In response to the democratic protests that have swept through the city-state of Hong Kong over the last week, Alochonaa invited submissions from both mainland and Hong Kong perspectives. We present you with three diverse and contrasting perspectives which each offer individual and personal insight into the demonstrations – Lucy West (Co-Founder of Alochonaa).
Big Trouble in Little Hong Kong
*Scott Musgrave (East Asia Editor for Alochonaa)
The announcement of the Chinese central government to approve of candidates slated for the 2017 Hong Kong elections has been met by one the biggest organised demonstrations in the former British Colony’s recent history. This has by no means been a sudden incitation but rather a bubbling resentment finally coming to the surface.
Hong Kong has been the most stable financial centre in East Asia since the end of World War II. Under British administration, the people of the densely populated island enjoyed a steady progress toward human rights, democracy and capitalism. By all rights, thanks to the autonomy of the area, Hong Kong became the trading hub of Asia second to only London and New York in significance. However, with the return of the “fragrant harbour” to mainland authorities in 1997, there was always going to be conflict. Despite the CCP’s desire to have a “One country, two systems” nation, the culture clash between the two would lead to disharmony.
There appears to have always been distrust between Hong Kong and their mainland brethren. The key question was it at all possible that after being secluded from the mainland for so long, that it could be reintegrated into the middle kingdom. The Chinese Communist Party seems to think that the current system is unsustainable with reforms over the years to reform education, security laws and now with the electoral system trying to be pushed through but largely to no success.
Perhaps a question we could ask, is what do the two parties stand to lose or gain? For China, they gain a technologically advanced under thumb where they can fully control the destiny of Hong Kong on its terms. For Hong Kong the future is somewhat uncertain. If they were to be put further under the rule of the CCP, the likelihood of the region losing the features that made it so successful in the first place come under threat. Some commentators have argued that the very freedoms that Hong Kong enjoys as a semi-autonomous region grants it the flexibility to enjoy financial success. This includes, but is not limited to, efficient financial restrictions, free capital flows and a strong rule of law. On the other hand China has essentially the opposite where financial restrictions seldom work, capital flows are severely restricted and the rule of law is arguably ineffective.
What does this all mean for the rest of the world though? Surely this could described as a purely domestic civil dispute, however the sheer scale of international operations in Hong Kong that have thrived in the current climate begs one to suggest that many multi-national corporations would be very concerned with encroachment by the CCP into Hong Kong affairs and the disruption that the protests have caused.
Not only are international corporations heavily invested in Hong Kong but democratic movement all over the world have been showing their support for the protestors on the streets. Citizens of Taiwan, the United States, Australia, Europe and all over the world have tried to get behind the myriads fighting against the CCP. This could be significant in the future of domestic politics in China. If democracy wins against the will of the communist government this would be a major strike against their legitimacy as a ruling. With much unrest in Xinjiang and with the Uighur ethnic group, this could encourage other factions to take it to the communist regime.
Whether or not at Hong Kong victory would force this change, it would certainly attack the idea of the infallibility and righteousness of the Chinese state.
The worst case scenario for Hong Kong is military suppression which would be incredibly unlikely given their standing in the world, and the CCP tends not to be so excessive. The worst case for China however would be a possible independence movement. While this may not damage China too much economically given how much the mainland has caught up with Hong Kong, but it certainly would damage the legitimacy of the CCP and their ability to rule the rest of China.
There are still too many unknowns to draw any conclusions and we will have to wait until the dust settles to see what each party will do. Personally, I believe the CCP will step down as they cannot afford to lose Hong Kong nor violently put the protest down. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.
When I first heard the term Occupy Central a couple of months ago, I quickly did a google in Chinese and it came up with the direct translation as ‘obstruct traffic, paralyse the government functions and the operations of financial institutions’. For readers who are not familiar with Hong Kong, just replace Central with Sydney CBD or Brisbane CBD. For our American readers, replace Central with both Wall Street and the White House – ooopps my bad, Wall Street is fine. White House… you are most likely to be labelled and shot as a terrorist!
I have never been a strong supporter of these street movements. I admit that mass demonstrations and protests are basic human rights that need to be protected. However, when you exert these basic human rights, you will inevitably violate other peoples’ basic human rights of uninterrupted trading, working, studying and commuting, especially when they don’t necessarily agree with your political opinion or agenda. It is indeed a deadly weapon, and therefore must be carried out in caution, otherwise those people who get hurt the most are the innocent people – in this case it is the average person in Hong Kong who is obstructed from doing their business, who cannot go to their work or place or study, and who cannot lead a normal daily life.
There is plenty of information on the web about the objectives, agenda and timelines of the movement. Here I will offer my humble opinion over three key issues, namely universal suffrage, international standards, and lastly the ‘Love China, Love Hong Kong’ slogan.
The Basic Law stipulates:
“The chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People’s Government”
“The method for selecting the chief executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”
For readers who are not familiar with Hong Kong, Basic Law is more or less the equivalent of Hong Kong’s constitution.
The government proposal states that people have the power to nominate and Chief Executive candidates will be required to have the support of at least half of the 1,200 nominating committee members. You may not like it, but if you compare this with Basic Law, it is NOT violating the Basic Law, or in other words, it is NOT unconstitutional. Yes the current proposed process may be flawed, but will you be able to find a perfect system in the world that is fair to everyone? Like any system it will favor some candidates and disadvantage others.
Can someone fill me in on this one? What is the international standard for an election? In Australia, we cannot even directly vote for our Prime Minister. We vote for a federal member in our electorate. The head of the winning party, who is hand-picked by the party (I guess it will most likely be a committee of less than 1200 people), will become our Prime Minister. Okay I hear you, the head of party is selected before the election and we know the Prime Minister we are voting for. Don’t get me started on Julia’s back stabbing of Kevin and Kevin’s revenge 3 years later, please… Oh yes I forgot to mention you can get in as an independent, but that also means you are 99.99% sure you won’t be the next Prime Minister.
