speeches ­I delivered shortly after the handover as chief secretary, I came across the following words from an address made in 1998 to the Asia Society in Washington: “None of us could know how our world might change after June 30, 1997. We had no precedent to compare with, or to follow. What we did have were the genuine good intentions and the best wishes of all parties involved. But even before the transition, I felt that, in the final analysis, it would be up to us, the people of Hong Kong, to make the transition work.”

My sentiments have not changed; if anything, I feel even more strongly that it is up to the people of Hong Kong to make “one country, two systems” work, up to and hopefully beyond 2047.

Project Citizens Foundation, of which I am a founding director, ­recently hosted a public forum on “Hong Kong 2047: Quo Vadis?” One of the speakers was Legislative Council member and Demosisto chair, Nathan Law Kwun-chung.

Law spoke movingly about how Hong Kong’s younger generations feel their future was just handed off by the British colonial power. As a result, they were robbed of any right of self-determination. This is why, he argued, so many young people struggle to identify with a motherland that doesn’t seem to understand their hopes and aspirations.

As I ponder the issue of where we go from here, I am reminded of the words of a song from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical: Jesus Christ Superstar : “I’ve been very hopeful so far, now for the first time I think we’re going wrong … could we start again please?’’

Why do these words resonate? Quite simply because, in the first few years after the transfer of sovereignty, “one country, two systems” worked as it was intended to do. Hong Kong continued to be administered by an able and politically neutral civil service, and there was no interference either by the leadership in Beijing, or the New China News Agency (the central government’s representative office before the liaison office was set up in 2000).

Until Hong Kong people are governed by politicians they respect and whom they can trust to protect their interests … it will be impossible to heal the rifts and safeguard ‘one country, two systems’

Things have gone badly wrong in recent years. Who is to blame? I do not intend to apportion blame, as it does not take us forward. Rather, I believe we should grasp the golden opportunity presented by the 20th anniversary of the handover, and the entry into office of a new chief executive, to start again: to turn over a new leaf in our relations with the central government.

First, Carrie Lam Cheng ­Yuet-ngor must step out of the shadow of the Leung Chun-ying era, with its lack of integrity and connivance in the relegation of Hong Kong’s status to a satellite of the mainland, rather than an ­important global city in its own right. She must quietly, but firmly, take back the reins of day-to-day governance of Hong Kong and make clear that, while her administration will respect fully its obligations under “one country”, the central authorities must stop eating away at the boundaries of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy guaranteed under “two systems”.

Recent thinly veiled warnings by the National People’s Congress chairman, Zhang Dejiang ( 張德江 ), to the effect that Beijing will not hesitate to tighten its grip in aspects such as the pace of political reform, its power over the chief executive, and its authority to ­appoint and dismiss key officials, are both uncalled for and totally counterproductive.

As Lam has already rightly emphasised to the leadership, the voices calling for independence for Hong Kong represent a tiny minority. The best thing Beijing can do is demonstrate that, having orchestrated her election as chief executive, they are prepared to trust in her judgement and show her the respect she needs to captain her ship.

Above all, Beijing must support Lam in taking steps to reverse the disastrous decline in the morale of the civil service, which is a direct consequence of its increasingly ­blatant interference in the day-to-day conduct of the bureaucracy.

I have made no secret, over the years, of my belief that the introduction of the political appointment system was misguided. It has drained the senior ranks of the civil service to fill ministerial positions and compromised the neutrality of those who remain. It has failed to nurture new political talent, as seen in the lacklustre performance of many of Leung’s team and the fact that Lam has clearly been less than successful in recruiting the new blood she had hoped for.

I am not convinced that the failure to attract ­talent from the private sector into government positions is due to ­lower pay, or a lack of public-spiritedness. Nor do I believe it is ­because they are discouraged by the (at times) toxic atmosphere in ­Legco. The only way to attract individuals of high calibre and integrity into the public service is to convince them they will be able to exercise their duties with intellectual rigour, impartiality, and according to their conscience. Until Hong Kong people are governed by politicians they respect and whom they can trust to protect their interests – politicians who have a genuine mandate by virtue of being ­appointed on the basis of a democratic system of fair and open elections – it will be impossible to heal the rifts in our society and safeguard “one country, two systems” for coming generations.

Bottom line? Lam cannot ­afford to place the issue of constitutional ­reform on the back-burner. At least, she must bring forward proposals to end the scandalous situation whereby the votes of a minority of vested interests in Legco and the Election Committee for chief executive can usurp the rights of the majority of Hong Kong electorate.

Lam cannot ­afford to place the issue of constitutional ­reform on the back-burner

Numerous well-thought-out proposals to broaden the electorate of the functional constituencies, or phase them out, were submitted during the 2013-2014 consultation process, ­including by my own Hong Kong 2020 think tank. All were ­ignored. These proposals should be revisited at the earliest opportunity.

Back on July 1, 1997, watching for the first time the raising of the national flag at the handover ceremony, I recall a sense of emotion that is hard to describe. I began to appreciate the spiritual propriety of Hong Kong’s return to the mainland. My family – like many in Hong Kong – did not leave China willingly. We left because we felt we had to.

I felt we had been a country and a people divided … now we had an ­opportunity to be whole

As a Chinese, I felt we had been a country and a people divided, travelling different roads and shaped by ­different events. Now we had an ­opportunity to be whole.

On July 1 this year, my emotions are going to be far more mixed. I will take pride in the achievements of the past 20 years, in the resilience of our community and its determination to hold on to the values, freedoms and way of life we hold dear. At the same time, I will feel disappointment and alarm that the precious concept of “one country, two systems” seems to be floundering, despite the best efforts of so many.

The visit of President Xi Jinping (習近平),who arrives on Thursday to officiate at the anniversary celebrations, is an opportunity I hope our country’s leader will embrace: an opportunity to promote the healing process and give our young people hope. Could we start again please?

Anson Chan, a former chief secretary of Hong Kong, is convenor of Hong Kong 2020