Mon, Aug 19, 2019 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik, Jr On Taiwan: Hong Kong’s ‘Bauhinia Revolution’

My good friend Professor June Dreyer at the University of Miami calls it Hong Kong’s “Bauhinia Revolution,” a cognate of Taiwan’s “Sunflower Revolution” of 2014. I agree. Like the game-changing “Sunflowers” of five years ago which reversed Taiwan’s slide into China’s gravitational field, Hong Kong’s “color revolution” has game-changing potential.

No offense to the “Sunflowers,” but Hong Kong’s revolution is far more dangerous. “Sunflowers” had the protection of Taiwan’s constitution and the fortuitous indulgence of his excellency, the President of the Legislative Yuan. Hong Kong’s citizens have neither. Over the past several months, millions of Hong Kong people have taken to the streets, repeatedly, in frustration that their city is disappearing; once the “Pearl of the Orient,” Hong Kong is gradually being absorbed under full Chinese sovereignty. Hong Kong’s people, particularly its youth, cannot watch their vibrant and unique civic culture being smothered year after year by China without seeing a future of drab despair.

Worse, it is not an accidental future. When he was alive, Comrade Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) worried that once Hong Kong retroceded to China, its liberal, entrepreneurial society could undermine the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy throughout interior China. To forestall this, Deng vowed that “well water shall not pollute the river water” (井水不犯河水). A prominent Hong Kong journalist (who shall remain unnamed) reminded me in 1992, after Deng’s famous Southern Progress (南巡), of the Party’s plan to “internationalize Shenzhen, China-ize Hong Kong” (“把深圳國際化,把香港中國化”).

At the time, I was the senior American diplomat responsible for reporting on South China’s economic and political development. As I often motored between Guangzhou and Shenzhen, I reported on the gradual hardening of the “soft border” at Shenzhen’s Songgang (松崗鎮) checkpoint, one of many, where a large toll plaza and border police stations materialized and carefully screened all traffic into the “special economic zone.” Less visible was a sturdy Shenzhen border fence to keep undocumented Cantonese migrants out of the SEZ. Travel to Hong Kong, however, was increasingly easy, particularly by train. I also noted that Pekingese Mandarin was the most common dialect in Shenzhen, Cantonese was a minority tongue. Shenzhen was a “northerners” colony in proud Guangdong.

At the time, I speculated that Beijing’s long-term policy was to populate Shenzhen with thousands of reliable cadre families from northern China, to interpose a buffer zone between the wily Cantonese of Guangdong and their wealthy cousins in Hong Kong. Beijing encouraged a “soft border” at the Lowu (羅湖) and Shatoujiao (沙頭角) crossings into Hong Kong. In a few decades, no doubt, Shenzhen would be integrated with Hong Kong, thus strengthening Beijing’s hold on both Guangdong and Hong Kong.

You may ask, “Why would China not want to preserve Hong Kong’s dynamism?” My theory was that at the time of Deng’s “Southern Progress” Beijing harbored no particular love for Hong Kong beyond the vast amounts of investment coming from the city each year. In 1992, Deng Xiaoping asked why the rest of China could not be like Guangdong. Or like Hong Kong, which he viewed through a telescope from the top floor of a Shenzhen hotel at the border. Stung by this rebuke, Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) in Beijing spent the 1990s intent on establishing their native Shanghai as China’s financial center with the collateral effect of marginalizing Hong Kong and diminishing its attractiveness as a capitalist success story.

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