Talking to DW about the future of democracy in Hong Kong, Cheuk Ting Lam says that many residents in the city have started to pay attention to politics for the first time following last year's pro-democracy protests.
DW: Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement attracted global attention in 2014. From a political perspective, the movement hasn't been able to achieve a great deal, but do you think it managed to mobilize the society?
Cheuk Ting Lam: Many Hong Kong residents have started to pay attention to politics for the first time - not only because of the erosion of our core values, but also due to the turbulent political situation of Hong Kong. We are fighting for a democratic system, and we demand universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive, which is also promised by the Chinese government. But Beijing has so far not fulfilled its pledge.
"One country, two systems" is the official phrase to describe the relations between Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China. What does it mean to you?
It does not only mean that there is one country and two systems; it also means that the people of Hong Kong have a higher degree of autonomy. However, since Hong Kong's handover to China, Beijing's influence on the city has been increasing. The Chinese government tries to interfere in Hong Kong's domestic matters. I think it is very difficult for the people of Hong Kong to defend "One country, two systems."
Keeping in mind the recent developments, is the task of strengthening democratic institutions and preserving civic freedoms in Hong Kong getting harder?
The Chinese government controls most of the media in Hong Kong. Many pro-Beijing tycoons own it. Self-censorship is a norm. The only pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, came under attack and its newspapers were repeatedly burnt before they were delivered. Many outspoken political commentators have been silenced.
Things are not easy in Hong Kong. But no matter how difficult things get, we will fight for democracy until we achieve universal suffrage.
Hong Kong has been important for China as a trade and investment hub. But in recent years, other cities like Shanghai and Beijing have also become important in this respect. Do you think that Hong Kong is losing its special role as an international gateway for China?
In my opinion, Hong Kong is still the most important global trade hub in Asia and China because we have the rule of law. We have a well established system which we inherited from the British.
In mainland China, there isn't any rule of law. Corruption is rampant. It is true for Hong Kong too, but generally we have a clean government. It is a pity, however, that some top-level officials have been found to be involved in corruption scandals.
Are you planning to push any initiative in the legislative council with regards to the pro-democracy agenda?
We are very powerless in the legislative council. The legislative council is not directly elected by the people. Half of the seats in it are functional constituencies held by people from the business community or pro-Beijing politicians. They do not represent the majority of the Hong Kong people.
What can you do in this situation?
Albert Ho, the legislative counselor of the Democratic Party, is planning to resign from his seat to seek a referendum against Beijing's political reform decisions. It will take some time to prepare for it, but when once we veto the government's undemocratic proposals, a second wave of the democratic movement will start.
Cheuk Ting Lam is chief executive of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong.
The interview was conducted by Rodion Ebbighausen.