Tuesday, August 13, 2019


The current events in Hong Kong have a lot in common with the mood which preceded the Tienanmen protests (15 April/4 June, 1989). But, there is one major difference insofar as the Chinese leadership is not split now like it was then, between Premier Li Peng and Zhao Ziyang, general secretary of the Party. President Xi Jinping has no rivals in personalities or ideas.

It is doubtful that today's young protesters in Hong Kong are all that familiar with the many caveats of Hong Kong's handover to China. On June 30 1997, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region, governed by the Basic Law. The "One country, two systems" is supposed to remain unchallenged until 1 July, 2047. The Joint Declaration between Beijing and London left the Chinese with the keys but also guaranteed -in principle- Beijing's "better behavior". In fact the territory came to resemble a treaty port of an earlier era. This illusion did not last long. While China is smart enough not to jeopardize Hong Kong's immense added financial and economic values, it is committed not to give the Noble House's pluralistic laissez faire a free pass.

Today's unrest comes at a most difficult moment. The protesters' concerns might end up being ignored because Beijing's weight in world affairs has become too resolute to be challenged. The American administration will prefer not to add to the bilateral problems it has with China. Trump who neither smokes nor drinks alcohol is in equal terms a human rights abstainer. Maduro & Co. only wait for the moment China crushes the kids in Hong Kong, while America looks elsewhere.

One must hope that the sober minds will prevail in Hong Kong. After all, the political values benefit from the economic multiplicative. One must avoid at all cost arriving at "One country, two pressures"--one from the Middle Kingdom, the other from the business community in Hong Kong which does not intend to compromise a modus vivendi which is not ideal but manageable. Hong Kong will never be Monaco and is, in fact,  better, more interesting than the Mediterranean dorm for the old, the rich and the dubious. Too some extent the Pearl River Delta has become more Hong Kong than not.  Whatever the Chinese want Shanghai to be, it will never become the Twin City in the middle. 

Hong Kong is the sum of luck, money and location. The Chinese are masters of that game. The young are right to stick to the spirit of past arrangements but since nobody will come to the rescue, it is wise to choose caution over encouragement. Mrs. Thatcher knew what was winnable or not. Conversely she acted wisely. If we are with the women and men in the streets who fight for the continuity of their rights, we must ask them to reclaim their future rather than the airport.

A third party is watching : Taiwan.

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