Thu, Mar 06, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Tensions rise between HK, Beijing

By Fan Shih-ping 范世平

On Tuesday last week, the Chinese government informed the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region that the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting that had been scheduled to take place in Hong Kong on Sept. 10 would be held in Beijing instead.

Observers see this as a sign that Beijing is starting to wield the stick over Hong Kong.

The sudden change highlights the fact that Beijing is able to control the international space Hong Kong receives, but it also shows how worried the Chinese government is that the anti-China “Occupy Central” movement could use the conference to expand its influence.

Meanwhile, Kevin Lau (劉進圖), former chief editor of Hong Kong’s Ming Pao, who has at times been highly critical of the Chinese Communist Party, was on Wednesday last week wounded on his back and legs by unknown assailants wielding cleavers. Although the reasons for the attack are not yet known, it occurred against a background of increasing control over Hong Kong’s media by Beijing in recent years, leading people in Hong Kong to hazard guesses as to the attackers’ motive and provoking a strong backlash.

Following its return to China in 1997, Hong Kong signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with China in 2003 and started allowing mainland Chinese to visit Hong Kong as individual travelers.

However, Hong Kongers find Chinese visitors’ noisy and unruly behavior very annoying, and incidents of friction have been cropping up since 2008.

Hong Kong’s streets are teeming with Chinese tourists, who caused a milk powder shortage by buying it up in huge quantities.

Another issue that has had a negative effect on Hong Kongers’ lives is the ever-increasing number of babies born there to mainland women whose spouses are not permanent residents of Hong Kong because the children automatically gain the right of abode.

Furthermore, increasing numbers of tourists have driven prices up, while the gap between the rich and poor keeps getting wider.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) has not come up with any solutions to these problems.

Meanwhile, Beijing has been increasing its control over Hong Kong.

The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has become an underground Hong Kong government and it has penetrated many grassroots social groups.

Another controversial step came in 2012 with the introduction of patriotic national education.

Hong Kongers are worried that the freedom and rule of law that they have long enjoyed may not last much longer, while the prospect of direct elections to pick the chief executive has run up against all kinds of restrictions.

The current confrontations between China and Hong Kong have made the two sides highly distrustful of one another.

Beijing thinks that Hong Kongers do not know how to recognize and return favors, while Hong Kongers interpret anything that Beijing does negatively.

This mutual distrust is beginning to turn into mutual dislike.

In a so-called “anti-locust action” that took place on Feb. 16, some Hong Kongers appeared on the streets holding Hong Kong flags from the British colonial era and giving mainland Chinese tourists “the finger” while shouting: “Chinese locusts, go back to the mainland.”

Social contradictions between China and Hong Kong are turning into political ones, to the extent that the previously unimaginable idea of Hong Kong independence is now being openly discussed.

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