What really scares Beijing about the Hong Kong protests

The island and the mainland are drifting further apart. But it may be Hong Kong that represents the true, rebellious spirit of China

4 October 2014

9:00 AM

4 October 2014

9:00 AM


There’s a nondescript building tucked away near my house, about the size of a college dormitory. Sometimes I wave from my roof to the scrawny boys having a smoke on the balcony; they wave back enthusiastically, since foreigners are a rare sight in their home villages. They are soldiers; the building is a barracks, one of many scattered through the city after the murderous crackdown on protestors in 1989.

In my alley, several of the retired residents have temporarily abandoned mah-jong and gossip to don red ‘security patrol’ armbands. They are among the 850,000 volunteers the city government has mustered for the National Day holidays this week, charged with keeping an eye out for ‘suspicious behaviour and strangers in the neighbourhood’. On the main street nearby, every business sports a Chinese flag, provided by the local authorities.

Beijing is locked down. It always is, but now more than ever because 1,200 miles away, another Chinese city is exploding. Tens of thousands of people are out on the streets in Hong Kong to protest against the broken promises of a far-away government.


The ‘Occupy Central’ movement planned protests for 1 October, National Day, but an early student-led protest this weekend resulted in an unusually crude police response. Each new tear-gassing brought thousands more people, mostly young, out into the streets.

The spark that ignited the protests was the central government’s decision that candidates in Hong Kong’s first full elections, in 2017, would have to pass approval by a centrally controlled nominating committee, making them little more than puppets of Beijing — but Hong Kong’s frustration goes back far further. After the handover in 1997, the agreement was that Hong Kong would keep its ‘Basic Law’, the freedoms it had under the British, until 2047. The West hoped that ‘One Country, Two Systems’ would give time for change on the mainland; Beijing hoped Hong Kongers would learn to ‘love the country’.

Pro Democracy Supporters Attempt To Bring Hong Kong To A Stand Still With Mass Rally

Neither has happened. The Hong Kong University’s regular identity survey shows a growing number of residents (40 per cent) who identify themselves primarily as ‘Hong Kongers’, not ‘Hong Kongers in China’ (27 per cent), ‘Chinese in Hong Kong’ (11 per cent) or ‘Chinese citizens’ (20 per cent). That’s a massive rise from the low in the Olympic year of 2008, when 34 per cent of respondents identified as ‘Chinese citizens’ and just 22 per cent as Hong Kongers.


It’s not just a sense of betrayal over 2017 — a chasm has for years been opening up between the mainland and the islands. The influx of mainlanders has caused some Hong Kongers to describe them as ‘locusts’ swarming over their city, though that language has not been visible in these protests. Previous protests saw off attempts at Beijing-backed ‘anti-subversion laws’ in 2003 and propagandistic ‘patriotic education’ in schools in 2012.

Meanwhile, mainlanders see Hong Kongers as snobby, privileged and resentful at losing their advantages. State-run media regularly condemns Hong Kong’s political opposition as an ‘unrepresentative minority’ that has a ‘colonial mentality’ or is ‘unpatriotic’; the black hand of foreign forces is often imagined to be behind protests.

Sit In Protest Continues In Hong Kong Despite Chief Executive's Calls To Withdraw

Yet despite the calumnies from the state media, the truth is that Hong Kong is in many ways more Chinese these days than mainland China. That might be what scares the authorities so much. The shrines and altars that dot Hong Kong speak to the richness of Chinese custom, annihilated between 1949 and 1976 in the mainland. Take Wong Tai Sin, a healing god whose cult once thrived in Guangdong. While his tradition was stamped out there, in Hong Kong his vast temple is a community institution that gives its name to a subway stop. Or take the tiny shrine of the ‘god of the four seas’. When it was founded decades ago, before the city’s land reclamation projects, it was on the coast. But every day, travellers still veer off course to visit it and offer devotions before taking the ferry, because that’s what their grandparents did.

Hong Kong preserves hobby clubs, literary societies, family associations, clan ties and ancestral temples that once made up the fabric of Chinese society. In mainland cities, the once-vast variety of regional cultures and traditions has been wracked twice over; first by Maoist persecution and then by waves of migration and materialism.

Most of all, the Hong Kong protests themselves are part of a great Chinese tradition, not only of peasant revolt and popular uprising, but of the student demonstrations that made China’s 20th century, from the protests of 4 May 1919 onwards. The Chinese public have never been the complacent sheep or communal masses of some westerners’ imagination, but an active, powerful force.


As Rana Mitter, professor of Chinese history at Oxford, wrote to me: ‘Much of the history of 20th-century China is of protests changing politics, either aimed against foreigners but then turning against the government, or simply against the current authorities. Students have a particular kudos in this as they are regarded as the heirs of a tradition of educated elites who have earned the right to speak truth to power.’

The Cultural Revolution, which devastated the country from 1966 to 1976, began and ended with protest. In 1966, student protestors were encouraged to rise up in Mao’s name against their ‘counter-revolutionary’ local governments, the spark for widespread chaos. In April 1976, a million people gathered in Tiananmen Square to mourn the beloved premier Zhou Enlai, and condemn the far-left ideologues later known as the ‘Gang of Four’, while other protests broke out across the country. Around a thousand people were killed in the brief spurt of persecution that followed, but the protests gave the conspirators who arrested the Gang of Four after Mao’s death the confidence to act. The 1989 Tiananmen protests followed smaller, but still huge, student protests for reform across the country in 1986.

In fact, China is still seized by thousands of protests every year, from irate migrant workers whose bosses have disappeared with the year’s salaries to middle-class marchers against poisonous factories. The exact numbers are hard to pin down, since what the government calls ‘mass incidents’ can be anything from a dozen pensioners to an angry crowd of thousands, but Chinese researchers estimate around 90,000 incidents a year.

The reason the government doesn’t worry too much about these protests is because they are very localised. The paramilitary People’s Armed Police may bloodily clash with farmers, but local officials can also be sacked, unpopular policies rescinded, or families paid off — and the state has already won the war. In destroying any wider sense of civil society, they’ve eliminated any means by which these protests might link up into something more threatening. No institution, whether media, environmental groups, unions, or churches, has been allowed to develop into the kind of alternative framework that might bring diverse causes together. Any hint of sympathy protests or wider ideological campaigning is met with a vicious force, legal and otherwise, that has only become worse in the last few years; the very term ‘civil society’, common in 2008-2009, is now virtually taboo in Chinese media.

But Hong Kong still has that civil society, and it’s fighting to stay free. Plenty of mainlanders are emotionally invested in the Hong Kong protests, but they are scattered and un-able to speak out. ‘Hang in there, Hong Kong! Fight for the future!’ one of my mainland friends wrote from the safety of Europe on Facebook, itself blocked in China.