In the United States to get the top job it is also an indirect vote. Before you can be voted by the masses, you will have to pass a series of presidential primary elections and caucuses held in each state, and then the presidential nominating conventions held by each political party. If you want the top job, you have to work with the system.
‘Love China, Love Hong Kong’
This is the one often criticized by the pro-democracy camp. Beijing said Chief Executive candidates must be patriotic, must love China and must love Hong Kong. Honestly I cannot see what’s wrong with this one. Let’s say we are going to elect the Queensland Premier. If we say the bare minimum requirement for the candidate is Love Australia and Love Queensland – is there anything wrong with that? Or someone running for California Governor, and we say you must be patriotic, you must love the United States of America and you must love California. Logical? Okay I hear you again, you may say the relationship between Hong Kong and China is special. How about this one… the new Australian Prime Minister must love the Queen and must love Australia. Emm, it may not be popular, but it is legally correct, given the Queen is still the head of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Before I finish my very biased and politically incorrect blabla, some tweets I read from John Ross, former policy adviser to the mayor of London (@JohnRoss43):
– 2 separate surveys in August 2014 showed more than half of Hong Kongers willing to accept flawed nomination process.
– Multiple surveys conducted prior to September 2014 showed more than half Hong Kongers did not support Occupy Central
– In 1997 Hong Kong GDP 16% of China, Today 2.5%
It is easy for politicians to provoke young people to the street in the name of Freedom and Democracy, especially when they can easily stack up a straw-man (in this case Beijing). So the question is, ‘is protesting and demonstrating for a cause that is not necessarily supported by the majority of Hong Kongers, at the cost of significant inconveniences to the average people, in the best interests of Hong Kong?
Like any other part of the world, Hong Kong is going through a transformation in the wave of a global financial crisis. Is it right to blame all the problems have arisen in the transformation process to Beijing’s take-over in 1997? That will probably be the topic of another article someday.
One Moment. Two Paths. Three Happy Parties?
My close friend asked me to make a comment on the Hong Kong situation. I have a lot of friends and some family based in Hong Kong (HK) and I know they are very upset about the demonstrations, particularly in the way they have been dealt with.
HK transferred from the British to China in 1997, July 1. Given that HK was under UK governance for so long it largely developed like a western country in terms of free trade and government style (democracy, right to vote, multiple political parties etc.). The agreed time for the full transition of HK to Mainland China is 50 years but as you can see, changes to secure control are already underway 17 years in. This move by the Chinese Central Government is a display of power to show that they are in control – not the Western democratic powers.
Given that HK is a financial hub in Asia and the door to China, a lot of international companies have a base there, especially banks. So those financial institutions will have an impact on how the Hong Kong is run in terms of favourable trade and banking laws. Given that many of those companies come from other countries, I guess it would seem ‘not right’ that they have any influence on policy making. From an extreme point of view you could say they are raping and pillaging the country of financial resources, from another point of view you could say that HK is being competitive by enabling wealthy companies to operate there because finance is what keeps their economy going (given they have no natural resources).
My personal point of view is the latter though I do understand that the Central Chinese Government want to hold more of the reigns and direct money into mainland China. At the moment a small amount of money goes to HK, a lot to wealthy individuals and to the foreign companies. However, the way the Central Chinese Government is responding to the demonstrations occurring in Hong Kong is wrong – Mainland China is removing the right for the people of Hong Kong to decide who governs their city-state.
Can you imagine that…..?! After 99 years of British style governance and the right to vote, you’re being forced into the communist system of having to follow the dictation of whoever is in power. It’s not like HK has failed under the “democratic” system so why do they need to be governed under a new system? One of the main arguments I think for a communist system (from an Economists point of view) is that in a large country that is still developing – democracy is too slow and inefficient. But HK isn’t…it’s one of the most developed places in the world. Look at the healthcare, food and transport system. My argument is that a communist system is not needed in HK. My argument is not that a communist system would not work.
It’s really pitiful for HK right now because they’ve enjoyed so much freedom but of course, they’re with Mainland China now and I don’t think they will get much help. China has so many trade connections with other countries; no one wants to step on their toes. I guess this was bound to happen because it’s China (look at how they treat Taiwan). Nonetheless, I really hope it can work out in a more democratic manner. That’s the only polite and acceptable manner for the HK people!
The result of this clash will mark a certain change in governance. If the Central Chinese Government manages to enforce their policies, their style, then they will be able to do it on any other conflicts in the future (Tibet, Taiwan, the ongoing South China Sea disputes). Given that HK is such a “westernised country” with western powers in it (financial institutions and companies) it will show the world the might of China. After that, you will definitely see policies that will prohibit democracy e.g groups of people cannot gather unless they have permission from authorities, students are not allowed to be involved in politics etc. If it goes down a more democratic route, for example a referendum, then that will show the world that China is weak, which is definitely not good for their power in terms of international relations. If there is a happy medium…I would like to see that! But you can see the predicament of China, and the rest of the world to do anything.
Written on 29th September 2014 following the ‘teargas chaos’ in Hong Kong.
*Alochonaa would like to thank the three authors who submitted their unique perspectives on the Hong Kong demonstrations
** Alochonaa.com is not responsible for any factual mistakes (if any) of this analysis. This analysis further is not necessarily representative of Alochonaa.com’s view. We’re happy to facilitate further evidence-based submissions on this topic. Please send us your submission at firstname.lastname@example.org