Monthly Archives: June 2017

Protests vs celebrations on the HKSAR’s 20th anniversary

A short version is posted on Washington Post’s Monkey Cage newsletter:

20 years ago, China promised Hong Kong ‘1 country, 2 systems.’ So much for promises.

See also

Why we fight for Hong Kong’s freedoms

Joshua Wong Hong Kong’s youth must fight for a free future: The real question is what happens in 2047, when ‘one country, two systems’ expires

Pomp & protests during Xi Jinping’s visit

Hong Kong handover: The protest symbols China’s scared of

Incoming leader Carrie Lam leads handover anniversary flag-raising while police remove protesters

Hong Kong protesters arrested for democracy protest ahead of Xi’s visit

Black bauhinia: Activists cover handover monument in protest of China President’s Hong Kong visit

Joshua Wong was the teenage face of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong 3 years ago. During the Chinese president’s visit, he led another pro-democracy protest.


The extended version:

When Beijing and Hong Kong officials celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover with fireworks and fanfare on July 1, 2017, many citizens will mourn the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy in street protests.

Why are there such contrasting sentiments in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)?

  1. What has happened in Hong Kong since the handover in 1997?

To understand Hong Kong’s uneasy relations with Beijing today, we should begin with the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984.

When London and Beijing announced the Sino-British Joint Declaration regarding the future of Hong Kong in 1984, they promised the “one country, two systems” model to insulate Hong Kong from mainland China with “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” under “a high degree of autonomy.”

The Joint Declaration came as a relief to deeply worried Hong Kong people, many of whom had fled from political turmoil in mainland China. The drawn-out negotiations had created bank runs and rapid depreciation of the Hong Kong dollar. To reassure Hong Kong people, Beijing put on a charm offensive to win over hearts and minds, promising that there would be “horse-racing as usual, dancing as usual” after the transfer of sovereignty. (See Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong ‘no longer has any realistic meaning’, says Chinese Foreign Ministry; China Dismissal of U.K. Treaty Renews Doubts About Its Word; We still recognise Hong Kong treaty as legally binding but Britain cannot interfere, Beijing official maintains)

The Tiananmen movement of 1989 fundamentally altered Beijing-Hong Kong relations. For Hong Kong people, the sentiment of “today’s Tiananmen, tomorrow’s Hong Kong” drove them to provide moral and material support for student demonstrations across China. For Beijing, it was a shocking realization that Hong Kong people cared about democracy beyond money and decadence.

From then on, Beijing’s policy toward Hong Kong sharply shifted from reassurance to control.

The Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, was promulgated in this tense environment in 1990. The Basic Law was supposed to implement the Joint Declaration’s liberal guarantees. Instead, it reflected Beijing’s imperative of control. The Chief Executive was to be selected by a 900-member (later expanded to 1200-member) Election Committee dominated by pro-regime representatives. The Legislative Council was to keep pro-democracy members elected from geographical constituencies in check by pro-regime members from functional constituencies. (See How China Holds Sway
Over Who Leads Hong Kong)

Most importantly, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress retained final interpretation power over the Basic Law (a power that they would use five times over the past 20 years).

  1. What happened with the Umbrella Movement of 2014?

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Umbrella Movement