After the Chinese and the British had finally agreed on Hong Kong’s future back in 1984, the new term of ‘One country two systems’ was coined and the form of governance in post 1997 Hong Kong was duly established. But nobody knew for sure what it was going to be like and people had reasonable doubts on whether it was good for Hong Kong.
Hong Kong people were genuinely scared of red China, many rich and able ones had opted for a new passport and only the poor and feeble ones were left out without an escaping route. Doomsayers had predicted for a serious brain-drain problem hence putting the future of Hong Kong as an international financial hub in real danger.
As we all know, nothing of such calamity ever prevailed and Hong Kong still remains one of the best financial centers of the world even today. It has already been a little more than 19 years since the British had left Hong Kong and it is still going on as strong and vibrant as it was before 1997.
The new policy of ‘one country two systems’, the brainchild of China’s by then paramount leader, late Deng Xiao Ping, which means Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong, seemed to be working pretty well hitherto and the initial doubts and fears of Hong Kong people had all but cleared by now for good.
However, the new phrase of ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong’ has been taken too literally by the Hong Kong people and everybody seems to have a go at it. Since the handover, almost everyone started complaining about almost everything, the streets were full of rallies and demonstrators, and activism filled up Hong Kong’s most weekends. Surprisingly though, there were hardly any grievances or demonstrations in Hong Kong when the Brits were still the colonial master.
Why such a sudden change? Pundits can certainly provide many explanations and there is no doubt at all that they can be right as well. But as far as I am concerned, one wise man got it quite right and his explanation was something like this. ‘When the Brits were ruling Hong Kong, nobody dared to speak out. Now, it is the locals who are running the show and suddenly everybody found their lost courage. Why? Because the Brits were from different race but we are all from the same race now. People see no difference between themselves and the local leaders hence feel easy and comfortable to speak out.’ I couldn’t agree more.
Hong Kong leaders are not seasoned politician, they are mostly bureaucrats suddenly put on the limelight through connections and sometime due favors. The top dog of Hong Kong incorporation is called chief executive of HKSAR or CE in short and elected by a coterie of 1200 elitists favored by Beijing. The 1st CE of HKSAR, Tung Chi Hwa, resigned due to health issue but the real reason was the failure of implementing article 23, the security law targeting subversion and sedition. The 2nd CE, Donald Tsang was embroiled in alleged bribery charges and his chief secretary is still in prison. The 3rd and current CE, CY Leung is probably one of the most disliked persons in Hong Kong and the next election for CE is due on 2017.
But the real show of discontent, disagreement and disrespect is utterly displayed in the chamber of legislative council, the top body of lawmakers in Hong Kong and people got to see it almost in a daily basis. Despite being elected through geographical and constitutional constituencies, the 70 legislatures are mostly divided into two groups – the pro and the opposition camp, and my God how they fight like spoilt children throwing banana, water bottle and files at each other when epithets were not powerful enough.
Everything boiled over in 2014. People took the streets in sheer frustration and almost paralyzed the city for the next 79 days. The civil disobedience movement started as ‘Occupy Central’ and got a new name as ‘Umbrella Movement’ at the end. It was quite a phenomenon by itself that it actually happened at the first place. Most importantly, it gave Hong Kong students the first taste of politics as well as activism and it was for the very first time ever they had played such a big role in shaping Hong Kong’s political scenes. They were the undesignated leaders of the new movement and made to shine before they were actually ready. It was quite an achievement for a city like Hong Kong where money talks the most and ‘Umbrella movement’ has given other name as well for Hong Kong.
But at the same time, the movement also laid bared other weaknesses as well as immaturity of our current political system. The movement was a mess, leaderless and rudderless all at the same time, and the participants were left alone and unguided at the latter part of the campaign. They were mostly of their own and did as they liked. The organizer of occupy central and its so called three leaders were nowhere and left the movement earlier when others stayed on. The pan-democrats, the opposition camp was nowhere to be seen as well, so, the new and inexperienced students’ leaders were forced to lead the campaign at the end. However by then, it had already lost its value.
The biggest loser of the ‘Occupy Central’ movement was the pan-democrats and many had lost their mandates as politician as well. The scandal of being allegedly enrolled by media tycoon Jimmy Lai didn’t help them at all and seriously harmed their name. It left a vacuum in the political stratum and new aspirations had to come in from somewhere before it could fill up the void.
Here come the new breed of political groups and activists, also known as localist, which are brutally loudest and propagate for a completely new Hong Kong that has less to do with China. Bring in overly-hyped media onto the game, add western hypocrisy on top of that, and what we will have at the end is a very loud, hot and overly excited crowd that will do almost anything to make themselves popular.
Independent was a taboo in Hong Kong and nobody dared to talk about it until recently. But now people not only talk openly about independent Hong Kong but also freely advocate about it and nobody seemed to worry much about the consequence. The recent election of two new legislatures from the localist camp and the oath-taking-fiasco they had created is the testament of Hong Kong that time is changing.
However, people have completely forgotten about one very important point and that is China’s patience. Many might not agree but barring from the booksellers case, China has been extremely tolerant towards Hong Kong, it has duly kept its promises with less interference since the handover, and I must say, that is quite commendable as well as surprising.
As we all know China is on the rapid ascension now, unity and integration of Chinese people is the main priority of the rising nation, and separation or disintegration is the last thing it wants to hear for now. Needless to say, what is happening in Hong Kong nowadays is a serious issue and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If China loses its patience tomorrow and really come for you, trust me, you will have nowhere to hide, and no power from the world can save you. What’s more, all of those so called supporters or sympathizers of yours will be the first one on the plane home. They are all here for a temporary basis, but you will be staying here for life.
TIM I GURUNG/AUTHOR AT ISSLCARE – http://www.timigurung.com