Saturday, September 07, 2019

Taking a Fast Boat to Hong Kong

 First we heard of the yellow vests protests in France, a populist movement from the working middle class who took to the streets to vent their frustrations on economic issues.  Now we have the black shirts protests in Hong Kong, going now more than 13 weeks.  Again, another populist movement coming from the middle class ranks.  It kinds of remind one of  a third  populist movement -  in the US during the last election cycle, except that in their instance, instead of bullets, the protagonists used the ballot.

One outstanding thing is how the HK movement has been able to galvanize the citizenry to gather in very large numbers even with a very loose organization whose leaders are not even clearly known.  It gathered at one point 1.7 million people on very short notice, almost a fourth of the total population of the island of about 7 million people.  Tech-savvy residents have created their own networks for communications and dissemination.  Thus we hear buzz words like mesh networks or Telegram, etc.

How could anyone ignore the numbers?  And more importantly how could one not realize the stakes involved?

Among them are:

In the world of finance, HK is the third most important global financial hub,   behind only London and the US.  It cannot afford to be destabilized for long, without deleterious repercussions worldwide.  The tense rumblings are definitely undermining this pivotal role in this Asian locale where English is a primary language.

It is an inevitability that in 2047, HK will truly be molded as part of Mainland China, as per agreement reached in 1997, and it will be ruled by the Communist government like any other part of China.  Once done, HK will lose its financial prominence because the major Western powers will never allow itself to trust in China.  But why should HK be any different from any Chinese city?

But first a little trivia.  Before the ascendency of China as a looming world power, the Communist government had eyed HK with great avarice because HK’s economy or GDP then was comparatively huge compared to that of China. But in the meantime China’s many big cities blossomed and became modernized and prosperous amidst a riotous economy that was burgeoning to the point that now, HK’s GDP contribution would not mean that much, maybe representing only 10 or 15% of China’s total.

But the bigger problem is HK itself.  HK became unique HK because of the uncanny combination of the Chinese people’s intrepid nature and their entrepreneurship genius mixed with the vaunted British Common Law.   That inimitable combination produced HK, and we know this would become untenable once HK becomes part of the Communist regime of China.  Rule of law as known in the West will be alien then, and the HK generations weaned on this cannot survive.

Even with just this, one can easily grasp the mammoth dilemma that HK truly finds itself.