Other mainlanders buy the government line, or dismiss the protestors as childish, irresponsible or elitist. ‘They are only 7 million people… they can’t be allowed to endanger 1.3 billion of us. Even if the army has to kill some of them, it’s OK to maintain stability.’ This, from a Chinese acquaintance of mine in her thirties, just this afternoon.

And she’s right — this is the real danger Hong Kong protestors pose to China: good old-fashioned, traditional instability. They’re not just fighting to make Beijing keep its promises. They’re putting forward another version of what it is to be Chinese; not the bland nationalism of Beijing, but the argumentative, cultured, passionate visions that once remade the country.

James Palmer, is a writer and editor in Beijing. His latest book is The Death of Mao.

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Show comments
  • Mc

    “And she’s right — this is the real danger Hong Kong protestors pose to China: good old-fashioned, traditional instability.”

    Come off it. The Chinese leadership’s fear is losing their monopoly on power – nothing else matters to them.

    • momerathe

      I think they’re very much the same thing.

    • Chris Hancock

      yeah they’ll lose their power through good old fashioned instability dumdum

  • Someone

    If these scenes are repeated elsewhere in China, there’s a real danger the Communist Party could lose control. The Faustian Pact of allowing a Communist Party control in exchange for economic growth and the chance to improve ones lot in life, is coming to a gradual and inevitable expiry. Economic choice eventually leads to social, political and cultural choices too.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/DavidWLincoln David W. Lincoln

      Interesting that you say that economic freedom leads to other freedoms.

      I consider economic freedom to flow from having the power to make choices, for there is the quote from Orwell about liberty being the freedom to say what other’s don’t want to hear.

      • Dryermartinithanyours

        Perhaps freedom is relative to personal need, circumstance, ability and dare one say preference, as well as having practical and theoretical dimensions, of more or less importance. Though if the Chinese suffer what we experience in our own brand of covert Marxist Political Correctness, it must be deeply oppressive. Who knows? Perhaps they’re freer than us by now?

        • http://twitter.com/#!/DavidWLincoln David W. Lincoln

          I look at it this way: We are designed for activity, and when one deems themselves to be helpless given how many things are at odds, we need power to dissent.

          I find that it is worth it to find analyses that stand the test of time, geography, or any other criterion that says, “I have such & such, but you don’t”. After all, universality has strengths that when properly utilized see those who want a double standard come up short.

          • Pulseguy

            A really good point. “We are designed for activity”. I’ve never seen that written before. That is the essence of freedom.

            Thank you.

          • Dryermartinithanyours

            Nice. Perhaps we are geared for imaginative and even fictive action.

          • http://twitter.com/#!/DavidWLincoln David W. Lincoln

            Smarter people than I, and before I thought of it, came up with this: people are a many splendoured thing.

            This shows that we are to combine the material and the noetic, and those who do so with panache have the strongest claim on receiving respect.

      • Someone

        A reasonable point although the Chinese model has effectively seen elements of capitalism implemented without political and social freedoms. Where these do exist (as in the case of HK) is where Beijing’s grip is not as firm as it would like. The ability to accommodate political and social discontent within a one party state while respecting HK’s privileged status is an interesting circle the Communist Party has to square.

        • http://twitter.com/#!/DavidWLincoln David W. Lincoln

          Ultimately it won’t happen because a creature cannot be fish & fowl at the same time.

          • Someone

            Absolutely, which is where we arrive back at the point I made initially. You can’t afford people economic choice without a commensurate level of choice in their political and social lives as well. So HK stands on a proverbial knife edge with capitalist tendencies but a centrally planned state. A level of economic freedom with little / no real political freedom. And at the heart stands HK and China’s other super-cities.

            For what it’s worth this ‘crisis’ (everywhere is a crisis these days!) must be doing wonders for Singapore’s financial services sector!

          • http://twitter.com/#!/DavidWLincoln David W. Lincoln

            Absolutely. Once again we see various folk and lands prosper thanks to the mistakes made by others.

    • Dryermartinithanyours

      Is there no sense in any of this of “allowing” the Chinese at large to simply be Chinese? Should we assume that pro-fascist riots in the UK mean the UK government should just give up and become fascist? Or that the student riots of the 1960s in France should naturally have led to a communist government there? Because according to this theory, all demonstrations by all minorities in all countries must be a yearning for the American Revolution or Magna Carta all over again. Especially ones with an alien form of government. And we have proven the truth of this theory through our series of unqualified successes in the Middle East.

      • R. S. S.

        Our governments rescued us? We’re not fascist? What planet have you been living on? The governments sided with the corporations and the banks not the people. The governments are bombing people, spying on people, throwing people in prisons… We live in a fascist and bankrupt world. With the exception of perhaps Iceland and Switzerland…

        • Dryermartinithanyours

          The banks don’t own the money they hold, we do, all except what is arrogated by senior management. If governments didn’t rescue them, we would all suffer the most terrible consequences. Personally I don’t think most people have anything at all to fear from spying. But from the political left who actually do impose the most awful oppression and conformity every day in real life, the danger is a self-evident reality, not some dark imagination. Which is what makes The Spectator such a beacon of light.

          • oblivia

            Depositors would not have lost their money. It was shareholders and bondholders that stood to lose — and it was they who were bailed out.

            As for the government spying on us, I can think of better uses for that money and so can most taxpayers. Who voted for this?

        • MountainousIpswich

          In your opinion what exactly does democracy and freedom look like?

          Because if you can’t recognise it when you’re living under it, maybe you need to experience living under a properly totalitarian regime to realise just how much freedom you have right now.

          • little islander

            Democracy and freedom are the legacies of Athens and England’s magna carta. Only white people deserve to live under such conditions. The yellow-skins and dark-colored’s possess different temperaments and moods. So their regimes necessarily and properly have to be totalitarian.

          • MountainousIpswich

            Utter racist bollocks.

      • Major Plonquer

        Greetings from Beijing. You are largely correct. Trying to superimpose Western cultural norms on China just doesn’t work – in fact, it’s laughable to even try. The fact that while many Western democracies – including our own – are facing crises threatening to break them up, I think it’s pretty amazing that China is still being held together as a single entity – and is even getting larger by reintegrating the pieces that broke away. So who are we to preach what the Chinese should do in their own country?
        Most Chinese people don’t like Honkies. They think they’ve become a bit too big for their boots, particularly now that Shanghai is out-performing HK. The tide of influence is with China while HK is in steep decline. There’s no future in backing losers.

        • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

          “Greetings from Beijing” and “our own” are contradiction in terms—unless you are an ethnic Chinese who hold allegiance to China and none to England.

          • watasiwakaori

            He is probably from UK but just live in Beijing… That’s my understanding.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            I don’t think so! I know him on the DT long enough!

          • dalai guevara

            Your avatar implies you are Deutsch, like the Deutsch, must speak Deutsch if you are and like the Deutsch.
            Now, how would that make me feel about you and what you had to say. Are you an Einfaltspinsel?

