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    Posted February 18, 2015 by

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    Assumed Identity


    I left Causeway Bay just two months before the umbrella revolution burst into life. It is hard to imagine that the street where I used to walk to the nearest Japanese bistro for a meal was packed by as many protestors in such a short time. And when I remember the breathtaking view of the strait from the taxi taking me to Hunghom Station, I had no idea that such a continuing protest might occur.

    Zhou Bajun, a veteran current affairs commentator at China Daily mentioned that one factor that contributes to this movement is the sense of identity. Hong Kong residents of Chinese descent have a different perspective on whether they are Chinese citizens. As he has it, such a paradigm leads to a clear division between those who support the central government and those who back the opposition.

    Before 1 July 1997, Hong Kong Chinese were classified as overseas Chinese. Because of geographical proximity and historical reasons, Hong Kong was an inseparable part of China, but under British rule. Consequently, the status of its relation to China was ambiguous in the past. However, after 1 July 1997, such ambiguity should theoretically have ended. Outsiders will identify Hong Kong Chinese as Chinese from China, regardless of the lexicon used to refer to them (Hongkongers, Xianggang ren, Gong Yan). Their future will also be closely linked to the future of China.


    Deng Xiaoping actually established Yiguo Liangzhi (One Country, Two Systems) as a new political formula to solve the Hong Kong (and Taiwan as well as Macau) problem, and this constitutional arrangement gained increasing support. Generally, it was assumed that Hong Kong would serve as a test case for Deng’s new political formula. Hong Kong’s prosperity would greatly determine the success of China’s Four Modernizations because China received one third of its foreign exchange via Hong Kong. Furthermore, if China did not set a good example in Hong Kong, the chances were that it would never have the chance to recover Taiwan peacefully.


    Unfortunately, Hong Kong Chinese confidence in the Chinese government dropped significantly as the Tiananmen crackdown erupted at the dawn of 4 June 1989. The positive image of compromising and reforming Chinese Communism, projected to the outside world so far, lost its shine. The ugliest face of Chinese Communism was shown. The impact on the territory was profound and lasting.


    Predicting the Hong Kong-China relationship is not an easy task. The stability of Chinese politics and Hong Kong Chinese attitudes are among the contributing factors; so is the fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, which has created insecurity among Chinese leaders in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party then prioritized its political survival above any economic benefits that might be derived from the prosperity of Hong Kong. This led to a rather inflexible Beijing policy toward Hong Kong.

    Beijing also has a genuine fear that Hong Kong will be used as a base for subversive activities against Socialist China, and the Hong Kong Chinese attitude has not helped to alleviate such a fear. Some of them support pro-democracy activists and form pressure groups that could exert pressure on the Chinese government. Although the broad trends have shown that there is little chance of these groups successfully forming an alternative government, they could use international media and other means to attack and embarrass Beijing.


    Surely, such a pro-democracy movement can be justified by claiming entitlement to democracy and human rights. However, there is little doubt as to whether this will have any effect on Chinese governance over Hong Kong after 1997. Hong Kong has become an integral part of China, and its ambiguous status in the past has been ended. Unless Hong Kong Chinese tone down their all-out quest for democracy, and devote more of their energy to the economic arena, the clash between Hong Kong and China will still exist.



    This piece is prepared as an outsider’s view, and does not represent, and has no intention to challenge, the Hongkongers’ or Chinese point of view.


    Picture credit: www.traislofindochina.com

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