Sunday, August 25, 2019

What’s Wrong with the Turbulent Hong Kong? 动乱的香港怎么啦?

Abstract: Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is condemning violence in Hong Kong as tension escalates between pro-democracy protesters and police and support Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” within China, as well as its residents’ right to peaceful assembly. The protest was directly caused by introduction of an extradition bill to transfer and try alleged criminals among mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong and demand for more democracy. Economically, each protest occurred when the government of Hong Kong was about to implement land reform and increase more land supplies as the interests of a wealthy group of people were encroached upon. During the 156 years of colonial rule in Hong Kong, there is no elected government, no right to minimum wages, no freedom of speech or the press. According to the right-winged Heritage Foundation, Hong Kong is now the freest society in the world. Yet the young people would like to have more democracy, and the US Congress is proposing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to intervene in the already muddy situation. Hong Kong would be almost dead with no support from mainland China. As the extradition bill may jeopardy Hong Kong’s autonomy, the bill should be dropped permanently. The riot cannot be misused to complicate relationships. Hong Kong has already missed a golden opportunity to upgrade its industries, and it should not lose other opportunities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The people of Hong Kong should be clearly aware of this.

Key Words: Democracy, Hong Kong, universal suffrage, foreign support

 (Pictured in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong by AFP Aug 18, 2019)

The economic scale of East Asia, with China, Japan, South Korea, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and Singapore included, has already surpassed $24 trillion (in terms of GDP), far more than that of NAFTA ($21 trillion) and the European Union ($19 trillion). If there is an economic and political centre, this should be Hong Kong, due to its excellent legal system, a balance of the Western and Oriental cultures, the 3rd largest global stock market and the springboard for Renminbi Yuan internationalization[i].

However, a protest lasting for more than 2 months is putting this centre at great risk. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is condemning violence in Hong Kong as tension escalates between pro-democracy protesters and police. She made the remarks in a joint statement issued on August 16, 2019 with her counterpart in the European Union, Federica Mogherini. The statement says that both Canada and the EU support Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” within China, as well as its residents’ right to peaceful assembly. But they are urging restraint in the wake of “a rising number of unacceptable violent incidents.”[ii] Around 10 people met Saturday afternoon in front of Regina City Hall. They held signs, chanted and went over five key demands made by those protesting against the Hong Kong government: the withdrawal of a proposed extradition bill; the release of arrested protesters and dropping of any related charges; “universal suffrage.” Hong Kong’s chief executive, for example, is elected by a committee rather than by its citizens; independent investigation of violent police action; and a retraction of the use of the word “riot” to describe the protests[iii]. However, the tune got softened later on CBC. A Burnaby group voiced their support for China in opposition to a series of pro-Hong Kong protests in Vancouver saying some people may have misunderstood the cause of pro-China demonstrators. It’s said the group is not against the Hong Kong territory or democracy, and says the pro-China labels versus pro-Hong Kong labels create more confusion. The group leader wants to see a peaceful end to the chaotic demonstrations. The proposed extradition bill would have allowed Hong Kong to send its residents to mainland China to face criminal charges. Critics say defendants extradited to the mainland might not have access to a fair trial in China, and fear Beijing could also use the law to crack down on dissidents. However, the bill is suspended. Protestors have called for a full withdrawal of the bill. They've also added to their demands, calling for an amnesty for demonstrators who have been arrested and demanding wider democratic reforms. Nevertheless, according to Victor Feng, leader of the pro-China rally, as a sovereign country, China has the right to a design its own legal system. It's also not fair to say the country doesn't follow the rule of law just because it has a different set of rules[iv].

Based on a source in the Toronto-area Chinese-Canadian community, on August 17, 2019, members of a seniors group were each paid $100 to attend a pro-China rally in Toronto, something the Post could not confirm independently. Michael Chan, a keynote speaker, was quoted as saying “we support Hong Kong’s police strictly handing unrest”[v]. This may not be necessarily true, as the rally might be used as a tool for the coming Federal election because the same reporter is asserting that old Liberal Party membership forms were distributed at the rally[vi]. Actually, news leaked out that Hong Kong students were paid to join in the protest and were bullied to speak the same voice[vii]. Well, the writer here is not to side with either the protest party or the anti-protest party, but to analyze the situation and voice comments as a third party.

I.                    Problems
1.       Prolonging Unrest
The demonstration has lasted for more than 70 days, and participants have grown to 1.7 million. The unrest has become so serious that passengers and reporters also got severely assaulted[viii]. As mentioned by the leader of the Hong Kong and Macao Office, what Hong Kong is facing is the most serious in all the times.

