23 October 2018
As Beijing seeks to assert control, questions are being raised about Hong Kong's prospects. Photo: EJ Insight
As Beijing seeks to assert control, questions are being raised about Hong Kong's prospects. Photo: EJ Insight

China: Has the opportunity turned into a threat?

Has Hong Kong’s great hope and opportunity now become the biggest threat to its well-being?

For those who are still wondering, the reference is to mainland China, the mothership that had earlier promised to safeguard the city’s freedoms and economic prosperity but is now showing increasing signs that it is losing patience with the pesky semi-autonomous southern territory.

The kerfuffle over Beijing’s recent white paper on the “one country two systems” and the intense feelings among Hongkongers over the perceived denial of their rights by the central government has prompted observers to raise questions about Hong Kong’s future under Chinese control. 

Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd., a Hong Kong-based research firm, has rated Hong Kong as the least risky place among 12 countries and regions in Asia in terms of facing potential dangers or terrorist attacks from outside.

The firm, however, believes that most of the threat to Hong Kong now in fact comes from China as top leaders in Beijing strive to demonstrate their control over the special administrative region. 

The central government has been getting exasperated with the calls for political reforms in Hong Kong and the activities of pro-democracy groups such as Occupy Central, which is currently holding a civil referendum in the city on electoral system changes.

The June 4 candlelight vigil to mark the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown anniversary has been another source of concern for Chinese leaders over the activities of Hong Kong people.

Hongkongers’ resentment of Beijing has grown after China’s recent white paper stressed that the central government has “complete jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and that the city’s high degree of autonomy comes from Beijing.

The document has been criticized by observers as blurring the line between the ‘two systems’, and even throwing Hong Kong’s independent judiciary system under a cloud.

Lawyers in Hong Kong will gather on Friday for a silent march to express their discontent over the white paper, which suggests that judges in Hong Kong courts should be ‘patriotic’ to the motherland.

Ahead of the silent march, some legal experts in Beijing have sought to define the relationship between Hong Kong and China legal system.

The National Association of Study on Hong Kong and Macau, an organization under the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, said Hong Kong is required to follow the Chinese constitution on matters that are not covered by the city’s Basic Law. Such viewpoint goes against the understanding in Hong Kong of the ‘one country, two systems’.

Critics point out that Hong Kong has no obligation to follow Chinese law apart from national defense and diplomatic issues.

The rise of the hawkish camp in Beijing has stirred the political landscape in Hong Kong, especially as Beijing is keen on laying out its tough stance on the ‘one country’ concept.

That could only spell more uncertainty about the future, given the deep-rooted difference in the mindset of Hong Kong people and the top leaders in Beijing.

More than 700,000 Hongkongers voted in an unofficial referendum this week, voicing their desire for the city’s freedoms and autonomy to be preserved. But the question is: Are the Beijing top leaders willing to listen?

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EJ Insight writer

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