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            I think that you are mistaking Lord Admiral Kitchener with the last German Kaiser, you plonker!

          • dalai guevara

            It gets even better – Kitchener is Irish. The Germans stopped bombing Britain in 1944, the Irish stopped doing that in 1996.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            But Admiral Lord Kitchener was a Protestant (Church of Ireland) of English (also Protestants, of the Church of England) landowner parents. He might had been an Irishman (Ballylongford, County Kerry, Province of Munster) by simple virtue of birth, but he most certainly was not part of “the Irish” (by which you mean Roman Catholic Irish Republicans in Northern Ireland) in any way.

          • dalai guevara

            What would a Roman Catholic German think of that post?

            Let’s ask the former Pope …

            Yes, he too agrees that the 1996 ‘boom’ in Manchester is most vivid in everyone’s memory.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            “What would a Roman Catholic German think of that post?” You know what, your first language is not even English! You are just an overexcited Chinese student hiding under a daft name!

            Linking Lord Kitchener with the Manchester bombing is probably one of the most ridiculous things that I have ever heard, but then you are a Chinese, sitting behind a computer somewhere in China! Only you can possibly dream up nonsense like this!

          • dalai guevara

            Now this is good – I have been called many things: Dan Hodges, an MEP, a Leveson fascist, a windfarm salesman – but never has it occured to anyone that I could in fact be Chinese. Excellent stuff. What next George?

            The point I am making here, in case it escaped you, and I am certain it has, is that the chap above stated nothing that a sane person could disagree with. He has made valid points whereas I fail to see what you bring to the table other than your fake and behind the times moustache. That gives me a headache.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            “Yours” is obviously a multiple-person account, or at least probably a husband-and-wife team. You have no point, and neither has he. The Chinese Government is well known for using Trolls to spread misinformation and disinformation; that is not in question; and it is foolish of whoever is behind “you” to attempt to disprove, or, to prove otherwise.

            I am staying up late because I am disabled and I am also having a tooth infection; whereas “you” just have “your” regular trolling duties done in the morning before the day shift starts (GBT+8; BST+7; CET+7; CEST+6), probably in Beijing! Am I not wrong in this?! Calling Lord Kitchener as part of the Irish that bombed Manchester, and even bringing up Pope Benedict! I mean, what is that all about?! Get your brains checked mate, because you are obviously either manic, a psychotic or a schizophrenic!

            And why would I give a **** if a bit a bit of facial hair gives you a headache?! All these repressed homosexual thoughts in Peking!

          • dalai guevara

            “get your brains checked mate”
            Finally someone who speaks proper English!
            And no, that was not meant to be a Dr. Who quote.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            Dr. Who?! Are you sure you are old enough to be on the Spectator, you pleb?!

          • dalai guevara

            You don’t know Dr Who or could not quote from it?
            Are you Japanese or Thai perchance?

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            Why do you suppose that everyone in Britain under a certain age watch Doctor Who (made by the British Brainwashing Corporation). and least of all, think fit to freely pick their innate musing as useful, philosophical quotes?! This is the most ridiculous supposition that I have ever heard! Now, do one, you pleb!

          • dalai guevara

            I don’t assume anything mate, you did. What I then did is prove you wrong and make an A out of you not me. How could I possibly know what happens in latest Dr. Who episodes if I was Chinese? Now it is time for you to move on, we are done here.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            “Syndication”, with Chinese subtitles?!

            “We” are done here?! You are just trolling, and as I say, as a group! You are obviously a Chinese who have or have had a connection with Germany. A German, you are not. Nicht.

          • dalai guevara

            do one vs. we are done here
            You cannot even comprehend one language. Pathetic.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            “Do one” means “go away and enjoy yourself”, as you well know!

        • oblivia

          Chinese companies raise billions of dollars through Hong Kong. Shanghai doesn’t compare. To build a financial centre, you need thousands of knowledge workers — lawyers, accountants, bankers, brokers, analysts, fund managers, journalists and so on. It will take China decades to build the necessary experience, and it hasn’t even started yet — you can’t have a financial market when there is no market.

          Why do you think Alibaba didn’t even consider doing an IPO in China?

          • Colonel Mustard

            Then there is the endemic corruption in China.

          • little islander

            And London and Singapore compete with HK to trade the renminbi?

        • http://batman-news.com Barren Rock

          Frankly, if China hate the trouble maker/loser, please kick us out of the country – we didn’t vote to be part of them but we had to because of their troops over Shenzhen River. Think about that.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Well said.

          • little islander

            Now be a good boy/girl, like other good Hongkongers and China will not hate you and will ‘sek sai li’.

        • Augustus

          China just wants control over something they haven’t built up so that party bigwigs can fill their own pockets. There may be plenty of commerce and money in Shanghai but that doesn’t make it the type of international financial centre that Hong Kong became under British rule. And now it appears that Hong Kong’s got something else besides: Guts.

          • little islander

            So China took over from the UK bigwigs?

      • oblivia

        What are you talking about? Hong Kong is a former British colony that Margaret Thatcher gave to the Chinese under certain conditions. We have a duty to make sure those conditions are respected.

        The handover was 20 years ago, when Hong Kong was already a modern cosmopolitan city. I’d hardly call the transition to democracy by 2017, which China has now reneged on, an “instant quick fix”.

        • Augustus

          I agree. Nothing adulatory can ever be said of any totalitarian regimes. And a financial centre is all about trust and dependable supervision and legal systems. British negotiators certainly trusted and expected that after an intervening period of Chinese economic development a measure of political reform would automatically follow in favour of Hong Kong.

        • Patrick Rotcivz

          What are you talking about? Honk Kong was Chinese territory colonised by British imperialist. What was STOLEN from China must be RETURNED to China. Brits are THIEVES, and THIEVES have no right to impose conditions to return stolen land. UNDERSTAND STUPID???

          • peter_dtm

            so which particuler invading people do you describe as the Chinese ? To whom exactly should the treaty port & surrounding land be returned ? – The Taiwanese – they have as musch right to that enclave as any other (political) group of people living in the area we now call China

            ALL nations are comprised of the descendants of looters & thieves – obviously you are neither a student of Chinese History – or apparently any history at all

          • little islander

            And why was HK returned again?

          • Edward Booth

            It wasn’t stolen it was conquored, not our fault you couldn’t defend it when we got there.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Actually it was bestowed by treaty and not conquered by force at all. There was only a Hakka fishing village on the island and the small so-called Walled City on the mainland (actually a Magistrate’s compound) which remained Chinese (according to the treaty) with China having the right to march troops to and from it from the harbour.

            The well known photograph of Chinese pirates beheaded on the Kowloon beach with Europeans watching and much used in anti-imperialist and anti-colonial propaganda was actually an Imperial Chinese execution.