2.       Effects on Economy and Confidence
As the demonstrators have gathered around airports, train stations and subways, and more and more travelers are harassed and blocked, journalist and policemen are assaulted, the traffic can be paralyzed with inbound flights cancelled, and the whole economy may be damaged to a degree that part of the losses can never be recovered. Also, many of the technology talents and capital may flood out, and Hong Kong will not be an Oriental pearl but a dead harbor, which some of the big countries may want to see, as they may be able to take advantage from the confusion (though possibly not in the long run).

II.                 Reasons
1.       Phenomenal Reasons
1)      Extradition Bill
        This is a proposed bill regarding extradition to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 503) in relation to special surrender arrangements and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (Cap. 525) so that arrangements for mutual legal assistance can be made between Hong Kong and any place outside Hong Kong. The bill was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019. The government proposed to establish a mechanism for transfers of fugitives not only for Taiwan, but also for Mainland China and Macau, which are not covered in the existing laws[ix].

The introduction of the bill is due to a murdering case which happened in Taiwan 17 March 2018. A man from Hong Kong called Chan Tong-kai, murdered his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing, while they were on a vacation to Taiwan, has so only been charged with theft and handling stolen goods as the case happened in Taiwan and there is no extradition agreement between Hong Kong and Taiwan. He has not been charged with the murder, since there has been no opportunity for Taiwanese investigators to question him. Chan will never face trial for the murder because of legal “loopholes” existing between the judicial systems in Taiwan and Hong Kong. However, the introduction of the bill which can prevent Hong Kong become a shelter for criminals caused widespread criticism domestically and abroad from the legal profession, journalist organizations, business groups, and foreign governments fearing the erosion of Hong Kong's legal system and its built-in safeguards, as well as damaging Hong Kong's business climate.

2)      Double Universal Suffrage
        According to some scholars, the current electoral system for chief executive and legislators is neither representative nor fully democratic. The consequences of this can no longer be dismissed as people fill the streets, clamoring to be heard. The long-term solutions to the ongoing disruptive protests are either a more representative political system or tighter control by the pro-Beijing government. The latter is undesirable to most Hong Kong people. In a diverse society like Hong Kong, factions and different opinions are inevitable. The reconciliation of the interests of various social sectors is a major responsibility of the Hong Kong government, and universal suffrage is the only long-term solution that does not sacrifice Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom. It directs people on the streets to express their views through elections and forces them to compromise with others. Furthermore, universal suffrage could also benefit China’s international image in the long term, especially given its ambitious reunification plan for Taiwan.

       Beijing once offered a form of direct elections that would have allowed the public to elect Hong Kong’s chief executive from a slate of two or three preapproved candidates. But pro-democracy legislators voted down the measure in 2015, and Beijing’s supporters in the legislature said then that the Communist Party was unlikely to offer more generous terms. Lau Siu-kai, vice chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semiofficial research institute with ties to Beijing, told a Hong Kong broadcaster that any debate on political reform would only “further divide society.” President Xi has already made an extraordinary concession to the protesters by allowing Mrs. Lam to suspend the bill, said Ma Ngok, an associate professor of government at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. So the chances that Mr. Xi would agree to political reforms, Mr. Ma said, are slim. “Given that the entire country is still well on the road to full autocratic rule,” Mr. Ma said, “it’s unlikely they would initiate any kind of liberalization in Hong Kong.”[x]

      The point is that the Hong Kong election system is copied from the US. If this system is to blame, so should be the US system. American democracy is controlled by a tiny minority of moneyed funders, Lessig believes, much as New York politics were controlled by political bosses during the 19th century[xi].

2.       Internal Reasons
The real problems with Hong Kong are far more complicated than what it seems to be. Though Hong Kong was taken as a colony under Britain, many people have an attachment to Britain as if Britain was their foster parents.

1)      Economic
(1)    The Abnormal Housing Market
Hong Kong does not have many sustainable growth industries, with the economy very much reliant on real estate and finance and banking. However, the housing market is stratospheric, and housing prices have increased dramatically, bringing forward also the rapid increase of rent. With the Joint Declaration, the British people could take advantage of all the existing framework and contracts and make a huge profit so that they could take home 500 billion pounds. Housing prices went up by 300% from 2003 to 2014[xii], and many local young people have lost hope to have a property of their own.

Actually there were three large-scale protests in the history of Hong Kong, each of which occurred when the government of Hong Kong was about to implement land reform and increase more land supplies. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was forced to resign in his second term in office asserting he was ill. While housing prices increased by more than 3 times from 2002 to 2017, the median family income increased by 0.71 times, and the housing price to income ratio was nearly 48 times. Later on Leung Chun-ying was criticized for filling the sea and reclaiming some land, and he also had to quit due to the Occupy Central Hong Kong Movement asserting he had some family issues. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor set the affordable housing price to half the market price, and the real estate and financial gurus put on the same performance[xiii]. There is a saying that those who trade sell you opium and those who play finance with you deliver you chaos.

