If you can’t toe the red line, Hong Kong is not the place to be
Forget about true democracy in what is becoming just another Chinese city where Putonghua is widely heard and mainland tycoons are moving in
What does the red line of President Xi Jinping really mean? It means Hong Kong is being inexorably drawn into the mainland. You can fear this as being sucked into a black hole, or you can extol it as a merging with the world’s second largest economy. Whichever way you see it, you can’t stop it. The mainland magnet is already in place.
If you have no problem with Hong Kong being harnessed ever tighter to an economic superpower ruled by a communist regime, then stay and reap the benefits China’s growing clout offers. If you are spooked by Hong Kong morphing into something that resembles a mainland city, then consider other pastures.
If you’re among those who think “two systems” was intended as a counterweight to “one country”, you need to digest more thoroughly Xi’s likening of “one country” as a tree that can only defend sovereignty if it has deep roots. Take that to mean “two systems” is an offshoot, not a bulwark against Beijing.
Those clinging to the belief democracy as defined by the opposition is still doable, Xi’s red line signals it’s time you stopped deluding yourself. He minced no words in warning that anyone who tries to undermine China’s security, uses Hong Kong to sabotage the country or challenges Beijing’s power crosses a red line.
That in effect means you can kiss so-called true democracy goodbye. Why do you think even the mass Occupy protest didn’t sway Beijing from insisting it vets chief executive candidates? Beijing will never shed its suspicion that a freely elected chief executive could challenge central government power or let Hong Kong be a base to undermine the country, the very actions that cross the red line.
Beijing will allow one person, one vote to elect the chief executive, as stated in the Basic Law, but it will be democracy with Chinese characteristics. Start getting used to it. Those who can’t accept this reality warn we must never allow Hong Kong to become just another Chinese city.
But Hong Kong is already becoming just another Chinese city in every way other than our financial, legal and political systems. Putonghua has almost drowned out Cantonese. Isn’t that all you heard during Xi’s three-day visit? Mainland tycoons are snapping up land, prime offices and residential property.
My new landlord is a mainlander. Now, if that alone isn’t indicative of what lies ahead, I don’t know what is.