Beijing to Hong Kong: Drop dead

This week the CCP made it quite clear who does and does not rule Hong Kong.

CHINA this week laid down the law in Hong Kong, stating that the territory should be ruled mainly by patriots which, when translated from officialese, means those favoured by the central government.

Giving up its usual shadow play, Beijing made clear its stance on the subject on Tuesday by releasing a statement through the state-controlled Xinhua news agency that cited ‘a relevant central government official’.

Before Tuesday, few Hong Kong people harboured illusions that Beijing would allow universal suffrage in the election of the next chief executive in 2007 and the Legislative Council (Legco) in 2008.

But they had hoped to be allowed some say in determining how the election systems could be changed in 2007 and 2008.

The toughly worded Xinhua bulletin, which states that ‘the Hong Kong government must listen to the central government’s opinions’ on constitutional development, extinguished any such hope.

It made it clear that Hong Kongers – and in particular the most vocal ones who belong to the liberal camp and are seen as rabble-rousers by Beijing – would have no sway over the subject.

A news analysis in today’s China Daily sounds especially ominous.

As in all other nations, there is legislation defining the limits of the rights and interests that come with citizenship.

In Hong Kong’s case, it is the Basic Law.

All the region’s claims for autonomy should therefore be in conformity with its Basic Law. One-sided accentuation of “two systems” goes against that law.

In those 100 years’ British rule, Hong Kong governors were appointed by the British Government and the locals could not have any say in it.

After the handover in 1997, its chief executive was selected through elections that have involved wide participation of people from all circles in Hong Kong in line with the Basic Law. It is only after Hong Kong’s return to the motherland have Hong Kong people begun to enjoy their political rights.

The step-by-step approach the Basic Law has prescribed for Hong Kong’s democratic process is based on the region’s political reality and aimed at preserving continual local stability and prosperity.

Hastening the process when conditions are not ripe risks political instability and will ultimately hurt Hong Kong’s economic well-being.

So we’re back to the old “instability” line. Mustn’t have any of that nasty instability (which, as always, means the leaders are terrified not of a direct threat to the people or the economy, but to the CCP).

It sounds like the reform-minded leaders are ready to play hardball with HK and are pulling out all the stops to make their point. Is it time to start thinking of leaving HK?

The Discussion: 11 Comments

No, don’t leave. Start your half-a-million march again.

February 13, 2004 @ 1:10 pm | Comment

Richard, and it goes on.

Today in the SCMP there was an article with this quote in it.

“Mr Chan said the majority of Hong Kong people were not ready for political reform because their sense of nationalism was weak.

‘[During] the discussion on national security legislation, I heard very little mention of the need for national security. If there is no discussion or no consciousness, emotively or congitively, regarding natinoal security, that means we do not have much of a sense of being part of our country,’ he said.”

“I think political development should be discussed in the context of being part of a nation.”

Regarding that last quote, isn’t any discussion of democracy, independence, reform, etc., always in the context of being part of a nation or country?

This echoes some of the feelings I’ve been registering since I’ve come to Hong Kong, and even when I was in teh States.

During the “War on Terror” I’ve seen flag waving, “patriotic” banners and things of that nature, and I always have the same question,

“I’m here, in the States, why do I have to have a flag waving over the interstate to tell me that?”

This kind of thinking is basically admitting that Hong Kong is not part of China and that no amount of legislation will make them feel that they are a part of China, because they cannot trust that Beijing wants to change to be more like them, which is perhaps the only reason for Hong Kongers to let go of their reluctance of being part of One country.

February 13, 2004 @ 1:33 pm | Comment

It sounds like a scary situation, Douglas. The people of HK have made it clear they will not kowtow to the CCP, and yet the CCP is making it clear it will impose its will on HK, whether they like it or not. That’s a bad recipe. Of course, the CCP has the upper hand, especially because HK needs it to survive economically. I guess it means that, at least to a certain extent, Hong Kong will have no choice but to kowtow.

February 13, 2004 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

It’s one of those inevitable “brace yourself” moments in history, I think. Not to sound alarmist.

February 13, 2004 @ 2:33 pm | Comment

I think the leadership in China is making a basic mistake … it doesn’t have any clue just how radically different the population of HK is from that of mainland China. If they maintain a tough line like that it is going to cause instability, not prevent it.

PS. If you want an example of how differently HK views the world … at one stage in my life I had a job teaching Chinese history at a HK secondary school. On occasion I sought to promote discussion and reaction from the kids. So, I assigned the following essay to them.

“‘The British behaved in a fair and reasonable manner towards the Chinese during the period of the 2 Opium Wars.’ Discuss.”

To my astonishment, all but one student wrote about how totally reasonable the British were and how stupid and narrow minded the Chinese were. I later found out the dissenter was from the mainland.

I thought that perhaps the way I had put the essay question had given the students the impression that I wanted them to argue that opinion, so the following year with a new batch of students I reversed it … “The Chinese behaved in a fair and reasonable manner… ” etc. The result? Identical. British reasonable, Chinese dumb.

February 14, 2004 @ 12:10 am | Comment

do you teach there anymore? i have found two students who regularly tell me mao was a great leader.

February 14, 2004 @ 5:05 am | Comment

Li En, that is a great anecdote and speaks volumes about the two mentalities. When I lived in HK I often heard the locals talk about Mainlanders, especially as more and more PRC tourists began to visit HK for shopping trips. All I can say is I never heard people so willing to express their intolerance so openly. Anyone who envisages any sort of cooperation or integration anytime soon is probably deceiving himself.

February 14, 2004 @ 11:18 am | Comment

Hi boy – no I don’t teach there anymore. I did find that almost all of them did admire Mao as a great man, or a wei da (Mandarin pronunciation). A country needs a strong leader … that seemed to be the line the kids would take. It’s really not all that hard to explain … just look at Augustus in western history … he was a lying murdering scumbag … but he’s remembered as a great leader all the same.

And yeah Richard … I found the same thing … HKers despise mainland Chinese. There were a lot of people in 1997 who felt “well, I know I should be happy we’re returning to the mainland, so I’m trying to be.” … that’s about the closest to a positive comment about the mainland that I ever heard. More normal was “they’re dirty, dishonest, uneducated, poor, and spit all the time.” There are two distinct categories of Chinese in HK. There are native HKers (identified by their HK Cantonese) and everyone else. Even if you’re a native Cantonese speaker, but obviously from elsewhere, then you can expect discrimination. I’ve come across many people (Chinese) who say that in HK they will only ever speak English because otherwise they get treated like shit … and that applies to Taiwanese, not just western born Chinese.

February 14, 2004 @ 9:11 pm | Comment

No democracy for Hong Kong

Richard at Peking Duck has some bad news about the political future of Hong Kong. Bad, but not really surprising. I’ve never understood how Margaret Thatcher’s admirers squared her willingness to fight a war over the Falklands with her abject…

February 17, 2004 @ 12:25 am | Comment


Interesting story, and not one that makes the Hongkies look good. But interesting nonetheless … I didn’t sense anywhere near that kind of anti-Mainlander feeling in Taiwan, even.

February 17, 2004 @ 10:40 pm | Comment



April 28, 2005 @ 4:57 am | Comment

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