It has been over five months since the Hong Kong protests against the extradition bill began. The extradition bill, which was proposed by the Hong Kong government under the leadership of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam- said to be ‘handpicked’ by Beijing-have already been withdrawn. The extradition bill, if it was passed, would have allowed fugitives to be taken back to mainland China for trial. Many Hong Kongers saw this as Beijing’s tightening grip against the independent judicial system of Hong Kong.
When Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, China had agreed to administer Hong Kong under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement. Under this agreement, Communist China would not be involved in the functioning of Hong Kong‘s judiciary, executive and legislature. But the Chinese government would have authority over the foreign affairs and defence vis -a-vis Hong Kong and another country. This also meant that Hong Kong will have an independent press.
When Hong Kong was handed over to China, the economy of Hong Kong was 18 percent of the total of China. Today, Hong Kong’s economy stands at a meagre 3 percent. It is also said that the youth of Hong Kong are finding it hard to buy a house and start a family due to the exorbitant prices of real estate. It is reported that the basic problems lies in the allocation of projects to many mainland developers and the influx of buyers from mainland which had pushed the prices upward. This had subjected many ordinary Hong Kongers to migrate to another country with relatively cheaper prices in real estate. In this regard too, the Chinese government have done very little to redress the grievances of the Hong Kongers.
The extradition bill has been withdrawn by its Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, days prior to the founding anniversary of China on October 1 but the protests haven’t stop yet. The Hong Kong protests, which started out as anti-extradition bill, changed its tide to an out all demand for democracy. It is now asking United States, United Kingdom and democracies around the world to support them on humanitarian ground.
Apart from marching in front of the US consulate in Hong Kong, prominent pro democracy activists such as Joshua Wong were camping in the United States to seek support for the Hong Kong protests on humanitarian ground.
At this point, China need to understand that the ethos and the moorings of the Hongkongers are different from that of the mainland Chinese. Courtesy,the Opium war and the subsequent influence of Britain. The Hong Kong protests is an amalgamation of all that is not right with the Chinese control of Hong Kong.
Not very long ago, the parents of the Hong Kong protesters benefited from a real free market system and rule of law under Britain. 22 years later, their children are finding it hard to buy a house and start a family. The protests is also about how Chinese developers from mainland China gets preferences on the housing developmental projects. It is sheer apathy, on the part of Chinese government, for the grieving population who enjoyed prosperity and ‘freedom’ barely 22 years ago.
Meanwhile, amid the Hong Kong protest, China had rolled out a blueprint to make Shenzhen as a global model city by 2050. What is significant about the Shenzhen plan is not only its close proximity to Hong Kong but also by 2050, Hong Kong would ceased to be under ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement with China.
There is also this widespread belief that China would make Shenzhen a model for its ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ approach and compete with Hong Kong that stands for free markets and rule of law. The story of Shenzhen goes back to 1987 when it was made into a special economic zone from a mere fishing village under the tutelage of Deng Xiaoping. Over the years, Shenzhen, which is located in close proximity to Hong Kong, have outgrown in term of its economic size. Thus, Hong Kong’s importance as an economic and political model is said to have diminished as the Chinese economy surges.
It is also said that Shenzhen will most probably succeed, considering the state sponsored capital inflows but the questions remain: Would China continue to molecule Hong Kong to aid to its rhetoric of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ and will Hong Kong allow it to happen?
Over the years, China have become a very prosperous and powerful country but when it overtook the control of Hong Kong after the end of the leased period of 99 years with Britain, China had agreed status quo in terms of markets, political system and rule of law for Hong Kong.
And thus for many reasons, Hong Kong should be allowed to prosper, be saved and made to work at its own will. Hong Kong’s values should be safeguarded and should also be made to flourish and prosper. Replacing Hong Kong with Shenzhen would bury up a unique culture and its esoteric values that have been borne out of the confluence of British and Chinese ethos.
It is thus pertinent for Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to safeguard the ‘one country, two systems’ in every sphere vis-a-vis Hong Kong; as well as protect the utmost interest of the Hong Kongers in the island state. Furthermore, mainland Chinese should be restricted to buy properties partially or in toto. And, Hong Kong-China relationship should learn from the UK-Scotland or UK-Northern Ireland model and go in tandem with the said arrangement. Also, Chinese authorities should also set up an independent inquiry into the ‘rioting’ as demanded by the protesters and adhere to the “One Country, Two Systems” in the truest sense which also mean giving universal suffrage under the said arrangement.