Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Hong Kong qualifies as the world's largest gated community. It exists in a bubble surrounded by its Mainland host. The word ‘host’ is most appropriate given the parasitic nature of Hong Kong's economy. Despite what some may think, Hong Kong could not exist without China’s largess.
The reality is total reliance on the Mainland. This situation emphatically undermines the non-sensical calls for independence. Setting aside the fact that Beijing would never entertain such a move, more practical issues arise.
Hong Kong has a reputation as a food hub. You can experience everything from the most elegant dining to superb street food. However, virtually none of that food gets grown here. Depending who you ask, between 90 and 95 percent is imported. China accounts for 92 percent of Hong Kong's fresh vegetables and 97 percent of its fish. On an average day, 34 tons of poultry, 4,300 pigs and 80 cows cross the boundary to feed hungry stomachs. Without China’s efforts in growing, harvesting and distributing produce, this city starves.
Water is another product that the Mainland supplies Hong Kong in abundance. In 1980, 34 percent of the cities water came from the Mainland. Since then the rapid population expansion pushed up demand. With limited space for infrastructure, water independence was never a realistic prospect. Even as late as 1982, Hong Kong experienced water rationing because the supply couldn’t match demand.
For the city to grow it needed to rely on Guangdong as its hinterland. China met that demand. Today, 70 percent of our water flows from the Dongjiang River in Guangdong. That water played a silent role in the negotiations between Britain and China over Hong Kong's future. While never deployed as a bargaining chip, Britain recognised its position. Without water from the Mainland, Hong Kong ran dry in a matter of weeks.
Next is electricity. To keep all those air-conditioners running, Hong Kong's demands are enormous. Just over 50% gets generated on the Mainland; 25 percent from nuclear and 25 percent from natural gas. That gas arrives by pipeline from Hainan Island.
Often overlooked is that physical proximity has impacts. Hong Kong airspace needs to integrate with that of Macau and neighbouring provinces. A plane lifting off from Chep Lap Kok enters Macau airspace within a minute, and should it turn right Shenzhen’s. All that activity needs coordinating in a trilateral agreement that ensures safety.
Visitors are surprised to see that Hong Kong, 20 years after the handover, remains separated from the Mainland. Border controls are in place, with a large fence marking the land boundary. Access is controlled, with both sides mounting patrols. Likewise, at sea, the Marine Police keep a watchful eye. These arrangements prove a unique status.
Political scientists take the view that Beijing would only restrict or cut-off necessities as a last resort. Once done, it’s likely to produce a reaction with unknown consequences. That does not deny the power of the threat. That's something the independent seekers need to reflect on.
The Beijing government has earned the colloquial name 'A Gung’. In English that's ‘Grandpa.’ This moniker does two things at once; it offers a sense of benevolence, yet with controlling Confucius undertones.
At the moment Beijing's approach is paternalistic. It has pulled out all the stops to assist Hong Kong's economic growth. Such moves serve the interests of Hong Kong, but also Beijing’s broader agenda. In effect, Hong Kong is ring-fenced, shielded from many of the vicissitudes of the world.
All this demonstrates a salient fact, Hong Kong is co-joined to the Mainland. These links are at many levels and across many arenas. The folly of the independence seekers comes into focus by these deep connections.
The advocates of independence ignore specific facts and, to put it mildly, are woefully immature. First, Beijing will never allow separation. Even a non-communist China would not entertain such an idea given the history. Second, Hong Kong’s overwhelming reliance on China means it holds no bargaining chips. Thirdly, Hong Kong has no army to enforce its will.
Lastly, the rest of the world recognises Hong Kong as an integral part of China. Thus, the independence advocates have no hinterland of support beyond partisan interests. Politicians in the West will make noises, expressing tacit support. Beyond that their words are empty as talk is cheap. They use the independence issue for political leverage only.
Hong Kong doesn’t make anything; it has no resources beyond the energy and acumen of its people. For businesses to survive here, a peaceful environment is a must. That stability is not only beneficial, but crucial. Thus, wake up and recognise you’ve got a favourable deal people. I've made the case that our economy is dependent on the Mainland. Meanwhile, Hong Kong retains its separation like a vast gated community.
Enjoy the sanctuary of your protected place, because once the fence comes down, it's a rough and tumble world that awaits.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.