(2)    The Dutch Disease
Hong used to be a key port for intermediary trade in the world, and has had a history in its capital and technology intensive industries. However, it role was modified due to the US trade blockage in the 1950’s and then the take-off of mainland China in 2001 (symbolized by its joining WTO). Its lack of core industries, lassez-faire policy and passive attitude to trade with China has restrained its further development, and it has gradually given way to Shanghai, Shenzhen, Nongbo and Singapore.

(3)    The Pegged Exchange Rate
The pegged exchange rate is written in the Joint Declaration between Britain and mainland China, and the Chinese government has a commitment to it. This system usually relies on foreign exchange reserves and confidence in the currency. Professor Mundell has mentioned that the three of an independent monetary policy, free capital flows and a fixed exchange rate cannot exist at the same time. Though some have critiqued on credibility of his theory, his theory is widely accepted.

2)      Social
            It is said that the wealth disparity in Hong Kong is the highest among all developed countries and regions. Some people have to be crowded in a space of 50 to 60 square feet, and many feel hopeless, especially among the young people, with the British taking away land profits of 500 billion pounds, and some of the professional people emigrating to Britain and Canada for fear of loss of freedom after 1997.

3)      Political
            Hong Kong was returned to China as the 99-year lease of New Territory of Hong Kong from Britain was over, and the US strongly supported China to take Hong Kong back at that time. However, everything remains the same except for a Chinese flag at Victoria Harbor. The legislative and judicial powers were left to the pro-British elite, with no representatives from labor and the general public. Therefore, the judicial power is not in the hands of China, and foreign forces cannot be restrained. Though the violent protest becomes illegal, China can hardly do anything with it. Many of those protestors are university students and white-collar workers influenced and possibly manipulated by foreign forces. Also, Hong Kong is not like Singapore in that the government does not possess land. In Singapore, all the land belongs to the government, and the government has both authority and economic power. Universal suffrage was addressed earlier, and it is believed that it will be more beneficial to the British who already have a stake in Hong Kong. It is said by some scholars that the losses incurred after the Soviet Union was disintegrated were even higher than those incurred in World War II, there were many economic losses in Russia in addition to the drop in population (by half), decrease in land (5 million square kilometers) and the drop in life expectancy[xiv].

4)      International
            Before the British returned Hong Kong's sovereignty to China in 1997, 50,000 Hong Kong people, mainly white-collar professionals and civil servants, were awarded British passports. To appease the people, other Hong Kong people can apply for the status of a British national (overseas). A person with this status does not require a visa to enter the UK, but does not have a right of abode. About 400,000 people in Hong Kong currently hold British National (Overseas) passports, some of whom require the UK to allow them to stay. Members of the Campaign for the Right of Homeland said that Hong Kong people have been ruled by the British for 156 years and are still discriminated against, giving them a feeling of betrayal[xv].

Many Hong Kong people hold multiple citizenships (especially Canadian passports, HKSAR passports, British National (Overseas) passports). Since 1997, some Hong Kong Canadians have returned to Hong Kong and continue to live in Hong Kong. In 2014, Hong Kong was the city with the most Canadian citizens in Asia. A total of about 300,000 people from different ethnic backgrounds are Canadian nationals[xvi].

The support behind the protest is interesting. Protestors routinely carry US flags and photos of Donald Trump, and the protest at the airport is said to be “deeply tactical” – masked using umbrellas, banners, signs, gasoline bombs, flaming bricks, arson and steel bars. CIA-backed NED funds bankroll the demonstrators in millions to promote a hostile and suspicious attitude toward China and communism (note the author believes that China is carrying out national capitalism, not communism)[xvii]. The reason for doing this may be to create chaos so that the American financial gurus can take advantage and to suppress China so that it won’t be a threat to it. That is why half of the 800 US overseas military bases surround China, and that is why the support of the protest is done hand-in-hand with international efforts to ban Huawei 5G technology, cancellation of a joint study of cancer and the arrest of Chinese corporate officers. Actually the author would applaud for Huawei 5G in Canada because it is good to have someone who can compete with Apple, because no back doors are found in Huawei cell phones by British intelligence personnel (if found, Trump would gush over it every day), and because when using  Huawei your consent is asked for regarding privacy while when using Iphones no consent is needed as they can dig into your device anyhow and even find you if you have turned off your cell phone.