            After Hong Kong was established as a British colony Chinese refugees flocked to it for freedom from oppression, from the capricious “justice” of Imperial China, from the endemic corruption and for the freedom to make money and prosper. And they continued to do so even up to and after the Tienanmen Square massacre.

            The one clear message from 1997 is that China is not to be trusted. It reneges on its treaty obligations.

          • HKForEver

            Colonel Mustard, whoever you are, you know your stuff. These photos of beheadings tell a very interesting story indeed.

            In this case the Bristish judge let the suspected pirates go as he had not enough elements of proof to charge them.

            The Chinese authorities having rather different legal standards and a different approach to a peaceful society, simply grabbed them through their local men, took them over the border to the Mongkok beach and cut their head off.

            This unfortunately may be what Beijing really means by one-country-two-systems.
            Plus ca change…

          • little islander

            You are right. It was ‘conquered’. Violence and warfare. The prerogative of Noble people.

          • Guest

            Again, why was HK returned?

          • Michel Garcia

            The time of the contract ran out.

      • Colonel Mustard

        China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong is just as colonial as Britain’s was. In fact it could be argued that since Hong Kong developed into the virtual city state it is under British rule then communist Chinese sovereignty is more alien to it. Especially as a large proportion of the HK population was/is refugees from communist rule and their descendants.

        The meek handing over of Hong Kong’s people to a communist regime was a sell out. Shameful and cowardly.

        • dalai guevara

          A contractual obligation honoured by gentlemen.

          • Colonel Mustard

            No it wasn’t contractual. If it had been then the Kowloon peninsula and Victoria Island would have remained British in perpetuity.

            The Chinese position was that the original “contract” was invalid and 1997 merely a convenient time to resolve an issue of sovereignty that was more theirs than ours. A cake and eat it position typical of the red mindset.

            And the communists were no gentlemen.

            We should have told them to take a hike.

          • dalai guevara

            The Chinese have proven to be more than gentlemen. It has often been observed how they cunningly play one against the other on international playing fields.

            We must unite in our efforts to retain the best parts of our European power of political and economic influence.

        • little islander

          The lease over Kowloon ran out. Hong Kong Island ceded in perpetuity could not stand on its own. HK gets a lot of her water from the mainland. During her last recession, China allowed more people to visit and purchase properties. The economy recovered but those measures have come to hauntHK so to speak. Britain had to hand over. The only thing that might be shameful was Britain could not let all the passport-holders settle in the UK. Canada, Australia, Singapore offered some relief. Many of those who left HK have since returned. Like Ricky Gervais said after he made fun of Paul McCartney, you don’t need to feel sorry for them.

          • Colonel Mustard

            The 1997 lease was for the New Territories and Kowloon north of Boundary Street. The Kowloon peninsula and the island were ceded in perpetuity.

            That does not alter the fact that China insisted that the treaties were invalid but that the 1997 lease should be enforced for the whole territory. A preposterous notion in any law. Deng attempted to get round that by saying 1997 was as good a year as any to settle the sovereignty issue.

            Britain’s cowardice in the face of that stitch up, given Hong Kong’s historical relationship with Communist China, was appalling by any measure.

          • little islander

            Thanks for pointing out the Kowloon peninsula. All the Hong Kongers would then huddle on the island and this little promontory? Or those outside these 2 areas would return to China, lock, stock and barrel? Britain cowardice? I don’t think so.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Well, they would have if the 1997 treaty had been honoured by both sides but it wasn’t. So in reality things in Hong Kong today could have been as they were in 1996. But that would have taken balls on the part of the British government, as well as the deployment of an armoured brigade, an RAF strike squadron and a nuclear submarine in the South China sea. The PRC would not have dared walk in using military force because of Taiwan. And their argument that the treaties were invalid could have been turned against them.

          • little islander

            Yes, Colonel. BTW, Mao’s grandson didn’t deny his promotion had to do with his granddaddy when he became colonel.

      • Someone

        Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that every protest should spark change at a central government level. The Hong Kong case is somewhat different insofar as when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, there was an explicit guarantee made that HK would maintain some autonomy and a democratic process which some in HK believe is being undermined by the Communist Party from Beijing.

        I’m not advocating provoking trouble, but this is a test for Beijing to see whether it can accommodate criticism and maintain its grip over an influential part of China.

      • lillDreamer56

        You talk about this event in terms of revolution, but its actually just holding the central gov to promises it had already made. However in my opinion all foreigners and white people should stay the f*** clear of the protests sites; they are conspiracy fodder, even if their intentions are to be helpful

    • little islander

      “If these scenes are repeated elsewhere in China…..”. Dear Someone, why not go watch a movie or something? Not thrilling enough for you, I suppose. How about news of the Middle Eastern crisis on all over TV and the newspapers? You remind me of Gore Vidal’s “It’s not enough to succeed, others must fail.” Go see a doctor.

      • Someone

        Sorry for only getting back to you now little islander but I have been away from my keyboard.

        I’m not entirely sure what your comment is hoping to achieve. To my knowledge, the article related to Hong Kong as oppose to the Middle East. I thought the point of comments was to be on point / topic?

        Not entirely sure what your Gore Vidal reference relates to either. I’m perfectly happy to engage in a discussion with you but it would be nice to know what you’re trying to say first!

        • little islander

          I don’t know if you were in a position to advocate or provoke trouble. On reading your new postings, it’s clear to me you would be thrilled to see more crises developed with the CCP losing grip and other super cities and elsewhere in China going through the current HK experience.

          • Someone

            Little Islander I think you may be intentionally misreading my comments to suggest I’m spoiling for a fight. I’ve got no axe to grind and certainly no desire to see any crisis develop in China. All I have said is that there is a degree of inevitability that if and when you allow your citizenry the opportunity to engage in economic choice, they will at some stage, demand political and social choices too.

            The HK situation is different insofar as HK received specific assurances when China retook control of HK in 1997. Whether these issues will spread to other parts of China I don’t know, but economic development is, in my view beginning to catch up socially in some parts of China. It may have happened sooner in HK given their history as a democratic bridgehead in the Middle Kingdom but eventually, the Communist Party will need to recognise the wishes of its people.

          • little islander

            So China should not have allowed her ‘citizenry the opportunity to engage in economic choice’??!! I so see your point now. NOT.

          • Someone

            Little Islander – I’m sorry but you’ve fundamentally misunderstood what I’m saying.

            My point was not that China should not have allowed their citizenry to engage in economic choice. My point was that as sure as night follows day, economic choice leads to people wanting choice in other areas of their lives, like politics, culture and society. In doing so, it undermines the nature of the one-party state which the Communist Party has sought to preserve.

            Further more, I’m not arguing with you. I’m simply saying that you’ve now misunderstood my statements when I’m not sure where the confusion as arisen from.

            If you can’t recognise that from what I’ve said, then I’m not sure what you’re doing commenting in the first place.

