“Great Britain has lost an empire but not yet found a role,” Dean Acheson, a former United States secretary of state, opined after the Suez crisis of 1956, which marked the beginning of the end of British power on the world stage. When this Middle Eastern emergency erupted, Britain had still not fully recovered from the massive economic cost and material damage that victory in World War II had exacted. The disastrous Anglo-French invasion of Egypt to retake the Suez Canal after Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ultra-nationalistic government expropriated the Anglo-French-owned and operated facility not only accelerated a process of national change and evolution in Britain, but also led to a significantly diminished international role. In microcosm, something similar has happened to Hong Kong in recent years. With the city seeming set – at long last – to lose its hitherto-privileged trading, visa and other advantages with the US , Acheson’s prescient remark as readily applies to local circumstances. What is Hong Kong’s new role going to look like, from both national and international perspectives, now that its formerly powerful position, which could be leveraged in numerous profitable ways, has changed dramatically, if not actually ceased to exist? Hong Kong government unveils national security law details Much ink has been spilled drawing flawed comparisons between the relationships of special administrative regions Macau and Hong Kong with their sovereign power since their respective handovers, the former harmonious, the latter by comparison often fractious. The fundamental difference is that Macau and its people long ago accepted that they don’t matter much; minor local quirks and foibles are tolerated by China as long as the place and its people rock no wider boats, mind their manners and remain broadly useful in their diminished global importance. From the early 1950s, however, Hong Kong and its people became accustomed to punching above their weight for the territory’s size and population. Correspondingly, local arrogance, self-importance and a sense of entitlement had grown to insufferable levels by the 80s, and have only got worse over time. When challenged on these traits, one of two responses is usually evoked in Hong Kong: either the petulant “lost-face-hurt-feelings-how-dare-you-if-you-hate-it-so-much-here-then-leave-now”, or the trembling-lipped “it’s-not-fair-you-just-don’t-understand …” Hong Kong’s dramatically changed circumstances in terms of national importance and realistic alternative futures have not – for the most part – entered the public discussion. For the past decade, Hong Kong has resembled a middleweight boxer who had become too cocky and confident having won every fight he entered against his lightweight (Southeast Asian) rivals. But once in the ring, he is no match for a heavyweight (China), especially when that opponent, mercilessly taunted for far too long, decides not to pull his punches. And particularly so when the Queensberry rules (Basic Law) have been reduced to a mere suggestion, rather than a binding code of conduct in the ring, and the referee (chief executive) is there just for show. In these circumstances, the weaker opponent will consider himself fortunate to leave the ring with no more than a good hiding. And so it is with Hong Kong today, the mainland’s patience having finally evaporated. Like it or not, Hong Kong’s “rights, privileges and unique way of life” exist entirely as a gift – and on the sufferance – of China. When this state of affairs no longer suits our ultimate ruler’s purposes, these advantages will be modified as deemed expedient. Hong Kong’s current circumstances are as simple as that; the rest of the world has only belatedly woken up to this reality.