Hong Kong: The despair of China and a challenge to China's future
According to article 31 of the 1982 Constitution of China "Hong Kong may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions, shall be prescribed by law enacted by the National People's Congress, in the light of the specific conditions".
China has 2 special administrative regions transferred to the country in 1997 (Hong-Kong) and in 1999 (Macau), following to the sino-british joint declaration for Hong-Kong back in 1984 and the sino-portuguese joint declaration for Macau in 1987.
Those special administrative regions have a really high degree of autonomy and are basically not considered to be a part of mainland China, even though China is responsible for a central political direction to them, according to the "one country, two systems" policy. Hong Kong though, applies its own economic policy, and uses its own currency (the Hong-Kong dollar) which is not accepted in China and likewise the Chinese rmb is not accepted in many stores in Hong-Kong.
This summer, was a tough one in Hong-Kong, and it really shaked politics in China. It actually showed, through people's vast demonstrations and brutal incidents that took place in the streets of Hong-Kong, that this "one country, two systems" policy, works more as a preface rather than as a real practice. News reported that more than 1,800 canisters of tear-gus and 300 rounds of rubber-bullets have been used and more than 700 people have been arrested and many more have been injured.
Beijing can destroy Hong-Kong's autonomy in the blink of an eye. But this is exactly the despair of China and its own challenge for the future. China is in total need of Hong-Kong's financial contribution to its mainland, as many cosmopolitan stakeholders, create the financial scenery of this autonomous region, which has evolved to become a centre for international financial activities. In any other case, Beijing would be so willing to let the liberation army march the streets of Hong-Kong and impose its power. Hong-Kong also provides China with a much needed credibility status and professionalism to its Belt and Road initiative.
But what this practically means for Hong-Kongers? Should they quit from fighting for their autonomy in practice? Or should they continue challenging China's tolerance? And on the other hand, the question arising considering China's role, is if China is willing or capable of following the diplomatic procedure, which will permit the country, to continue the rally it started years ago with the west, and maintain its decisive position in international relations?... a status that causes a continuous headache to the White-House.
Hong-Kongers used to be a british colony for such a long period of time, before they became united as a special administrative region, again to China . Hong-Kong has also achieved a huge financial growth and became a centre for many cosmopolitan stakeholders from around the world. China, wouldnt' risk to lose that asset for nothing in the world. But at the same time, it seems that Huntington's argument on cultural diversities, being able to cause conflicts, can be alleged in this case.
Hong-Kongers, as they tend to call themselves and be called by foreigners, got used to an open-minded, west-oriented, liberate and widely open financial status, that disables them from adapting to mainland China's cultural legacy any more. On the other hand, China, even though it considers Hong-Kong as an important player to its economy, which it wouldn't ever risk to threat, especially under the current condition with the U.S., cannot easily abandon the conservative, centralist methods that form somehow its cultural legacy, considering the country's historical background.
But that is exactly, the culminating point where China should exceed its preconceived political future on that issue.
Few months ago when i travelled to China in Guangzhou, where cantonese is the widely spoken language there, even though mandarin is the official one, i decided to make a short trip to Hong-Kong, which is really close, and people there speak cantonese officially and english ofcourse. I really enjoyed the fact people were so much west-oriented, i could speak english fluently with them, transactions were much easier, but there was something i didn't like. I did not enjoy the fact, Hong-Kongers seemed to forget their cultural background, or somehow underestimated it as a barrier for their changed direction towards a financial and international openness to the outer world. Somehow, this feature, depicts a country that got overwhelmed by success, and has not yet balanced the psychological effect caused by unexpected growth in such a short period of time.
This doesn't mean they should give up their independence and autonomous status, in favor of China. No. What people in a majority want, and demonstrations taking place in a country, show the pulse and the direction wanted and needed. Hong-Kong has written a different story and it cannot change the fact it also is a part of a different reality in so many ways.
But what has to be done, has to do with China's decision to approach Hong-Kong in a way, that would respect its autonomy and tolerate the difference. This shift in China's policy, will permit Hong-Kong to reconsider China more seriously, as its cultural background and also as a friend and not an enemy. But for that to happen, China needs first to change drastically its mainland tactics, on many issues. By facing demonstrations of Hong-Kongers as terrorism, China only succeeds in challenging international discontent and alienates Hong-Kong.
The challenge in the near future for China to prove its eligibility, a determining factor and key issue on international politics, will be the country's position towards Hong-Kong. China, according to the policy it will choose to follow, can remain a huge pillar on international matters, or lose ground. It can prove or not, if the country can "win back" a territory that seems to be lost, by respecting its autonomy trully and continuously, enjoying the financial assets of Hong-Kongs' growth as China already does and thus, letting Hong-Kongers in peace in their 2 worlds (west and east), a method that will be successful in reconciliating them with their chinese past and background...
written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science