A WaPo editorial mulls over Hong Kong’s evolution since the handover seven years ago and concludes there’s good reason for HK’s citizens — and the Bush administration — to protest.
Beijing officials seek to balance their bad-cop tactics with a good-cop strategy of boosting the territory’s economy with aid. But Hong Kong is not, as sometimes caricatured, a city of businessmen who don’t care about politics. Many residents resent Beijing’s hard-line tactics. That much has been shown in the democrats’ big win in local district elections in November, along with rising voter registration levels in advance of September’s election. Hundreds of thousands are expected to demonstrate tomorrow in favor of democratization.
That such protests are permitted shows that Hong Kong remains freer in many ways than the rest of China. But if voter intimidation and ballot rigging mar September’s election, it will lead to serious questions about the extent of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The Bush administration, which so far has made only mild statements encouraging Beijing to “be responsive” to the people of Hong Kong, ought to vigorously condemn the tactics of voter intimidation and make clear that U.S.-China relations will suffer if the democracy and autonomy of the territory are further eroded.
Don’t hold our breath.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.