BEIJING ON BACKFOOT IN DEALING WITH HONGKONG PROTESTS ‘ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS’ FRAMEWORK GETTING STRAINS
The Chinese government is aware that any harsh action without showing the liberal face to the world fraternity would prove to be tragic. It would seriously damage the international image of Hong Kong, and seriously hurt the feelings of a vast number of mainland China compatriots which China would certainly abhor. In this backdrop the statement of Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam is significant “extremely abominable violent crime must be severely punished according to the law”.
An impression is being created that China has turned soft towards protestors but it is certainly not running out of patience. Showing any such sign at this stage would prove to be detrimental to the Chinese cause. On the contrary China is getting ready to launch an attack of much bigger dimension. Even Chinese state media have confirmed that the Chinese government is building up a large police force in Shenzhen, a city in mainland China only 30km from Hong Kong.
Softening of the Chinese posture is simply a machination to confuse the outer world. With a section of global fraternity rushing to criticise China and some like UK and USA upholding the cause of the protestors, China is forced to adopt the façade of softening.
Two days’ back Lam offered to set up a “communication platform” to narrow differences after months of anti-government protests and also to entrust the city’s watchdog to carry out a fact finding study of the protests and related 174 incidents. Lam’s offer fell short of the protesters’ five demands which included her resignation and an independent inquiry into the police brutality and torture. But the Chinese authorities would not ask for the resignation of Carrie Lam as it would send the wrong message. They don’t want the protesters to have a victory. If she leaves, she would trigger renewed calls for universal suffrage.
It is a known fact that protesters resorted to massive demonstration only after the police resorted to brutality against them. Little doubt Hong Kong’s 10-week political crisis, which has seen millions of people take to the streets calling for a halt to slithering freedoms, was already the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of the semi-autonomous city since it was handed over by Britain in 1997.
China claims to practice communism. Obviously a communist leadership must respect the element of autonomy and self-assertion of the people. But in Hong Kong’s case it is out to deny and crush any agitation seeking this. The fact of the matter is Beijing is encroaching on the autonomy of the Hong Kong government. Beijing strongly feels that it must have a complete grip on Hong Kong has a view that it needs to control Hong Kong. That view gets in the way of taking corrective steps and making compromises that would calm the situation.
The protesters’ demands include the complete retraction of a controversial extradition bill. Protests were originally sparked by the proposal that under the new extradition bill the suspects should be extradited to mainland China for trial. When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule from its previous British colonial overseer in 1997, a “one country, two systems” framework was established to protect its unique civil liberties and freedoms.
If enacted, the bill would allow local authorities to detain and extradite people who are wanted in territories that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with, including mainland China and Taiwan. Some fear the bill would place Hong Kongers and visitors under mainland Chinese jurisdiction, undermining the autonomy of the region and citizens’ rights.
For China the most contentious issue has been the demand of the protesters of complete retraction of the proposed extradition bill and universal suffrage to choose Hong Kong’s leaders. Though the bill has been shelved for the time being China is determined not to abrogate it.
China claims that Lam is the elected representative, but the fact is she is elected by a 1,200-Beijing elite. Hong Kong’s political set up is not fully democratic – which has sparked resentment among protesters, and led to calls for democratic reform.
The fastest-growing period of Hong Kong has already passed, so the young people there find no way to climb up the social ladder. They feel choked in an environment of expensive housing, sizzling climate and the mainland that’s becoming richer and richer. Chinese have even nick named some Hong Kongers “useless youth” as the Chinese allege they have not been contributing anything to society but complaints. But the fact is Hong Kong’s youth have their own dreams and obviously there should be more open communication between the two sides
From time immemorial the element of prestige, assertion of identity and dignity have been responsible for most of struggles and wars the world has witnessed. The yearlong protest in Hong Kong has its genesis in denial of prestige and dignity to the Hong Kongers. Attributing the epithet of terrorist to a democratic protest is the most convenient mechanism of the rightist rulers to enforce the hegemony. With the world order taking a turn for rightist polity, the manoeuvring to describe a protester as terrorist has increased manifold and acquired a new dynamics and dimension.
No doubt it manifests the intolerance of the rightist and so called liberal democrats. It at the same time underlines that in order to establish the rightist hegemony they have been resorting to such strategy on the imploration on nationalism. China has been trying to foist its nationalistic hegemony on Hong Kong. A closer look at the developments would reveal that in every right ruled country the poor are the target for the government brutality. The reason is they are main forces to react and resort to protest. The Chinese rulers do not look at the current protest as the manifestation of democratic aspiration.