China’s control over Hong Kong’s political future

6 May

hong-kong-protest-poster-story
Image from: http://hk.asia-city.com/category/authors/grace-tsoi

Regarding how 2017 elections are to be made, a prerequisite for chief executive candidates is that they “Love (China) and Love Hong Kong”. This exempts those who have a habit of confronting Beijing, including Hong Kong’s pro-democracy legislators who routinely call for an end to Communist Party rule. To a reasonable person, it would seem sensible to wish to avoid unnecessary disputes, however seeing that China is very much a communist-dominated nation and judging from the repeated delays it has made, it is questionable as to whether they would keep their word in permitting Hong Kong a genuinely democratic election in 2017. As 2017 draws closer, the city’s democratic activists are increasingly worried that a legit democratic election would not actualize. The unease is not without foundation, considering that China had been pushing back a public consultation and stalling time. Finally, in a closed-door seminar in March 24th, Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the law committee of the National People’s Congress announced that firstly, the nomination committee will decide, followed by voters in Hong Kong and finally, the central government will have the last word. It was interpreted that according to Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong “could” have genuine democracy after 10 years. Since 1997, China has exercised partial governance over Hong Kong however as opposed to granting democracy as promised, it appears that Hong Kong’s political future is headed for another direction. Described as a ‘pre-emptive’ strike by protesters, the public is unhappy with the redefined universal suffrage and perhaps rightfully so as it would appear that by having the final say, China still exerts injustice controls as it would be given the ability to navigate an outcome in their favour. Thereby, conflicting against the basic concept of democracy.

Friction between the two is predicted to heighten in the coming years given the direction Hong Kong politics is heading towards. 2017 is still a few years away, yet the protests is already apparent. News reports have shown tens of thousands of Hong Kong-ers participating in street demonstrations agains the local Beijing-backed government. However it is worth noting that even the annual protest rallies which were originally led by the Civil Human Rights Front since Hong Kong’s handover on the 1st of July 1997, are strictly regulated by the police with marching done in circles. Occupy Central activists have announced that a Democracy battle will cost HK$10m to block roads in Central, with contributions of  no more than HK$10,000 are being accepted. Great lengths are being taken to ensure that the people’s voice is heard as they strive for a “genuine” universal suffrage in 2017 when electing a chief executive. Idealistically, this will not be in vain.

The Beijing-backed local government has sought to diminish objections and concerns by implementing steep taxes on apartment purchases by non-permanent residents, taking note that the numbers particularly consist of mainlanders. In addition, a ban has been placed as a measure barring pregnant mainlanders from entering as visitors only to take up space in Hong Kong’s obstetric wards in order to obtain legal residency for their offspring. Even a plan for schools to teach a patriotic education course on the Communist Party has been put on hold for the time being. On the other hand, government protestors have reportedly been hired at the cost of $25 per piece as a means of rallying support.

It is also rather unsettling how there have been talks that democracy advocates are puppets of the United States, manipulated to create trouble in China during a time when it is also facing geopolitical tensions with Japan over the Diaoyu islands. The territorial issues have brought Hong Kong closer to the mainland as they share grievances against Japan however notably, there are those in Hong Kong who remain hostile against the Chinese government due to the Tiananmen Square Massacre which took place in 1989. That year, large protests were carried out in Hong Kong where people wore black as a symbol of solidification with the Beijing demonstrators. Candlelight vigils have continued even after the transfer of sovereignty to the PRC in 1997. Many saw this a celebration of Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom from the Beijing government. The people’s response to PRC’s acquired power could possibly be drawn from the mass migration wave due to the number of Hong Kong-ers who migrated to Canada, Australia and even the United States. It was argued that there was a lacking in trust in the PRC.

Zhang Xiaoming, the new Central Liason Office (under the Chinese Communist Party) director in Beijing, reiterated the “One Country, Two Systems” ruling Hong Kong and China were to operate under. The problem however lies in that the system envisioned by citizens of Hong Kong is clearly quite different from what is currently being put forward by China. With an impending civil disobedience movement, should democracy in 2017 not be on the cards, Hong Kong citizens would without a doubt grow increasingly restless. The opposing views need to seek a compromise. Unfortunately, it seems rather obscure, with the delays China has been making and it would not be easy judging from the very different “baseline demands” which appear to directly cut across that of the other. Pan-democrats are keen on a no-holds-barred election whereas Beijing still wishes to exert control in barring those it seems confrontational. It would appear that Beijing is afraid of a change in the nation’s socialist system being on the cards should it let Hong Kong have its way in but it needs to very careful in the approach taken to satisfy both sides.

Sources: 

As Hong Kong Presses for More Democracy, Friction with Beijing Rises. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/16/world/asia/friction-with-beijing-as-hong-kong-seeks-more-democracy.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Democratic hopes dashed for Hong Kong 2017 Election.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/28/us-hongkong-politics-idUSBRE92R03J20130328

Democracy battle will cost HK$10m, Occupy Central activists figure.
http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1230283/democracy-battle-will-cost-hk10m-occupy-central-activists-figure

Democracy debate fuels tensions in Hong Kong.
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Democracy-debate-fuels-tensions-in-Hong-Kong-30203392.html

Diaoyus dispute encapsulates the Hong Kong identity crisis.
http://www.scmp.com/comment/blogs/article/1230746/diaoyus-dispute-encapsulates-hong-kong-identity-crisis

Hong Kong’s Future Leader Must Love China.
http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2013/03/26/hong-kongs-future-leader-must-love-china/

Hong Kong people can’t just wait around for democracy; they must act.
http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1227015/hong-kong-people-cant-just-wait-around-democracy-they-must

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2 Responses to “China’s control over Hong Kong’s political future”

  1. timhaythorne May 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    On a political level, Hong Kong’s attitudes and actions seem perfectly plausible. However, on the issue of trade and economic prosperity, the leverage Hong Kong seems to yield through politics is arguable reversed and it is now China which is in the driving seat.

    Over the past few decades, China had been utterly reliant on Hong Kong, using it as a hob for its outgoing trade. This platform stood for many years and allowed China to develop strong trading partnerships with Western powers, and it’s not as if Hong Kong didn’t benefit. Many MNCs transferred their production lines in to mainland China to exploit low wage costs in order to send their goods back to Hong Kong to then add value to each product through branding and marketing before exporting their goods at a higher trade margin.

    However, this relationship has now deteriorated to a much more stringent bond, with the Hong Kong service industry which China had been so reliant upon for so many years being overtaken its Chinese counterpart. China is now more than capable to export its own goods and services and Hong Kong is now more a middle-man than an orchestrator of trade.

    Should Hong Kong break away entirely from China in 2017, will the multinational corporations leave? In this case, Hong Kong would see its main source of revenue sapped out of its core, along with any Chinese investment as well. Hong Kong would do well to keep its relationship with China exactly as it stands for many years in order to maintain the astonishing level of economic growth it has enjoyed over the last century.

  2. ja11g12 May 7, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Perhaps a solution for this situation is for Hong Kong to receive even greater political freedom but still remaining as part of China due to the economic and political benefits gained from this. While it is a complicated plan to implement, once implemented it would lead to less friction between Hong Kong and the mainland and would help ease dissatisfaction within Hong Kong.

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