What China can gain by protecting the freedoms that define Hong Kong
In any good negotiation, it is wise to try to find common, neutral ground before exploring differences, lest the two parties fall victim to further discord. In the case of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy groups and mainland China, this due process should apply.
Both parties have reason for angst and concern. In China’s case, it may be a fear of losing control: of allowing its “one country, two systems” experiment to run too far and enable Hong Kong’s freedoms to infiltrate and destroy its own internal system. This fear may be valid, but China has recently misjudged its approach – while ideas are great agents of change, one of the main functions (and valuable things) about “one country, two systems” is that Hong Kong is, by design, supposed to remain an autonomous space for free speech and thought.
In Taoist philosophies, the symbol of balance is represented as having that dot within chaos/order – the idea being that we must have an element of both order and chaos to achieve balance.
Hong Kong is that dot – that speck of consciousness within China’s order: its function is to have free speech so that discussions can take place, free of meddling. China should be the defender of Hong Kong’s status as a freethinking and autonomous region.
Watch: What is the Basic Law of Hong Kong
The democratic forces in Hong Kong have a reciprocal fear of losing control over the freedoms that have defined its growth and identity. These fears are just as valid as China’s: actions such as the history textbook fiasco or reneging on the promise to allow Hong Kong full autonomy to select its officials hurt confidence that China understood its role and what makes Hong Kong a special administrative region in the first place.
But Hong Kong must recognise that it is China that holds the cards and Hong Kong must learn to progressively work with China to manifest and realise its role and identity.
China is experimenting with a free-market economy that has allowed individuals to pursue success and demonstrate their potential. China does allow Hong Kong special freedoms when it could, by force, institute a degree of control that would shock the world, but that the world would be powerless to stop. Naturally, neither Hong Kong nor China, ever the preachers of “stability”, want this outcome.
China’s increased deployment of advanced security surveillance systems and behaviour modification initiatives, coupled with the extension of President Xi Jinping’s term has sparked justified concerns around the world that China may lose itself in its authoritarian ambition. China can soften this reputation by recognising what Hong Kong is – one of the few self-imposed checks within its system and, if I may put it crudely, an easy and obvious public relations opportunity.
Jason Ing, Mid-Levels