Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
1st July Rally moves through Causeway Bay
It’s the 2nd July 2017, the day after the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. President Xi Jinping was in town to swear in our new Chief Executive. Later in the day, the annual 1st July rally kicked off with a turnout down on previous years. I watched the march pass through Causeway Bay. It was noisy, yet orderly. Participants, led by the usual personalities, had no single theme except a call for democracy. Whatever that means.
The march leaders have no sense of irony. They voted down moves towards greater democracy in the 2015 reform package. A cynical man may argue that more democracy would curtail their activities. With that, a generous revenue stream would dry up.
I monitored the international media coverage in the lead-up to the anniversary. Pinching myself, I had to ask do I live in Hong Kong? Some of the commentators appeared to be in a different Hong Kong. Doom and gloom peppered their assessments. Every twist and turn of local politics interpreted in the most sinister light. Taking their narrative, you’d believe we live in fear. Utter balderdash.
The British print media went into overdrive. According to them, everything was sweetness and light during the colonial era. To my surprise, even the lefty Guardian got all nostalgic for the colonial period. Shoddy treatment of the local Chinese forgotten in the hubris. Rehashed old stories got considerable coverage, including the antics of Lord Patten.
The last governor is remembered with fondness here. He engaged with the public, having the politicians gift for talking. Given the staid types who’d preceded him, he enjoyed a popularity bounce by being different. Even so, it remains true none of his initiatives survived the handover. He acted without considering China’s views. They didn’t take kindly to his last-minute initiatives. Again, the British media ignored this important point. Also untouched was the consequential damage done by derailing democratic institutions.
An encounter I had with a Sky reporter during Occupy was revealing. He was keen to know if the police would resort to firearms to clear the streets. The disappointment was visible on his face as I opined that was unlikely. I got the sense he was waiting to polish his credentials by witnessing a Tien An Mun style incident. He was gone from Hong Kong within days. There was no bloodshed to witness, so he and his crew moved on.
President Xi gave a speech that to me was frank about the challenges faced in Hong Kong. He admitted that major differences exist in our society. Like many of us, he cited the politicisation of everything as provoking confrontation. He appeared to leave resolution of these issues with Hong Kong but added a caveat. Hong Kong must not endanger China’s sovereignty and security. That was a clear warning to the foolhardy independence elements. Their tacit supporters amongst the Pan-Dems also need to take note. Given China’s history, it’s twitchiness about independence is understandable. They didn’t build up the nation to give territory away. Moreover, the big prize of Taiwan remains unresolved.
So, the position is clear. Hong Kong will sail along as China’s only international financial centre. The lack of capital controls and the common law legal system give Hong Kong a distinct advantage. Shanghai has none of these blessings. That's unlikely to change soon. As a result, the economy will be based on services and management. The low-skilled and unqualified will struggle in this environment. Resolving that will be the difficult task for the new administration. I say new when in fact it's pretty much the same team. Thus, I’m not confident a revamp will be forthcoming.
On the political front, it’s stalemate. It's certain that the very few who advocate independence can expect to feel the wrath of the Mainland. Also, the moderate Pan Dems need to consider their position in light of Xi’s assertions. They need to play the long game with more astute decisions. Simply rabbiting slogans about democracy is not going to move us forward. Of course, the radicals won’t change course. Meanwhile, whether Article 23 on national security is brought forward is anyones guess.
Life goes on. Ships enter the harbour, the trains run on time, whilst planes ferry goods and people through the Airport. The bankers do their deals, and the maids take their Sunday meals under flyovers and in the parks. Protestors march, their dissenting calls echoing off the concrete canyons. Lastly, the majority go about their business, unruffled and unconcerned.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.