          • little islander

            I understand what you repeated perfectly. I was being sarcastic. People do not necessarily want to engage in politics or culture or society in the first place. There are apathetics, philistines and anti-socials among us. And in a world of increasingly scarce resources, economics trump for many of us. You are engaged in circular reasoning, as circular as night follows day and day follows……

          • Someone

            Right so we emerge (finally) at your point after four attempts and it is a reasonable one that not everyone will engage in political / societal change. However, those aren’t the people who will ultimately force change in China / HK – the ones who do will draw parallels between their perceived economic freedom and their lack of political freedom. That is hardly circular. The HK situation also undermines your view somewhat insofar as whether the protesters are representative of HK or not, they have successfully engineered a situation whereby Beijing and their nominated HK leader has to deal with their concerns regardless of the apathetic, anti-socials and philistines you mention. Therefore, my initial statement that economic freedoms invariably leads to demands for political freedoms / rights / concessions stands.

          • little islander

            You are young only once. Enjoy demanding your rights and entitlements. Better still, buy HK, visit HK, build affordable housing for them and ensure their students are all gainfully employed at salaries they consider sufficient to get by. As for students in the mainland and UK, they are already very well taken care of.

          • Someone

            Little Islander, I fear we’re destined to disagree. Their demands (please note, I’m a white British male in the UK so have no skin in the game) aren’t material. They are fundamentally human, almost spiritual in fact. They want political freedoms which they perceive China’s ruling elite as denying them (not an entirely unreasonable perspective either).

            Those freedoms / assurances cannot be soothed indefinitely by a flat and sufficient income to get by on. It might ameliorate their concerns for a while, but eventually, they will return to the same questions which fundamentally are ‘Why can’t we choose our own government?’ and ‘Why can’t I choose anything other than the Communist Party?’

          • little islander

            The demands are mainly material. Housing, jobs, income inequality; people still live in cages, in highrises without lifts. And they boast the highest ratio of billionaries, with the wealthiest of them unhappy Forbes or Fortune UNDER-estimated his wealth by the billions. Spiritual? Maybe some. But then they would not be able to muster an economic vacuum into protests and demonstrations. The students are not wrong to protest. For a supposedly wealthy city state, they have got the worst deal in the region, I dare say. Your last 2 questions are really pretty dumb. If I were born in HK and China, I would blame my parents for the absence of any political choice? Or I can emigrate and get to choose others’ president or prime minister? Try Philip Larkin’s ‘They fuck us up…”

          • Someone

            Again I disagree fundamentally. Just because some are wealthy doesn’t mitigate against the lack of democratic freedoms which the younger generation are demanding. The spark was the Communist Party imposing their choice of chief executive of HK on to the population. He’s perceived as Beijing’s boy not the choice of the people of HK.

            Sorry I find your argumentative nature really rather infuriating. My last two questions are not ‘dumb’ rather they get to the nub of the purpose behind many if not most of the demonstrators initial raison d’etre. They want freedoms and they believe Beijing is blocking them.

            As I said, some may well be soothed by immediate material concessions, but that will only last so long until the next democratic deficit / legitimacy concern. The one party state cannot continue indefinitely because eventually a majority of people especially given economic freedom will demand social freedoms. One follows the other. Choice begets choice. China’s ruling Communist Party exists in a precarious position – governing not with the will of the people, but rather through coercion and people who grow use to deciding their own financial destiny, will in time demand control of their own political and social destiny.

          • little islander

            I doubt I would live to see that day when China ceases to be a one-party state. And if you did, please bear in mind it does not prove your theory one way or another. Of course, since you protested so much that your conscience is clear, one wishes China a peaceful transition to a multi-party system. BTW, did you know Chris Patten introduced elections toward the end of British rule in HK as, as pointed out by many then, a ‘poison pill’? Do you know HK became a financial centre and a major port and air-hub because of China? No? That’s because you as a British subject are bred and fed with a different perspective: Lord Patten introduced democracy; without HK, China would be starved of devt capital, trade and tourism. Infuriating? Don’t blame me.

          • Someone

            Ok Little Islander I think this conversation has gone far enough because you’re now just being completely absurd.

            “I doubt I would live to see that day when China ceases to be a one-party state. And if you did, please bear in mind it does not prove your theory one way or another.”

            Right so having spent the best part of this chain hypothesising that it is more than likely that when China ceases to be a one-party state, it will be because of a demand for democratic choices, I’m no longer allowed to say that it proves my theory?! What the hell is the point in hypothesising then?

            “Of course, since you protested so much that your conscience is clear”

            I’m not protesting, I’ve questioned your interpretation of events in HK but as I’m in Britain, I look on merely as an observer rather than an interested party and have said as much now at least twice.

            “did you know Chris Patten introduced elections toward the end of British rule in HK as, as pointed out by many then, a ‘poison pill’?”

            Yes of course I did. I think pretty much anyone with a passing understanding of history knows this, though again, I would question why democracy / elections would be considered ‘poison’ given how it is a mechanism for people to express their will.

            “Do you know HK became a financial centre and a major port and air-hub because of China?”

            Rubbish and poppycock. HK was already a growing financial centre, and a significant port / air-hub by 1997. To claim otherwise is frankly an untenable position. Has it’s importance grown in recent times? Yes. In the same way that other Chinese cities have grown in importance but that doesn’t change the fact that it was under British rule an important location of finance and commerce.

            “That’s because you as a British subject are bred and fed with a different perspective”.

            I can’t claim this one way or the other. Perspectives are perspectives and no more or less valid than one another. Yours could well have come straight from Xinhua but I don’t cast aspersions on your right to hold your views.

            “without HK, China would be starved of devt capital, trade and tourism.”

            I don’t even know what this means. Are you suggesting that China wouldn’t be the place it is today without HK? Or that HK wouldn’t be the place it is today without China?

            Assuming you meant China would be starved of devt capital, trade and tourism without HK, this is as spurious a claim as you have made. Most FDI since the TVE act of the early 80s under Deng Xiaoping has gone to other Chinese metropolises not HK. This would have occurred via Beijing rather than HK.

            China was still doing pretty reasonable trade without HK up until 1997. It still had a significant export industry. Tourism? Sorry but people go where there is stuff to do and see. China still has some interesting sites, whether it is the Great Wall, Tienamin Square, etc, and those sites are no where near HK.

            My infuriation is caused by your somewhat childlike response to pretty much everything which I’ve said before. Whether it is by deliberately misconstruing what I’ve said before, accusing my questions of being ‘dumb’ when they are the root cause of the protests or being generally quite ignorant of cause and effect.

            Sorry to say but this is the last time I will be responding.

          • little islander

            Poison pill – so it would be more difficult for PRC to take back HK. Possibly Britain could then continue ruling HK.
            Thanks to the comeback of Deng in 1978 and the opening of China, HK prospered. A recent article in the Guardian has more details.

          • Someone


            This is a more extensive explanation of my view point if you were wondering.

