HONG KONG’s standing as a British colony resulted in 1997, when China regained sovereignty over the territory. Since then, Beijing has exercised its rule over Hong Kong by way of a particular association generally known as “one nation, two methods,” offering autonomy to Hong Kong, which is allowed its personal foreign money and its personal administrative and authorized methods.
The issue is that Hong Kong itself is a deeply divided society. Native Hong Kong politics is usually described as a contest between the blue and yellow forces. On the blue facet are the conservative, pro-Institution forces, a rising variety of whom are folks disillusioned by the West due to what they see as its rising bias in opposition to China and the Chinese language.
Throughout the divide is the opposite Hong Kong, consisting of people that establish with what they understand to be Western values, with some retaining an emotional bond with the territory’s British heritage and wishing for extra separation for Hong Kong from the mainland.
This case is all mistaken. Dug into their trenches, each side are lacking the important thing level about Hong Kong. That is that from right here on, there are solely two instructions left for Hong Kong to journey.
The primary path will see Hong Kong folks persevering with to rule Hong Kong to a big extent. Cantonese stays as the principle language, and the territory retains its distinctive tradition and methods, thus sustaining the native lifestyle.
If nonetheless Hong Kong finally ends up heading in direction of the second path, its id will develop into blurred. Putonghua will more and more displace Cantonese as the important thing language, as has occurred already in Shanghai and Shenzhen, and the conduct of native society will more and more resemble that on the mainland, as Beijing’s affect turns into deep rooted.
In different phrases, “One Nation, Two Methods,” which is what Course One is all about, will develop into “One Nation, One-and-a-Half Methods,” which is how Course Two goes to be.
Clearly, the primary path is significantly better for Hong Kong. The central authorities itself needs “one nation, two methods” to succeed, as Hong Kong is extra worthwhile to China as a showcase metropolis that connects the mainland with the remainder of the world. And profitable autonomy for Hong Kong may additionally enhance China’s skill to settle the Taiwan challenge.
So why is there a rising danger that Hong Kong will find yourself going within the second path? To a big diploma, each the blue and yellow camps should take duty.
The road violence of 2019, wherein some protestors waved United States and British flags, compelled the central authorities to ask whether or not Hong Kong may abuse its freedoms. Beijing’s clearly said place was that Hong Kong is a part of China, and can’t be separated or used as a base to subvert the remainder of the nation. So Beijing needed to rush by way of the Nationwide Safety Regulation, which helped to revive stability but additionally pushed the territory nearer to Course Two. The belief deficit additionally brought on Beijing to overview some civil liberties, such because the content material of native college books.
When will the yellow camp be taught that politics is the artwork of the attainable? It’s unrealistic for Hong Kongers to problem at present’s highly effective and assured China on such elementary points as subversion and separatism; even throughout the Eighties, when the nation was a lot weaker, Britain couldn’t push China to just accept something wanting a return of Hong Kong to Chinese language sovereignty.
Enjoying laborious ball makes even much less sense since central authorities coverage was to make use of a lightweight contact in Hong Kong affairs, preferring largely to let Hong Kong folks rule Hong Kong. Elementary problems with life, liberty and dignity weren’t at stake for Hong Kong folks.
In hindsight, widespread frustration in Hong Kong society, brought on by unaffordable housing and different livelihood points, have been channeled into an unreasoning blame sport that focused the Individuals’s Republic of China. It is just honest to level out that these social and financial ills weren’t brought on by Beijing however by Hong Kong’s personal system of utmost capitalism.
Right here is the place the blue camp have to be held accountable. The conservatives — in politics, enterprise, the civil service and the professions – merely lack the braveness and imaginative and prescient to push for modifications.
Hong Kong’s laissez faire system, centered on a blind pursuit of company earnings, advantages a privileged few however leaves out extraordinary folks. As argued by this author beforehand (see The Star, June 15, 2021), the system must evolve in direction of “stakeholder capitalism,” which takes duty for shareholders, workers, the general group and the surroundings. (Such an initiative would additionally align Hong Kong with efforts everywhere in the world, together with mainland China, to make society extra inclusive.)
If Hong Kong doesn’t act, social tensions will keep excessive, so will the danger of renewed turmoil in future. Once more, Beijing might intervene, for instance to type out the housing disaster. And once more, such intervention would nudge the territory away from the primary path to the second.
In different phrases, to remain on the primary path, Hong Kong wants a refresh of its personal system to make it extra sustainable. If this doesn’t occur, it turns into more and more tough for the central authorities to keep away from intervention due to the issue of “ethical hazard.” What this implies is that if Hong Kong will get into severe problem, Beijing is predicted to come back to the rescue, but wealth creation within the territory, to a big extent, advantages solely a small native elite.
Clearly, Hong Kong’s politicians, whether or not blue or yellow, are a failed breed, with only a few exceptions. Their defining attribute is a scarcity of situational consciousness. No chief has emerged who can rally the folks and create a way of group. Achievable targets, reminiscent of common suffrage, have been allowed to wither away.
However having mentioned all that, historical past is prone to be form to Hong Kong itself. It’s because Hong Kong will stay helpful to the mainland, no matter whether or not it exists on the premise of One Nation, Two Methods — or One-and-a-half Methods.
With China on monitor to develop into the world’s largest financial system inside this decade, Hong Kong ought to nonetheless have a affluent function to play as a “connector” metropolis. Beijing is dedicated to the steadiness and prosperity of Hong Kong, even utilizing totally different assumptions.
The query is, will the Hong Kong approach survive and which language, Cantonese or Putonghua, will develop into the important thing language?
Datuk Seri Cheah Cheng Hye is the co-chairman and co-chief funding officer of Worth Companions Group, an asset administration agency in Hong Kong. He additionally serves on the Board of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd as an unbiased non-executive director. He was beforehand a journalist in The Star, Far Japanese Financial Evaluation and The Asian Wall Avenue Journal.