Dilemma Plus One: HK’s Suboptimal Options

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It has been more than a month since the Occupy Movement began. Unfortunately, many signs indicate that any chances of properly resolving the current predicament is becoming slimmer and slimmer. The main reason is that the government (including both Beijing and Hong Kong governments), in its interests to govern, are only willing to take conservative and hard-line policies.

A secondary reason is that the organisers of the protests lack the political wisdom and skills to respond to the government’s tyranny. Sadly, the Chinese lack the genes of compromise in their political blood, so whenever conflict arises, both sides have natural tendencies to not give way, almosts always leading to a tragic ending. From the Reform movement at the tail-end of the Qing Dynasty to modern Chinese history, this has been proven again and again. It is something the Chinese should reflect on.

So, what does the future hold? All signs are pointing towards two likely possibilities.

Wait them out

Beijing will hold firmly to its existing positions. They will not modify the NPC’s five decisions. nor promise any leeway for future political reform. The powers that be neither want to make any major moves that may result in drastic changes in Hong Kong, nor give foreign powers any excuse to attack the Communist Party (even though the CCP does not fear them). So, it will allow the current situation in Hong Kong to continue for some time, and make other preparations in the mainland, including gradually replacing Hong Kong.

Recent signs include slowing down the implementation of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Stock Exchange through train scheme, and using it to pressure the Occupy Movement by showing Hong Kong people that confronting Beijing will only hurt Hong Kong. In addition, a number of international events scheduled to be held in Hong Kong (e.g. APEC Ministerial Meeting) were moved to the mainland. Also putting out messages such as “the number of individual travellers from mainland will fall”, “mainlanders don’t want to visit Hong Kong” and so on.

Political indicators include the expulsion of James Tien from CPPCC duties, while making it clear within the pro-establishment camp: “don’’t break my pots if you want my rice” and “whoever refuses to listen will share Tien’s fate”. In addition, Beijing has rejected the various suggestions coming from moderate democrats, even those made through private channels to avoid generating public pressure This is compared to the reform package in 2012 when Beijing was willing to make some compromises. This gesture reflects what Beijing is signalling today: “From now on, I will take the lead. Listen to my command, there is no need for me to discuss with you.”

Based on this, both Beijing and Hong Kong governments will allow the current impasse to continue. They will publicly show a willingness to resolve the predicament, while in truth taking its time, avoiding any real action to ease the situation. They plan to let Hong Kong’s vitality slowly decline, and even die, seeking to place the historical responsibility on the shoulders of the democrats and the students. Beijing will feel no harm at all, because it rarely learns its lessons from history. Hong Kong and its people will be the only ones hurting.

Hammer and tongs

Internally, Beijing’s more unyielding voices still play a big role in misleading Beijing’s top leaders, inciting greater feelings of aversion towards the situation in Hong Kong. For example, some of the ultra-left voices compare Hong Kong’s situation with “June 4th”, saying, “We cracked down on the Beijing student movement after it had carried on for fifty days; we can not let the illegal occupation of Hong Kong last more than fifty days, or else it will be even more difficult to handle in the future.” In other words, they strongly advocate for a speedy clearance.

Then again, in view of the current situation and long-term impact, Beijing does not advocate the use of the PLA, and has said as much through the mouth of Tung Chee-hwa. However, the ultra-leftist view is that if the PLA cannot be deployed, Hong Kong’s riot police can be. Against normal citizens, dispatching the PLA or the police won’t make much of a difference. Doing so would not violate Tung’s indirect commitments.

As you can see, the situation is pressing. Nevertheless, both cases are detrimental to Hong Kong. If they come true, it would prove, “‘one country, two systems’ will not die in the hands of foreign powers, but in the hands of our own people.”

However, an unusual proposal to save Hong Kong indirectly has emerged recently. This view is: Let Hong Kong further develop into a bridge that can be taken advantage of by Chinese dignitaries, including money laundering through Hong Kong. By allowing the the mainland’s powerful and wealthy do as they please, they may find Hong Kong too valuable to ruin. In truth, this is indeed the current trend, we won’t be able to stop it even if we wanted to. However, if this is the only way to save Hong Kong, we might as well huddle together and cry for its future.