Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Hong Kong’s story is one of survival. It’s confounded the naysayers time and time again. The return of Chinese sovereignty was another instance when it shook off the critics. We are still here, our GDP continues to grow. In the sweep of history, this has meant going from drug trafficking to general trade and to shipping. Next came garment and toy making, and most recently, business services.
We’ve shaken off SARS, the odd financial crisis, riots, civil disobedience plus rampant corruption. And Chinese rule was always inevitable. Yet it came with a high degree of autonomy. The alarmists predicted doom, civil rights abuses and mass arrests. It didn’t happen. Indeed, China has remained hands-off until the ill-conceived Occupy movement provoked their attention. It’s off-spring, the nonsensical independence movement has rattled them.
Simply put, a very small group of agitators is acting to provoke Beijing. This situation is made worse by the failure of the Pan Dems as a group to condemn these activities. Should Beijing view Hong Kong as a centre for separatist activity, the consequences could be serious. The community needs to come together to reject the independence calls.
As it was, Occupy crumbled away. Nothing of its size appears in the offing. It’s leaders dissipated their energies. Of course, they continue to make appearances overseas talking about their struggle. Yet, the inescapable fact is that the tide turned against them. Meanwhile, the deluded author of Occupy continues his futile scheming earning the criticism of all sides.
With political development stalled, Beijing has no motivation to revisit the issue. A tactical error by the Pan Dems in 2015 closed that door. That’s no bad thing. Like others, I take the view that a period of calm in the political arena would do Hong Kong much good. All sides need to tone down the rhetoric to allow rational conversations to proceed. Yelling and posturing only beget hardline statements from the other side.
The current arrangements that govern Hong Kong expire in 2047. That’s only 30 years away. Without a doubt, Beijing will decide the shape of things beyond that date. Going against the naysayers again, I’ll predict a revised form of “one country, two systems”. No one, least of all Beijing, wants to see Hong Kong fail. What does it say that the British made this place thrive and prosper, but China ran it down? That would be a massive loss of face. Moreover, any prospect of the big prize, unification with Taiwan, would disappear.
Also, Hong Kong remains a true international finance centre. This status serves China’s interests. Despite claims to the contrary, Shanghai is some time off becoming an equal to Hong Kong on that score. Access to information, open communication and an independent legal system anchor that status. Thus, it is in Beijing’s interests to honour its commitments.
Granted there have been instances that cause concern. Yet what is remarkable is how little Beijing has impinged on Hong Kong. It exercised considerable patience during the Occupy protests. It could have asserted the Hong Kong government had lost control of the situation. Instead, Beijing waited.
There is evidence enough that Hong Kong would struggle to survive without the largess of China. All the hectoring, shouting through megaphones by Pan Dems, can't change the facts. None of that matters. The facts are unassailable. Hong Kong takes its water, power and food from the mainland. Approximately 45 % of trade is with the mainland. We are connected, interconnected, locked in a symbiotic embrace. The sooner that people in Hong Kong acknowledge that, the better.
Looking to future, the naysayers and doom merchants wish to paint a bleak outlook. They are wrong again. All things considered, Hong Kong is in a favourable position to take advantage of new economic order. Geography, a common law legal system plus the free flow of information are in our favour. Then you have the unquestionable tenacity and skills of the local population. This creates a locus of exceptional opportunity.
Do Hong Kong people still have the verve to seize the moment? Time will tell
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.