An Arab Relevance In The Hong Kong Events?!
An Arab Relevance In The Hong Kong Events?!
An island that is around ten times the size of Lebanon, with seven million people, has dominated the world news. Last month, its people took to the streets, protesting a law to prosecute them on the mainland. China’s officials and media responded by saying that it was an external conspiracy, and they had already interpreted the Tiananmen uprising as a plot!
This time, the climate of commercial warfare with America has made it easier for them to argue. But things were quieting down and Beijing went back on its law until clashes broke out between the police and protesters on the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the mainland. Demonstrators attacked the parliament. One of them raised the British flag.
So the problem lies in this unity. The beginning dates back to 1997: Britain fulfilled its pledge to return the "daughter" to her "mother", whose position was strong and grew up against the conditions of other communist countries, which less than a decade ago, seemed to be scattered and disowned by their own communism.
China, on the other hand, promised the British to maintain the Hong Kong political system and its independent administrative status, raising the slogan of “one country, two systems”.
Economically, it seemed as if mainland China has joined Hong Kong: in the unity year, the latter’s investments in China exceeded $60 billion, and China’s gross national product rose from $620 billion in 1994 to $900 billion.
It was in China’s interest to accept half the unity with that “special administrative territory”: Beijing appoints the ruler of the island, who carries the tools of repression, and flags flutter on the official buildings; but Hong Kong retains its currency, passport and legal systems... They are Chinese but not part of China.
Since then, the island has shown its discontent with returning to the bosom of a single-party country. Beijing is trying to complete the unitary process and remove exceptions. It tried it twice in 2003 and 2014 and was met with mass protests. This tradition has led some Chinese experts to predict the worst as they watched last month’s moves: the authorities must be planning more strikes that would tighten the grip on the island.
The Hong Kong event saw also a struggle between two ideas: the idea of giving priority to belonging to a great nation and melting in hundreds of millions of people, even if they were ruled by one party; and the notion of freedom of political choice, way of life and the right to the initiative.
It also saw a conflict between two other ideas: one that says that colonialism has become something from the past as it is surpassed by its own notions; and another that colonialism is eternal, while national unity is the most important element for fighting it.
Going over some books on the history of the island can show us the causes of this dual intellectual conflict: The British have tarnished, with opium, the "perfume harbor," i.e. Hong Kong. Since the mid-19th century, they have made it a port for that criminal trade, from which they wanted to drag the Chinese into free trade at the expense of their way of life, dignity, and will, and at the expense of their health as well.
And in 1949. With the triumph of communism, Mao Zedong’s forces did not occupy Hong Kong for fear of a clash with Britain, which had a better response: it recognized the new regime, in violation of the Western consensus that accompanied the beginning of the Cold War.
But with the establishment of communism on the mainland, the Chinese of Guangdong County fled the repression and hunger of Hong Kong. Among those were textile manufacturers in Shanghai, who arrived with their sense of initiative and their entrepreneurship culture. The inhabitants of the island, who were then two million, provided them with cheap labor.
By taking advantage of cheap prices, Hong Kong’s goods, especially toys, ready-made clothes and watches, successfully competed with international products. The island has become the headquarters of the world’s companies, and as the 1990s, it GDP even surpassed that of Britain.
Before that, and under the shadow of Britain, Hong Kong became the first and most successful of the "four dragons" or the "new industrialized countries", and achieved remarkable economic growth accompanied by a qualitative rise in average per capita income.
Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea accompanied it on this journey. Thus, what has become known as "economic nationalism", has become stronger in the face of the Chinese nationalism.
Moreover, Hong Kong’s factories moved to the mainland, which had been subjected to the capital reforms of Deng Xiaoping. The island's investments in the mainland have increased and the resulting employment opportunities have multiplied.
The people of Hong Kong, as a result of that experience, chose freedom over nationalism, happiness over greatness, and new horizons over inherited roots.
The implicit wisdom is that identity can also be something to be made. On the other hand, the conspiracy theory no longer gives credence but to one thing: accusing colonialism of making Hong Kong’s population more prosperous and longing for freedom!
There is certainly some Arab relevance in some of these Chinese debates!