            Sorry but on principle I won’t be reading the Guardian. Thanks all the same though.

    • Ed  

      The chicoms look at Tiananmen, and they look at perestroika, and they figure that they got it right and Gorby got it wrong.

      If HK pushes too hard, HK will burn.

      God help them.

      • oblivia

        The CCP knew that Tiananmen was a disaster. Indeed, Jiang Zemin rose to power because he handled the demonstrations in Shanghai much better.

        • Ed  

          “Disaster” is relative. Perestroika was a much bigger “disaster” when viewed from Beijing. How Tiananmen and Shanghai were handled is but a matter of degree. HK may get rolled “gently”, but if she pushes, she will pay.

      • Someone

        I sincerely hope it doesn’t reach that stage.

    • VOWlol

      Don’t worry. As I write Gordon Brown is on his way to Hong Kong to lecture people there on the benefits of being Better Together with China.

      • Someone

        Oh thanks be…Brown suffers the reverse problem that Midas had…

  • Hanfeizi

    ” No institution, whether media, environmental groups, unions, or churches, has been allowed to develop into the kind of alternative framework that might bring diverse causes together. Any hint of sympathy protests or wider ideological campaigning is met with a vicious force, legal and otherwise, that has only become worse in the last few years; the very term ‘civil society’, common in 2008-2009, is now virtually taboo in Chinese media.”

    Whether they like it or not, they have created a civil society in the form of the massive bloom of private corporations in China. It amuses me that people look to religion or activism for what will ultimately bring the CCP down, when the real answer is staring them in the face- the alliance of private capital and a Leninist government ultimately cannot hold, and there will be a reckoning.

    • Sinocynical

      Private capital has never had a problem collaborating with fascism, which is essentially the same thing as a Leninist party-government that has abandoned communism. German industrialists supporting the Third Reich, business elites supporting Franco and Mussolini and various strongmen in Latin America and so on. Sure, sometimes private capital will overthrow a leftist government in small countries like Iran or Chile when it conflicts with their interests, but they do so with the backing of the American CIA and political-military apparatus… not likely to happen in China’s case.

      • Hanfeizi

        Religion, clubs, activist groups… these have no problems cooperating with fascism either. Well, provided their sympathies align with the fascists, which they often do. Similarly, the desires of capitalists and corporations are just as often opposed to those of fascists. There’s no real difference.

        • Sinocynical

          Those other civil society groups may be either pro- or anti-democratic, but the sole motive of capital is to seek profit. Putting that aside though, it may be a moot point because every large enterprise in China is required to have a Communist Party secretary or committee. State-owned enterprises obviously fall under the aegis of Party control, and any private enterprise of significant scale could not have succeeded in China without close ties to the government. That leaves the foreign MNCs, but how much clout do they really have when push comes to shove? Never mind that Chinese nationalists will always side with the Party instead of any foreign element.

          • Hanfeizi

            This is way Marx and Mao are timebombs in the system. If a leader decides they’re no longer interested in profit… they can expect to have chaos on their hands.

  • trace9

    FREE TIBET!! – & HK too, relatively speaking..

    • Major Plonquer

      Or, as that Dalai Lama put it, “Flee Tibet!”

      • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

        But he is a Tibetan and not a Cantonese, right?!

  • Diggery Whiggery

    Real Chinese Democracy = No CCP = No China

  • dmml

    China has a history of radical students causing mayhem. It always ends in tears.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/DavidWLincoln David W. Lincoln

      This time it can be different. China got the short end of the stick, as Margaret MacMillan related in “Paris 1919”.

      We continue to need hope, and a strong spine, and when that is the case, the potential for change from the status quo is impossible to ignore.

  • ChingfordMan

    I’ve found no record of large scale democracy protests in HK during the 140+ years of British rule. A reminder perhaps that Britain wasn’t quite the evil oppressor caricatured by modern history teachers

    • ian channing

      Well, there was this:

      “The Hong Kong 1966 Riots was a series of disturbances … The1960s was a period of mounting dissatisfaction over British colonial rule..” [wikipaedia]

      • nickwilde

        The 1960s riots in HK were instigated by communist revolutionaries supported by China. Their tactics included bombings and shootings. Children were murdered as well as their political opponents. It was only when China realised there was limited support for their tactics and beliefs in Hong Kong that they backed off. Hardly a mass demonstration of HK people seeking universal suffrage or an end to British rule.

        • HKDying

          Should this come as a surprise?

          Listening to Beijing you would think the Gurkhas and assorted elements of the British army abducted 1.2 millions Chinese across the borders in the 10 years following 1949 and forced them to live in HK.

          The problem with that interpretation is the these 1.2 millions Chinese crossed the borders to avoid Mao’s persecutions and maddening economic destruction.
          Is there any other place on earth where the population doubled in 10 years due to political and economic refugees?

          This incidentally applies to all the Tai Koons today, who are unvariably supporting Beijing’s policies and Beijing’s creative narrative to keep their business and relations going. Thanks so much.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Lefty wiki being used to re-write history again.

      • HKForEver

        Go all the way, Ian. Give us the true story.

        Hong Kongers turned against this mainland agitation when children started getting killed.
        Indeed the agitators during the 1967 riots were using bombs shaped like toys or fruits that could be picked up by children. The killing of a 7Y and 2Y old were the turning point.

        When Hong Kongers saw that they actually actively collaborated with the British police to stop these riots.

        • Colonel Mustard

          The police were not ‘British’. They were the Hong Kong Police and the majority of their personnel were Chinese. After 1967 the title ‘Royal’ was bestowed on them because of their conduct during the riots.

    • Major Plonquer

      The reason there were no protests is simple. Britain absolutely refused to give the Honkies even a sniff of democratic self determination. Perversely, they have far more today than they did under the British.

      • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

        Or, as what the Chinese would like us to believe.

        The REAL reasons, however, are twofold, namely, that firstly, the Chinese Red Army would had invaded to put a stop to any free and fair elections from ever being carried out; and that secondly, even if the Chinese Red Army had not invaded, the local patriotic Communist sympathisers would had sufficiently disrupted the process enough and had caused sufficiently enough of local difficulties as render a free and fair election either actually impossible anyway, or at least impossible to be guaranteed, the same reason as to why the Government of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) under President Ngo Dinh Diem refused to hold the Southern part of the national plebiscite and also elections in South Vietnam, in pursuant to the Geneva Accords of 1956, due to widespread local Communist (Dang Lao Dong; Viet Cong) intimidation.

      • Colonel Mustard


      • Barren Rock

        Or what about we never had to ask for it through protests because we didn’t have to?

        Look at what China has done to Hong Kong – real colonisation with influx of 150 new immigrants EVERYDAY, telling our school kids our mother tongue Cantonese is evil while Mandarin is angel in the education programme, pushing up our real estate as a way to keep their dirty money, forcing us to build expensive high speed railway which we don’t need at all, develop our green area for their future villas?

