Sunday, 22 May 2016

Hong Kong Still Isn't Buying It

Zhang encourages Hong Kong to take an active role in One Belt, One Road
Senior Chinese official Zhang Dejiang's visit to Hong Kong was his attempt to soothe anger and frustration at Beijing and the Leung Chun-ying administration.

While he probably bent over backwards more than other Chinese officials would have, for Hong Kong people it wasn't enough.

He was keen to demonstrate to the city -- and Taiwan -- that Beijing supposedly accepts the plurality of opinions in Hong Kong, and that while there are calls for independence, they are only a small -- make that very small -- group.

Opposition to Communist rule still simmers in Hong Kong
With that, and meeting with four pan-democrats, Zhang was hoping turn the tide of opinion to his side, but did he manage to do it?

Opinions are still entrenched depending on which side you're on; there is no middle ground.

This past Monday was the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution. For those who were alive at the time, those memories are still vivid, particularly those whose families were persecuted, physically attacked or worse killed.

Those who managed to escape the madness went to Hong Kong to rebuild their lives. But it wasn't only then -- they did it during the Great Leap Forward and before that when the Communists came to power.

They have told their haunting stories to their children and grandchildren so that no one will forget what Mao and the Party did to them.

And then 1997 happened, with Hong Kong people thrilled to see the backs of the British, but really it was just trading one master for another without any proper resolution.

Memories of the Cultural Revolution are still fresh
And it's even harder to accept our new master, who hasn't really had a good track record when it comes to looking after its people and its hypocritical political ideology.

Come July 1 it will be 19 years since the mainland reclaimed Hong Kong and Beijing still doesn't understand many Hong Kong people's skepticism.

Then there's the One Belt, One Road strategy.

China is keen for Hong Kong to take part, and Leung has been touting it constantly as something the city should be rallying behind.

Hong Kong has no experience in eastern Europe and western China, and if some entrepreneurs have tried to set up businesses they were dismal failures because they were not familiar with business practices there.

But with Zhang bringing up the topic again in a summit here, the media noted tycoons and bureaucrats looked glum. They probably knew that Beijing was expecting Hong Kong to pitch in with money. Lots of it.

One business columnist summed it up succinctly:

Because it's all about the money. Hong Kong's paramount value to Beijing is to act as a world-class financier to fund China's ambitions. Anything else that citizens consider essential for social stability -- democracy, self-determination, independence, a high degree of autonomy, property prices -- are trivial banquet conversation.

Then he ominously ends by saying, "Hong Kong, this is your life. Welcome to it."

Not exactly optimistic...

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