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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hong Kong: Defying the Chinese Dream - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Hong Kong: Defying the Chinese Dream - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Hong Kong: Defying the Chinese Dream

Can a bunch of fresh-faced students with
smartphones play a part in shaping China's future?

Last updated: 02 Oct 2014 07:15


Zarina Banu is a freelance writer, focusing on economics
and business-policy in the Asia-Pacific. She lives in Hong Kong.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has warned
against any "illegal" protests in Hong Kong. During a visit to
Washington DC, Wang also said the matter was an "internal" affair and
that, "all countries should respect China's sovereignty". Wang's
statement comes as the protests in Hong Kong drew huge crowds amid demands for
the city's chief executive to resign.


At the main protest hub on October 1,
thousands of those working earlier in the week used the National Day holiday to
show support for
 Occupy Central. The movement calls for
Beijing to reverse its decision to limit Hong Kong people's voting rights.
Outside government offices, people strolled past signs stuck boldly onto the
fence protecting the citadel of Chinese power from the hordes outside. They
read, "I want the vote," and "No violence, we love Hong
Kong."


The
Admiralty district is the hub of the Umbrella Movement, so-called after protesters used them as
protection against the pepper spray and tear gas fired by police at the
weekend.


A short walk
away was an orchestrated contrast to the easier atmosphere on the streets.
Suited and speaking at the ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the
founding of the People's Republic of China, Chief Executive C Y Leung defended
China's decision to vet candidates for the city's first leadership election in
2017.


"It's
understandable that different people have different ideal proposals for
political reforms," said Leung.



Refusal
to budge


Beijing is
unlikely to compromise, let alone budge, on the National
People's Congress'
August 31 ruling.


Beijing
views the protests as a threat to the concept of one China and Wang's
admonishment shows this to be true. With all the cards to play in Beijing's
hand, predicting the winner in this one-sided game is easy.


Why is this?
For a nationalist like President Xi Jingping, saving face domestically and
internationally is a priority. Given the images radiating around the world of
the enormous crowds crippling parts of Hong Kong, backing away publicly from
the NCP edict is not an option.


Inside Story - Facing China
Xi would be
seen as weak if he relaxed the August 31 ruling. He's broadly regarded as the
toughest Chinese leader in decades, bent on advancing the "Chinese
Dream" to boost his image and cement the Communist Party's power. His
co-opting of frontier regions like Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan into what he regards as China's
unstoppable rise is part of his grand plan. Dismantling the "one country
two systems" formula under which Hong Kong is governed is not.


Xi appears
ever prepared to take the Chinese Dream to new levels. After meeting a visiting
delegation from Taiwan last week, the Chinese president suggested Taipei adopt
the one country two systems model. Having split off from the mainland during a
civil war in China in 1949, Taiwan, understandably rejected the offer.


A key reason
for Beijing's refusal to compromise is the likely unacceptable concept that a
bunch of fresh-faced students with smartphones should play a part in shaping
China's future. The Communist Party is a profoundly hierarchical polity that
rules China from the top-down. The appeal by Hong Kong's demonstrators to be
given a chance to mould their own destiny won't be gaining traction in Beijing
any time soon.


As veteran
political analyst, Willy Lam, told me: "Since Xi Jinping came into power,
we've seen an assertion of centralised control in the upper echelons of the
party."


Xi has
secured top posts in the Communist Party, state and military. His high-profile
anti-corruption drive is rooting out officials at the highest-level, the
"tigers", as well as lesser ones, the "flies".


In his
National Day speech, Xi pledged to underpin the Communist Party's ability to
rule. Framed in this way, it's hard to imagine how power could be devolved to
Hong Kongers to govern themselves.


Greater
liberty to choose


But for Hong
Kongers clamouring for greater liberty, the choice to choose is now a
fundamental part of their core identity. It is 17 years since the handover of
Hong Kong from Britain to China and the world has moved on. Part of that
self-image lies in the pride of having built one of the world's leading
international centres for finance and culture. This is not to deny that Hong
Kong's success is partly due to the deep commercial and financial
interconnectivity the city has with the mainland.




Continued
prosperity hinges on promoting these links, but this does not exclude the right
to vote. Like many democratic movements which have swept across the globe,
people want the choice to choose and to openly express their grievances. Hong
Kongers don't deserve the British to return as a colonial power any more than they
merit a cohort of disconnected individuals in Beijing to tell them who should
run their city.




At the
protest site, HSBC employee Henry Sun told me: "Our own future also means
our own leader. That's important. Everyone knows this kind of selection
methodology is not real democracy. I don't think it is fit for Hong Kong as a
modern city. Everyone is well educated. The decision makes it look like Beijing
thinks we are stupid."


Holding a
black refuse bag in his right hand and picking up garbage with a gloved left
hand, the 43-year-old father said he was determined to spend his first day off
in the week doing good.



Spectre of Tiananmen

Evicting the
protesters in Hong Kong by force would conjure up memories of the bloody 1989
Tiananmen Square crackdown on students. Thousands are thought to have been
killed when the People's Liberation Army fired on demonstrators calling for
reform.



With the
spectre of Tiananmen hanging over Hong Kong, protesters here remain overwhelmingly
committed to continue rallying peacefully. Sending in the People's Liberation
Army to physically remove or even quash the movement would have massive
repercussions for the Chinese government. These are not scenes that anyone with
any sense is prepared to entertain.



Student
leaders, Lester Shum and Joshua Wong are insisting Leung resign and threatening an
escalation of action if he doesn't do their bidding. This could mean occupying
government buildings in a bid to compel leaders to change their mind about the
right to vote.


Beijing and
pressure from Hong Kong's elite circles may serve up Leung's resignation as a
concession to the Occupy Movement. Even if Leung does go, people are
questioning where the loyalties of his replacement would lie. Would the new
chief executive side with Hong Kong, or with Beijing? For many, familiarity is
better than an unpredictable alternative. Others are prepared to take the risk
and roll with the punches to cap the summer of discontent.



As the
confrontation brews, the more the protesters defy Beijing's rule, the tougher
the response may be. In the coming days, the best short-term outcome would be a
peaceful diffusion of tension from either side. That's a solution that would
win the hearts and minds of many here and on the mainland.


COMMENT:

THE LANGUAGE OF CHINESE GOVERNMENT CLEARLY
SPEAKS ITS INTENT TO TOLERATE TO THE EXTENT IT CONSIDERS TO BUT BEYOND THAT MAY
BE A TOUGH ACTION THAT THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF PROTESTING MAY CHANGE THE WHOLE
SCENARIO OF THE PROCEDURE EVEN OF FUTURE.


PEOPLE OF HONG KONG HAVE NOT HAVE TASTED THE
BULLETS AND BOOTS OF THE CHINESE ACTION PARTY.


PRAY THE PEOPLE ARE SPARED FROM SUCH BRUTAL
ACTION BECAUSE THOSE WHO TASTED ND ARE ALIVE HAVE YET NOT FORGOTTEN IT STILL
PAINS.





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