        We don’t want Britain for help cos we know you won’t and neither do we want to move to your country and use up your resources like they do. People, please speak with your conscience – that’s extincted in China, but not in Hong Kong!

        • little islander

          Taiwanese speak Mandarin, why not you? You look down on the mainlanders or like a mainland Cantonese said in Mandarin
          ‘Have no fear of Heaven or Earth, Only fear when Cantonese speak Putonghua (Mandarin).’

  • Samson

    “…‘They are only 7 million people… they can’t be allowed to endanger 1.3 billion of us. Even if the army has to kill some of them, it’s OK to maintain stability.”

    What a depressing world we live in.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Good picture.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/DavidWLincoln David W. Lincoln

    Mao failed. The culture he tried to eradicate, which curiously enriched him and plenty of others who were not ready to govern, is alive and well.

    “Do not think, we will think for you. You will be happy” is what he tried to do, and no amount of coercion will result in the new supplanting the old.

    I say, “Good on the protestors” when it comes to standing up to Beijing, because the current way for people to get onto the ballot is sufficient; thereby rendering what the Beijing Politburo’s exercise to control, only to be a show of how insecure it is.

    • Colonel Mustard

      “Do not think, we will think for you. You will be happy”

      Miliband and Labour peddle that c r a p too.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/DavidWLincoln David W. Lincoln

        Where did you think Miliband & Labour got it from? After all, has anything original been enacted by Labour? Or, did they steal or borrow from others?

  • HKDying

    There is something that has not been mentioned anywhere, but that actually really captures the reason of the unease in Hong Kong.

    For sure Honk Kong was not properly democratic under the British, and the CE was elected by a select committee – just the same as the current proposal.
    But the problem is that China is relentlessly hollowing out any structure that could offer any avenue for an acceptable civil society in HK. To the result that the electing committee is today only rubber-stamping the choice made in Beijing. For example at the last election some members of the committee openly complained that Beijing was taking too much time to give them instructions as to whom to vote for! They were afraid to vote for the wrong candidate, with all the possible consequences for their business or interests.

    Before 1997 there was nothing preventing a party to offer a candidate for the CE election. If he could convince enough members of the committee then fine. Nobody would go and harass committee members with administrative chicanes, threat to contracts, or even personal threats though the Triads (all being used today by Beijing).
    Add to this the fact that the ‘Love Hong Kong, Love China’ fuzzy requirement is just a fig-leaf for the fact that the CE must be a member of the communist party (this is just too important a political position for Beijing).

    That hollowing out goes through everything today: the media, increasingly the police, the legal profession (with Beijing firmly in hold of one of the two legal associations), basically anything. Beijing game is to control everything.

    To make things worse, that undercover hollowing out of all structures is made possible by the dishing out of advantages to select business or interest groups: for instance the Tai Koons can safely exercise an increasing monopole on the economy, the villagers in the new territories can safely keep building illegal structures and making a mess of the country side, the Law Society (by opposition to the bar association) can be relied on to support Beijing interpretation of the Basic Law, etc, etc.

    Beijing took an imperfect but functioning society and tore it in two through it constant undercover hallowing out of civil society – all of this because of its fear of democratic contagion.

  • http://twitter.com/WinstonCDN WinstonCDN

    Britain betrayed Hong Kong.

    • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

      Britain does not have a British Empire to run any more either. Britain owes the Hongkong Chinese nothing at all.

      • oblivia

        This is only true if you take the view that Britain doesn’t need to keep its promises. I thought Spectator types were big on principles…?

        • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

          There is NO such hypothetical, fictitious promise. Nowhere in the Sino-British or Anglo-Chinese Joint Declaration explicitly mentions Britain as a guarantor. Although it is American legalese and not English legalisee, any good terms and conditions for a software speaks of a “NO IMPLIED WARRANTY”, and I believe that the same applies here, in the case of Hong Kong. There is no legal obligation but only a moral one, and Britain has EVERY RIGHT to refuse to intervene; and Britain is anyway powerless to intervene even diplomatically in any case, given the permanent Chinese veto in the Security Council of the United Nations.

          • oblivia

            We have an implicit responsibility to all of our former possessions and territories, but especially the one we gave away to a repressive Communist gangster state.

          • Colonel Mustard

            It was an act of destructive cowardice. Communist China had no more right of sovereignty to Hong Kong than Argentina does to the Falklands. Hong Kong had developed into a virtually indigenous city state under British rule. All it owed to China were the thousands of refugees who had fled their horrible, corrupt, oppressive communist regime.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            The eventual return of Hong Kong (and Macau) to China and the American withdrawal from Taiwan and from South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand were all agreed between Chairman Mao and President Nixon.

          • Colonel Mustard

            They are statements of simple fact and there is nothing wild about them.

            The revisionist modern fantasy is you believing that the UK meekly accepted and conformed to an outcome predicated on the supposed “agreements” of a perjured and disgraced US President, supported by what? A Wiki photo?

            In fact Hong Kong and Macao were removed from the list (which declared that all remaining non-self-governing territories and trust territories were entitled to self-determination and independence) at the request of the PRC. That calumny was not a restoration of sovereignty but a denial of independence and self-determination. And the UK and USA were not even represented on the Special Committee that agreed to that whilst the PRC was. It was simply a stitch up that the UK failed to respond robustly to.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            Whether Nixon was a crook is irrelevant. He made the deal with Chairman Mao, and Britain’s (and the hands of the military officers of the Portuguese Junta, before they were overthrown by their junior officers and their soldiers) hands were then from then on tied.

            Where do you think that most of the components, the materials and the technology for replacing Polaris (Trident) came from?

          • Colonel Mustard

            I’d like to hear your evidence for this 1972 US-China deal on Hong Kong. It sounds like conspiracy theory claptrap to me.

            Besides you are citing the lack of SDC veto out of context. The decision was that Hong Kong would not be listed for self-determination and independence. That could be interpreted to mean that either UK would retain sovereignty or China re-gain it. The official HK view in the late 1970s was that an accommodation would be reached for the UK to retain sovereignty or for some kind of joint sovereignty. The UK FCO might have had other ideas but those would have been subject to political agreement by the government of the day. I doubt very much that successive British governments would have considered their hands tied by something Nixon agreed with Mao. The “tacit acceptance” you set so much store by was probably no more than a desire not to rock the boat and the fact that 1997 was then 25 years in the future.