(Protests in Hong Kong routinely carry the US flag and photos of Donald Trump, see Note xvii)

The case with Britain is another story. During the 156 years of colonial rule in Hong Kong, there is no elected government (note that the governor is appointed and he is not restrained by anyone in Hong Kong but the Queen of England), no right to minimum wages, no freedom of speech or the press (not even on the books in colonial Hong Kong)[xviii]. Before the British retreat, the ruling class have tampered with Hong Kong through the following: gave away British passports to some of the elite (about 50,000 high-ranking officials and wealthy businessmen, who can become British citizens just by using a password) and BN(O) to a larger group of people; established HKCTU to counter and undercut the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions founded in 1948, which is still the largest trade union organization with 410,000 members; started the political reform and set up a partially elected government; set up the Special Branch under British intelligence to train Hong Kong officials; changed the Hong Kong Societies Ordinance and Hong Kong Public Relations Order Ordinance to make it easier for protest and gathering after the handover[xix]. The controversy in Britain’s late democracy may be due to easiness in governance and mainland China’s reluctance in fear of its independence.

According to the right-winged Heritage Foundation, Hong Kong is now the freest society in the world, with its openness to global commerce and vibrant entrepreneurial climate, low taxes, light regulations and the strongest property rights. Yet the young people would like to have more democracy, and the US Congress is proposing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

III.               Possible Outcome
1.       Gradual Decolonization
Hong Kong has been a British colony for 156 years, and the rule of Hong Kong was for the benefit of Britain. The process to become decolonized takes another 100 years in which there may be three steps: national liberation, economic reform and political modernization.

2.       A Strong Leader Like Sir Murray MacLehose
Sir Crawford Murray MacLehose was once Governor for Hong Kong from 1971 to 1982. He was the longest-serving governor of the colony, with four successive terms in office. He handled successfully the 1967 anti-government Leftist Riot in which 51 people died and 802 people got wounded by dispersing the mob and arresting 1936 people[xx]. He started the independence investigation, set up the Independent Commission against Corruption, initiated the 10-year Housing Construction Plan, promoted the Resident Affordable Housing Program and started the 9-year free education for children. He contributed the take-off of Hong Kong as one of the Four Little Dragons by developing industries like electronics, finance and banking and commerce. He was also the Hong Kong governor to visit Beijing after 1949, and was regarded at the time the best governor of Hong Kong[xxi]. However, Beijing would not like to see a British man back, and Hong Kong is now more divided.

3.       Other Outcome
It is said that Hong Kong is like a long-lost child, but he got sarcomata on his body when he came back to the family. However, the child does know how much his parents care for him, and he still missed the time he was with the drug dealer. The glorious past can no longer be prided on, and Hong Kong is now at it critical moment. A universal suffrage won’t solve the problem, as shown in many other countries and regions. Since Hong Kong is now part of China, the more it is integrated to mainland China, the better it will be. Even for Western countries like Canada, which would you prefer, a river with live flowing water, or a deep pool of dead water?

People may ask what the future of Hong Kong is, and some argue Hong Kong may not want to be an industrial power-house again. To have a better life, Hong Kong and mainland China need to use wit to discard all the differences and find ways to cooperate, not only with each other but also with other countries and regions. Technology and finance could be some of the focal areas to develop, yet Hong Kong needs to have a good climate for capital and expertise to stay. The “one-country, two systems” is a great concept, and it takes courage and wit to implement it, both to keep Hong Kong as a tax-free democratic trade and financial centre and to promote the growth of China and other parts of Asia.

IV.               Principles to Be Borne in Mind
Every experienced adult knows well how to manage a family, and every experienced businessman knows how to manage a company. Well, what would you do when some employees boycott to the company’s policy? What would the municipal government do when some citizens hold violent demonstrations in a city? Just recently Atlanta police arrested about 200 people, and in the 1967 Hong Kong Leftist Riot, thousands of people got arrested.

No democracy or freedom makes sense where there is no order, and the rule of law should be the most important. A region gets established only if a country gets established. Hong Kong would lose its dynamics with no support from mainland China. When interests are competing the majority should be taken care of. However, the majority of Hong Kong people are those that still struggle with sufficient housing and a decent living style. Those protestors cannot represent the majority. Also, in management leadership and team work are stressed. In local governance, wise governance and coordination should be emphasized.

V.                 Comparison of Measures
1.       Use of Military Force
This option is ruled out as Hong Kong is labeled as a “one country, two system” region with a high level of autonomy, and Beijing will be condemned and segregated as it had been in the June 4 Event.

