Long road to making 'one country, two systems' work

Hong Kong has thrived under a laissez-faire economic system and enjoyed great freedoms in many realms. It was the envy of many and created many billionaires.

But times have changed. Many in the mainland have joined the ranks of the wealthy. The lifeline of Hong Kong's retail sector is dominated by the Chinese.

It is, perhaps, with mixed feelings that Hong Kongers view how the mainland has surpassed itself.

Post-handover, Hong Kong enjoyed great liberties. Its way of life has largely been preserved and its institutions remain intact.

The establishment, perhaps, was eager to prove the success of its "one country, two systems" model. But something lurks beyond the horizon.

The post-handover toddlers in Hong Kong have grown and come of age. But they have grown up in a reality different from that of the older Hong Kongers.

They received an education steeped in liberal ways of thinking, and have a disdain for any attempt to "brainwash" them with mainland ideologies, history, culture and even language.

They clamour for more space for expression, including the aspiration for universal suffrage. The concept of nationhood remains weak with them.

Meanwhile, the Chinese look upon developments in Hong Kong with great incomprehension.

"How can they bite the hand that feeds them? After all, we draw water from the same stream," say many who have been raised with a strong sense of Chinese pride and nationalism.

Therein lies the divide - the people on both sides have seemingly different reference points with which to interpret "one country, two systems".

There has not been enough time for the two peoples or systems to mesh.

While a new equilibrium is being sought between the two groups, outreach efforts must be made by both sides to harness a common understanding.

Only then will Hong Kong continue to thrive.

What does this mean for Singapore?

As a people, we are free from fear, from want, from encumbrance and from debt, all because we could determine our own future as a sovereign city state. In this, we have been lucky.

Lee Teck Chuan