China Paper – Hong Kong
“Hong Kong” is a city on Hong Kong Island and often used to name the area around it composed of many other islands and a peninsula. In 1898, it was leased from China by the British for 99 years, and it became a “crown colony.” The city prospered as an international center of business and trade. In 1997, it was returned to China.
Because many Chinese had settled there to escape conditions on the mainland and enjoyed British culture and international relationships, some dreaded the change. To reassure the citizens, China promised them considerable autonomy for fifty years, and Hong Kong has functioned almost as an independent country, more European than Chinese in its social and political order. Like the United States there are extremes of wealth and poverty, while the middle class enjoys its freedom and civil rights. The dread of being integrated into mainland China in 2047, now Communist, is intense among a considerable part of the population.
When the United States began to view China as a threat to its global dominance, it worked in many ways to weaken the central government. One of them was to heighten fear in Hong Kong, especially among students, of being reassimilated. On the whole, Beijing respected Hong Kong’s independence, and did not provide occasions for protest, but on one occasion it did.
The independence of Hong Kong was emphasized by the rule that its court system was entirely independent. There should be no appeal beyond the Hong Kong courts. However, in 2019, the Hong Kong courts feared that in the case of the trial of a very wealthy and powerful citizen, a Hong Kong jury would fear to do its duty and asked for Beijing’s help. Beijing agreed. A group of students, closely connected to the American embassy, led a protest. Beijing withdrew its agreement, but the real concern of the students took over, and more and more of them joined in protesting the prospects of reintegration into China.
The government of China was not directly involved in responding to the protests, but the students regarded the police and the Hong Kong government as doing nothing to prevent their fears from being realized. Indeed, the Hong Kong authorities did largely cooperate with the Chinese government. Hence, the students felt that they were legitimate objects of their wrath.
Sadly, their protests became violent riots, and violence was used against them. Also, in 2020, in response to the riots, Beijing produced a document on National Security which restricts the civil rights of Hong Kong and opens the door to Beijing intervention in the future. Hong Kong’s business was damaged, its government weakened, and its freedom reduced.