Thu, Sep 05, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Manifest destiny and Xi’s HK policy

By Vishal Ranjan

Who could forget the explicit support of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) when she wrote on Twitter: “We stand with all freedom-loving people of #hongkong.”

Perhaps the most benign of the three semi-autonomous regions as a political challenge to Xi, Macau has too, in recent years, displayed streaks of self-assertion.

As the Chinese economy stumbles with direct implications for the casino economy in the territory — given that the mainland is a source of a substantial chunk of tourists — the PRC would no longer be able to exercise the same level of leverage with the territory as before.

The widely reported scenes of protesters, albeit small and sporadic, lining up on Xi’s visit to Macau on the 15th anniversary of the handover in December 2014 might not be a fleeting phenomenon and might only get more frequent. The rise of pro-democracy parties such as New Hope, although politically inconsequential at present, is a definite start.

Bad business for Hong Kong is bad business for mainland China. Is there not a debilitating contradiction between “the world’s freest economy” remaining a separate customs territory and its judicial autonomy being insidiously encroached upon by the mainland?

The US, the second-largest trading partner of Hong Kong, has expressed strong reservations over mainland China’s creeping stranglehold on the territory’s independent judicial system, even cautioning that preferential treatment as a separate customs territory might get taken away with concomitant ramifications on flow of sensitive technology and investment into the territory.

This could cast a spillover effect on the mega Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area project in southern China, a specter that could eventually consume the entire Chinese economy, already floundering in recent years.

Xi would do well to remember that what would not be good for the Hong Kong goose would not be good for the Chinese gander. In essence, any rash and strong-arm decision by the communist regime under Xi could jeopardize China’s manifest destiny enterprise for life.

Importantly, it could recoil on the all-important Chinese leader himself. In a year of a number of anniversaries — the centenary of the May Fourth Movement, the 70th year of the founding of the PRC and the 30th year of Tiananmen — let not this year go down as another tumultuous chapter in Chinese history.

Remember, Hong Kongers are only asking for regular democratic and legal rights, and not freedom altogether. The day that happens, the Chinese leader will only have himself to blame.

Vishal Ranjan is a researcher affiliated with Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

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