[Corrected for clarity]
This article in The Nation does a good job in explaining the situation in Hong Kong now, and why so many people resent Beijing’s interference in HK politics.
It will make Hong Kong even more anti-democratic than it already is, and Beijing’s moves belie the promises the mainland government made before the 1997 handover to ensure HK’s political independence.
The status quo is not great. HK is not democratic in the American sense, or even in the British parliamentary sense. The 1% are in definite control, and the economic disparity between the haves and have-nots is wide.
Long hailed by conservatives in the West as a bastion of free markets and free enterprise, Hong Kong in 2011 had a Gini coefficient of .537—making it perhaps the most unequal developed economy in the world. Hong Kong recently crushed the competition to come in first in The Economist’s “crony-capitalism index.”
Beijing’s proposed rule changes would remove even more political power from the common people and hand it to the powerful elite, who are generally handpicked by the mainland government.
Before the 1997 handover, Beijing promised universal suffrage to Hong Kongers, which would give Hong Kong’s populace more of a voice in Hong Kong’s governance. But Beijing wants to eliminate general elections for chief executive beginning in 2017, leaving the choice of chief executive with the political bosses.
Not surprisingly, big business is just fine with the status quo, and it has lined up behind Beijing. Yiu Kai Pang, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the recent decision from Beijing, saying that occupying Central “will not only affect Hong Kong’s social order and economic prosperity, but also undermine our position as an international business and financial hub.” HSBC also warned that Occupy could hurt the economy as it downgraded the outlook for the city’s stock market—a warning the company almost immediately retracted after public outrage.
The Communist Party is counting on such enthusiastic support from corporate interests. In a moment of surprising honesty, Wang Zhenmin, dean of Tsinghua University Law School and a top adviser on Hong Kong to the central government, said that too much democracy would threaten the interests of economic elites as well as the capitalist system of Hong Kong—and suggested that this was to be avoided at all costs.
The article goes on to suggest that Occupy Central is this generation’s version of the 1989 Tian’anmen Square student protests, and that the mainland government will respond to the protests in much the same fashion as it did in ‘89. Already, the Great Firewall of China has added Instagram to its ever-growing blocklist, in an effort to keep mainlanders from getting any ideas about doing something similar on the mainland.
This will not end well for Hong Kongers.
ADDENDUM: As an example of how the PRC is controlling media, this BBC article is unavailable, although the rest of the BBC website is accessible. bbc.co.uk
ADDENDUM 2: Here is a live streaming video from Hong Kong of the protests.