At the time, I was not sure whether one country, two systems, would work out for either the Communists or for Hong Kong. In July of 2003, I noted differing perspectives on the compatibility of the two systems, at the time observing, "I suspected from all the construction in Peking, providing office space for lobbyists from Hong Kong corporations, that the notionally Communist government wasn't fully aware of what it was in for." That notionally Communist government now wishes to vet local candidates for political office, and some residents of Hong Kong are having none of it.
The rapidly escalating protests are aimed at forcing Beijing’s Communist leaders to abandon newly declared powers to weed out any candidates in upcoming Hong Kong elections. Yet many on the streets proclaimed they are fighting for something even bigger: preserving a vision of Hong Kong promised 17 years ago when it reverted to Chinese rule.What's that about a house divided against itself? (Not, mind you, that discomfited Communist leaders bother me particularly.)
At the time, Chinese leaders promised a state within a state, saying they would allow special hands-off provisions for Hong Kong such as elections and a degree of self-rule in policymaking. But protesters accuse China of reneging on the deal and trying to exert its control over every aspect of Hong Kong’s political affairs.
Too hard a crackdown could drive more people to the pro-democracy cause, which would embarrass Chinese authorities, who would never permit such a challenge on the mainland. Yet, by the same token, allowing the protesters some room risks encouraging others to question Communist control in the rest of the country over such issues as media freedom, economic development and minority rights.
The latest show of popular dissent represents one of the biggest threats to Beijing's Communist Party leadership since its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy student protests in and around Tiananmen Square.The fellow-travelers at The Nation use the protest as an occasion to question the Chinese government's communist bona fides.
Today's young protesters are the first generation to grow up without direct memories of Tiananmen, an event still marked by an annual candle-lit vigil in Hong Kong.
Last week, students' tightly choreographed, citywide boycott of classes escalated into arrests after the storming of a barricaded public space in the city's Admiralty government quarter at the weekend and culminated in far wider demonstrations and public support.
Beijing’s vision for Hong Kong is to follow in the path of other hyper-capitalist authoritarian states such as Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Since many of the problems in Hong Kong—gaping inequality, crony capitalism, astronomical housing prices and an exclusionary political system—are also rampant just across the border in mainland China, it is not difficult to guess the source of Beijing’s deep anxiety. If Occupy Central presents a major nuisance, the mere intimation of an Occupy Tiananmen is a horror that must be crushed at all costs.Particularly if the Sillies establish a foothold in Uighurstan?
Let the era of civil disobedience commence.