            Thatcher’s initial foray on the issue was to retain sovereignty but she was rebuffed by China and undermined by the FCO. The joint declaration came as a shock for that part of the HK government that was rooted in Hong Kong rather than in the UK and FCO. The governor Youde died in the British Embassy in Beijing in 1986, two years after the declaration, ostensibly from a fatal nocturnal heart attack.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            Your wildly-historically-revisionist “What if” whataboutery point is essentially that Britain somehow “betrayed” Hong Kong (even if centuries of precedent (an important component in the English Common law) demonstrates that Britain was perfectly within her legal right to unilaterally alter the constitutional status of Hong Kong by a simple Act of the Imperial Westminster Parliament, without the need to seek the consent or even to consult the will of the people of Hong Kong), and somehow therefore Britain morally but nevertheless indefinitely owes “the people of” (whatever that even means, these days!) Hong Kong ( and essentially whenever the Hongkong Chinese like it), potentially even beyond June 2047; and to answer that I would refer you to the wise words of the late Baroness Thatcher, then as an unelevated member sitting in the House of Commons, as Prime Minister, uttered on the floor of the same House in which she sat, on the 30th. October 1990, “No, no, no!”

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            Either Britain has or Britain has not. There is no such thing as an implicit responsibility. You live in the United States of America anyway, so you are not really qualified to say that Britain has to this or Britain has to do that, because you do NOT pay tax to the United Kingdom (the same as the Hongkong Chinese, who had paid no tax directly to Britain from the year 1941 all the way to the year 1997).

          • Colonel Mustard

            They paid tax in Hong Kong to the HK Government representing the British sovereignty of the Crown. I don’t know about the rest of you but your brain is certainly deceased.

            Hong Kong’s success owed little to the UK which constantly failed to either understand its value or to treat it with the respect and honour it deserved. In sharp contrast to the colony of Hawaii colonised by the “non-colonial” USA.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            Which was spent locally in Hong Kong, and not a penny was repatriated back to England. In a British colony or a British Dependent or Overseas Territory, only the Governor and the away units of the British garrison represent the Crown and the British Government, and for both in the case of Hong Kong, the costs were not borne out by Hong Kong but was effectively subsidised by the United Kingdom.

            You cannot have it both ways. If they had owed little to Britain in the past, then they certainly cannot claim or expect help from Britain just like that, whenever they like it when that want to. The special relationship was over on the 1st. July 1997, and the deal was sealed for both Britain and for Hong Kong by the Americans anyway as far back as the year 1972. Britain can barely look after fellow members of the Commonwealth, and never mind some non-Commonwealth pseudo-statelet!

          • Colonel Mustard

            I’m not sure what point you are arguing any more. I think you are now just arguing for the sake of it because your peculiar views about Hong Kong are not agreed with. I suppose that you must have some axe to grind against Hong Kong.

          • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

            If you don’t like having a full and frank and proper political debate, then why are you on the Spectator board?! Ever heard of the Oxford Union or Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs)?!

            Anyway, my point is that this Hong Kong business has absolutely nothing to do with Britain. It is a geopolitical struggle between Peking/Beijing (or specifically the Zhongnanhai Palace (where both the full and the standing committees of the Chinese Politburo meet), as the Chinese would say), the two factions (the pro-Peking, pro-Communist, “patriotic” faction; and the pro-democracy, pro-city-state, pro-semi-independence, anti-Beijing, anti-unificationist, anti-integrationist faction) in Hong Kong, British and American banking interests in Hong Kong, the expatriate community in Hong Kong, and Washington D.C.. It is well beyond Britain’s paygrade, and that it is perfectly within Britain’s right to decline from getting involved anyway, just like Vietnam.

            The British Westminster Parliament is ultimately sovereign, surpassing all foreign treaties. You can wave the Joint Declaration in the air till you are blue and your arm becomes limp, but NO obligation arising from a signed treaty can ultimately contradict the will of the British people, expressed by the will of the elected British Parliament. Either the Government of China, or the Government of an independent Hong Kong, are both perfectly entitled to submit the matter with the International Court of Justice in The Hague of Holland, against the Crown and the British Government.

      • Colonel Mustard

        It did in 1997 and it betrayed them.

        • http://www.ukip.org/index/ George Smiley (deceased)

          Historical-revisionist nonsense. Britain had no military power to defend Hong Kong, any more than the Portuguese had in Goa in the year 1961, and in Macau in the year 1966. NATO only covers the North Atlantic region, and even the Americans had no defence treaty with Britain for the defence of Hong Kong.

          • Colonel Mustard

            So what? Should we have decided in 1940 that we didn’t have the ‘military’ power to oppose a German invasion and just thrown the towel in?

            And it is not historical-revisionist nonsense. Historical revisionist nonsense was China claiming the original treaties were invalid but then insisting on 1997 as the year of handover, ignoring the perpetual British sovereignty of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

            Given the number of refugees from communism and former nationalists living in Hong Kong the spineless capitulation was most definitely a betrayal. You excuse it if you want to.

  • uwe stein

    It is very inspiring to look at China from this point of view. Still I doubt that the chinese society has been ready to change as response on protests, in particular on protests faked by the political groups like parties. As the CPC anounced the reform they argued that they had learned from their own bad experiences by generating blind protests, now due to be called as “chaos”. At the very beginning of the Cultur Revolution, protests were not only initiated by the CPC itself, they firstly were even carried out by the party itself. In the aftermath they lost the control. But is that not another story?

    • HKDying

      As someone who witnessed the anti-occupy-central protest in August (http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1575403/live-anti-occupy-central-march-due-kick-amid-controversy?page=all), I can confirm that that was largely a Shenzen-rent-a-crowd operation.

      There were even young people dressed in military style uniform carrying reverently the Chinese red flag as in a military parade (for which they seem to have a fair amount of training). This would not have been out of place in North Korea.

      Funnily enough they mostly kept very quiet as they would have had to speak Mandarin Chinese.

      Many Hong Kongers watching from the side told them resolutely where to go back to. Imagine their feeling of seeing Mainlanders pretending to protest in their name, and the government happily taking this as an example of strong support for its policies.

      Nothing has changed. The Mainland is still executing the same policies from the same subversion manual.

  • Wang

    I don’t quite understand Mr. Palmer’s point that in many ways Hong Kong is more Chinese than the mainland. The main evidence he uses includes the folk worship of some local deities who had never achieved national status. I wonder what’s the big deal of losing them in Guangdong and how do these religious practices define what is essential about Chinese. At the end of the article, the author points out that as a civil society Hong Kong provides an alternative version of what it is to be Chinese. I agree that a civil society has to be built in the Mainland, and Hong Kong in many ways provides a good example. But I don’t think that the so-called umbrella revolution necessarily reflects the visions of a civil society. Yes, it is non-violent, but there is pretty much xenophobia and political naivety in this movement. Not to say that some protesters went so far to seek an independence of Hong Kong, though in ways that are strongly reminiscent of the British colonization, as seen in the last picture accompanying this article. Street occupation is also not part of a civil society. People in Hong Kong have to come to terms with the fact that they are first of all Chinese citizens. It is futile to deny that by replacing it with a Hong Kong identity

  • Xia

    What is the real threat for Beijing is the growing distance in social values between Hong Kong and the mainland. Patriotic education just won’t work in Hong Kong.