Hong Kong is trying to practice "one country, two systems", but it gets more difficult when the master keeps changing the rules.
The latest development is the new man Beijing appointed to look after Hong Kong affairs, Wang Guangya who warned the city not to interfere in the mainland's judiciary.
His statement came after it was confirmed by three Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) that tainted milk activist Zhao Lianhai was freed on medical parole. However, Zhao hasn't actually surfaced so it's hard to know for sure if he has his freedoms again or is under house arrest.
While Zhao's exact whereabouts are another issue, it was mainly Hong Kong deputies as well as the people who protested against Zhao's sentence of two and a half years in jail. These political representatives spoke out about the issue and 28 of them signed a letter to the Supreme People's Court calling for Zhao's release.
Responding to the criticism, Wang said most countries like China maintained judicial independence. "Others should not interfere," he said. "Moreover, I understand that this incident has already been properly settled."
When asked to clarify if the Hong Kong deputies' letter amounted to interference, Wang gave a classic Chinese official vague response. "It depends on the way of expression. Under 'one country, two systems', well water should not intrude into river water."
So if Hong Kong is considered well water, does that mean it's stagnant? While China is a flowing body of water? Does he mean Hong Kong has bad feng shui?
Wang was also repeating an expression first used by then President Jiang Zemin on the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, saying Hong Kong should not meddle in mainland politics.
However, Hong Kong deputies felt they were not interfering but rather doing their job.
"I believe he was talking about 'one country, two systems' as a general principle," said Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, who initiated the petition. "In the letter we stated that we did not know the details of the trial and would not comment on the judgment. It was very clear that we were not trying to interfere with judicial independence. We were only pleading leniency."
Another deputy, Priscilla Lau Pui-king said they were exercising their duties as NPC members to be a "check and balance" in national affairs. "The judicial system is among the state organs we watch," she said.
Ip Kwok-him, who also signed the letter said, "As members of the nation's highest power body, we should be certainly be concerned about the matter."
While it was heart warming to see Hong Kong deputies doing what they felt was morally right and express their strong opinion on the issue, it's also sad to see how naive they are about how mainland policies work. China does not want any kind of criticism, especially from those in Hong Kong who may not realize NPC deputies are only interested in promoting their own interests and hardly ever criticize its own.
It is probably correct that NPC members should be the "check and balance" of what's going on in China, but is the leadership really interested in seeing any kind of dissent? But by the same token, if Hong Kong is to be ruled by "one country, two systems", then China should respect these different and concerned opinions and understand the city is trying to drag the massive country into following rule of law.
It seems the two solitudes are still far apart.