23 March 2019
Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong and its growing meddling in the territory’s affairs won’t do China any good, an observer warns. Photo: Bloomberg
Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong and its growing meddling in the territory’s affairs won’t do China any good, an observer warns. Photo: Bloomberg

Why Beijing must allow HK to preserve its uniqueness

Last week, Bloomberg ran an article on Hong Kong headlined “Some Nations May Already See Hong Kong As ‘Just Another Chinese City’”.

The article noted that over the years, the prevailing view in the West had been that Hong Kong’s unique advantage lay in its shared cultural roots with the mainland and a free capitalist system which it inherited from the British colonial era.

However, the article pointed out, that the view is beginning to change, as Beijing has been tightening its political grip on Hong Kong and escalating its interference in the city’s internal affairs.

The article cited the disqualification of pro-democracy election candidates, the saga over the missing booksellers of Causeway Bay Bookshop, and the denial of work visa for Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet as examples indicating growing Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong.

The article didn’t mention the more recent controversy of an arts center in Hong Kong pulling its venue for literary events featuring exiled Chinese author Ma Jian, and subsequently reversing its decision following a public backlash.

Nor did the Bloomberg article mention the abrupt cancellation of an exhibition of the work of Chinese-Australian political cartoonist Badiucao in Hong Kong due to alleged “threat” from the mainland to its organizers.

As far as Ma is concerned, even though his scheduled events were finally given the green light by the organizer, the dispute has cast a deep shadow of doubt as to whether behind-the-scene political maneuvers were involved.

And the reason why Mallet’s case has become a cause for international concern is even more striking and apparent: all Mallet did was fulfill his duty as a media person as he invited a local political figure to deliver a speech at a public event.

Following his invitation to a Hong Kong independence advocate to a Foreign Correspondents’ Club event, Mallet saw his application for work visa renewal get rejected, and later he was denied entry into Hong Kong even as a tourist. The journalist was interrogated by immigration officers at the airport for hours and barred from entering the city.

The controversial incidents related to Ma and Mallet, which came days after Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung had dismissed Western concerns about deteriorating human rights in Hong Kong at a UN Human Rights Council hearing, will inevitably deepen the negative impression about Hong Kong among the international community.

Chinese authorities should realize that allowing Hong Kong to become just another Chinese city would harm not only Hong Kong, but also the mainland.

That is because if Hong Kong loses its uniqueness, it will only render it more difficult for the city to contribute to the development of the mainland.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 10

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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