2.       Peaceful Negotiation
This was what was done by the present French government, and the result was not effective. Information time makes it hard for fraud, but hard as well for screening and clarification of information. Unless everyone has a heart to appreciate, to listen and to show compassion and sympathy, the world will be far from perfect.

3.       Other Measures
Though universal suffrage is a good idea, it can be done in steps. Though people have the freedom of speech and gathering, it does not mean that passengers and reporters can be hurt, and properties can be damaged. People committing violence and arson should be arrested and charged, the organizers and sponsors of those illegal gatherings should also be imprisoned. Those burning the national flags and damaging the national anthems should be also charged, as there should be zero tolerance to violence and damage to the state image. As the extradition bill may jeopardy Hong Kong’s autonomy, the bill should be dropped permanently. However, when there are some suspects which need to be delivered, they may go through a hearing of a third party which comprises of some mainland Chinese, some Hong Kong people and mostly of people from third countries or regions like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan with a irregularly rotating panel. In this way, criminals can still be charged and punished, and meanwhile democracy is not encroached.

VI.               Conclusion
The situation of Hong Kong is complicated and hard to deal with. It is observed in inland China that the students fight for nothing as what public facilities they damage will only have effects on themselves, and the deeper the riot goes, the more instability will be caused. Yet Hong Kong is already part of China. No matter what happens there, this is a domestic and internal issue. The riot cannot be misused to complicate the relationships between Hong Kong and mainland China, between the central government and the Hong Kong government, and between Hong Kong and foreign countries. Hong Kong has already missed a golden opportunity to upgrade its industries, and it should not lose other opportunities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The people of Hong Kong should be clearly aware of this.




[i] Qiyuan Lu: the Hong Kong Nirvana (in Chinese), the Hundred Mile Lotus Pond, August 16, 2019.
[ii] Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly, BC Local News, August 18, 2019, please view the whole article by clicking the following link:
[iii] Connor O’Donovan: Group voices solidarity with Hong Kong protesters at Regina City Hall, Global News, August 17, 2019, please view the whole article by clicking the following link:
[iv] Lien Yeung: Pro-China demonstrator wants Vancouverites to see other side of Hong Kong protests, CBC News, August 22, 2019, please view the whole article by clicking the following link:
[v] Tom Blackwell: Ex-MPP Leads Rally for Beijing, Calgary Herald, August 21, 2019,
[vi] Tom Blackwell: Liberal party membership forms distributed at pro-Beijing rally against Hong Kong protests, National Post, August 22, 2019, please view the whole article by clicking the link:
[vii] Hong Kong Media: Protest Female Student Cried Regretting Joining in After Receiving the Money (in Chinese), August 14, 2019,
[viii] Strongly Condemn Violence and Wish for Hong Kong back to Normal (in Chinese), Hong Kong Economic Journal, August 21, 2019.
[ix] Timothy Tso: Legal Service Division Report on Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, Legislative Council of Hong Kong;
Fears over Hong Kong-China Extradition Plans, BBC, April 8, 2019, also view it online by clicking:
[x] Amy Qin: Hong Kong Protesters Are Fueled by a Broader Demand: More Democracy, New York Times, July 8, 2019, please view the whole article by clicking the link:
[xi] Sarah Bagley: Larry Lessig Compares America's Democracy to Hong Kong's, Time, Sept 27, 2014,; Larry Lessig: Our Democracy No Longer Represents the People, and Here's How We Fix It, Oct 20, 2015, please also view the video by clicking
[xii] IMF Research Dept: World Economic Outlook, October 2014: Legacies, Clouds, Uncertainties ..., Page 37.
[xiii] Hongbin Song: the Final War in Hong Kong (in Chinese), 11 August 2019, please also read the article by clicking:
[xiv] Mingsu: Where is Russia Heading for, Getting Stronger or Falling apart? (In Chinese) 14 October 2018,
[xv] Some Hong Kong people ask Britain for residency (in Chinese), Jan 21, 2015, please read the article by clicking:
[xvi] Nicholas Keung: Hong Kong: Asia's most Canadian city, the Toronto Star, February 24, 2011.
[xvii] Sara Flounders: Follow the money behind Hong Kong protests, Workers World, 16 Aug 2019,
[xviii] Sara Flounders: Follow the money behind Hong Kong protests, Workers World, 16 Aug 2019,
[xix] Little Dragon Fish: How Many Mines Did the British Bury in 1997? (in Chinese) 26 June 2019, DW News,
[xx] The 1967 Hong Kong Leftist Riot (in Chinese), accessed on 21 Aug 2019, also read the article by clicking
[xxi] Sir Crawford Murray MacLehose (in Chinese), accessed on 24 Aug 2019, please also read the introduction by clicking:

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