Hong Kong can be a vibrant city as an integral part of China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 9:36pm

The articles on June 25 by Alice Wu (“Beijing cannot wish away the growing sense of hopelessness in Hong Kong”) and David Dodwell (“It’s been 20 years, Hong Kong. Please just get on with the business of what you do best”) were especially interesting for us pre-handover, ex-Hongkongers.

Dodwell stresses that the continuing guarantee for Hong Kong to retain a degree of separateness and relative independence from the rest of China, lies in China’s sense of the usefulness of Hong Kong, and the “idea” of Hong Kong.

This is at economic and political levels. Dodwell points out that, while in 1997 Hong Kong contributed 18 per cent to China’s gross domestic product, today that is down to 2 per cent – the implication being that, on the economic front, Hong Kong is now inconsequential to China. And if the “Belt and Road Initiative” is successful, this can only get worse.

On the political front, a thriving, successful, vibrant Hong Kong would be a huge feather in China’s cap, demonstrating to the world its ability to deploy the “one country, two systems” philosophy effectively. It is therefore in Beijing’s interests to keep Hong Kong running smoothly.

Wu’s point is equally valid. China has much to answer for in sowing the seeds of suspicion and discontent in the minds of Hongkongers. The present resentment could be the blowback of the pent-up sense of helplessness and hopelessness this has fostered. My prevailing memory of the mood of Hong Kong during the handover is one of pride at becoming once again a part of China. The central government should recognise and aim to enhance this sentiment, not crush it.

But Hongkongers must see that if Beijing is faced with continuous criticism, non-cooperation, unrealistic demands and social unrest, this could push it to conclude that the “one country, two systems” philosophy is not worth defending at the cost of global loss of face.

Hong Kong needs not just to “get on with it”, but to change its attitude towards China. This starts with accepting the reality that the city must be an integral part of the country. That said, Hong Kong does have a choice between being just another recalcitrant, subjugated province, or a highly motivated, vibrant, proactive leader in technology, innovation, finance and global reach which Beijing would welcome.

Hong Kong must embrace the second option.

N. J. Cama, Bangalore, India