18 October 2017

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RETURN CHINESE STYLE

Hong Kong is an interesting indicator of the Chinese development

Author:

01.08.2017

Several teenagers in uniform looking inhospitably control the city. But these are not the Red Guards (students and schoolchildren) from the times of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, who were destroying the "enemies of the people" according to the instructions of their leader Mao Zedong without a shadow of a doubt, despising traditions and human rights. These are their followers, the youth of Hong Kong, who fulfill the covenants of their idols in 2025.

The film is a warning about what can happen if nothing changes. It radiates anxiety and confusion for the future of many residents of the seemingly prosperous, smart and majestic city of Hong Kong.

The film received the first prize at one of the most prestigious Asian film festivals, while in the mainland China, it is called an "ideological virus" and banned for display.

 

The way home

From the end of the 18th century, Great Britain used the island of Hong Kong located on the southern coast of China, as a trans-shipment base for the import of opium and export of silver in huge quantities. When the Chinese authorities destroyed the warehouses with drug and expelled the British merchants, London declared war (1840-1842) and, after its termination, occupied Hong Kong as the winner of the war. After the Second Opium War (1860), the Kowloon Peninsula and the island of Hong Kong were transferred to the eternal possession of Great Britain.

In 1898, the continental territories and islands surrounding it have also retreated to Britain, but were rented for 99 years.

In the late 1970s, Deng Xiaoping, correcting the excesses of the Mao rule, allowed the creation of "individual courtyard enterprises" and moved on to the establishment of Free Economic Regions (FER), where foreign investors were granted customs and tax benefits, as well as other broad rights and powers. Particular emphasis was placed on the territories close to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, which were always the number one priority for Beijing.

The experience of special economic zones was subsequently transformed into the concept of "one country, two systems", which enabled the integration of Hong Kong and Macau.

There were no problems with Macau (the colony of Portugal since 1557). Lisbon itself offered to return it. The population of Macau is traditionally pro-Chinese. In February 1979, Portugal and the PRC established diplomatic relations, and 20 years later, the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) was formed as part of China.

But with the English, the discussions was tense. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resisted believing that Hong Kong was "a unique example of successful Anglo-Chinese cooperation." Deng Xiaoping, in turn, negotiated in a tough way, realizing that on his side the main trump card - without agricultural lands, the lease term of which ended in 1997, Hong Kong could not exist.

It is said that one day, after yet another heavy negotiations, coming out clearly in frustrated feelings from the building of the National People's Congress, Thatcher unexpectedly slipped and fell to her knees. Journalists spicy plot commented as follows: "Apparently, Thatcher lost the negotiations with a crushing score."

As a result, in 1984, the Joint Sino-British Declaration was signed, according to which on July 1, 1997, the sovereignty of the PRC over Hong Kong was restored. As was the case of Macau, the rights of a special administrative region (SAR) was declared for a period of 50 years. Both these regions have their own executive, legislative and judicial systems, as well as conduct independent immigration and tax policies, have the right to participate in international organizations. Beijing is in charge of defense and foreign policy issues. Passport control operates on the border between mainland China and Hong Kong and Macau.

Deng Xiaoping promised to Taiwan to even retain its army, but the latter is still very wary of Beijing’s proposals.

 

It’s easy to do business here

This year, the Heritage Foundation and the Swiss business school IMD once again called Hong Kong the most competitive economy in the world, based on parameters such as ownership, lack of corruption, labor and capital mobility.

According to the World Bank, Hong Kong now ranks 4th in the world rating of countries for doing business and 5th in the ranking of tax systems.

Hong Kong Stock Exchange, with a capitalization of $2.96 trillion, is one of the largest trading platforms, ranking second in Asia (after Tokyo) and sixth in the world.

Hong Kong has successfully served as an international investment center and an intermediary in the economic relations of the whole world with China.

Prior to 1997, the economy of the British colony was dominated by local and global giants, such as Morgan Stanley, HSBC Holdings Plc and Merrill Lynch. Mainland China attracted capital from Hong Kong for the development of its economy. According to Bloomberg, nine of the top 10 companies are Chinese. They are increasingly dominating the economy. At the same time, Hong Kong's share in the Chinese economy fell from 18% in 1997 to 3% in 2016.

Economic influence is converted into political. When the head of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, bought the oldest English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, South China Morning Post, he admitted that the newspaper would view events more from a Chinese perspective than from the West.

 

Homeland of Box Houses

Behind the exterior façade of luxury and success, hide many problems. The main one is the inconsistency of the political system. On the one hand, there is a pluralism of opinions, a multi-party system, trade unions and other attributes of Western democracy. But on the other hand, Beijing's tight control is in everything, mainly in management mechanisms.

In forming the Constitution of Hong Kong during its transfer from the UK, China provided for a system for electing the head of Hong Kong from candidates previously approved by Beijing. And the election is not universal, but by the electoral college, most of which (only 1,200 people) are also loyal to Beijing. The quota attached to the supporters of the central government is also in the legislative bodies of the city.

The struggle for political power in Hong Kong between pro-Beijing forces and the democratic opposition weakened the government's ability to complete important social and construction projects. Many problems remain unresolved such as the construction of affordable housing, elimination of shortcomings in the education system, improvement of infrastructure.

Sometimes the situation looks ridiculous. In their desire to resist almost all the proposals of the pro-Beijing members of parliament, the democrats do not miss such seemingly simple and necessary bills as a plan for clearing the bay, etc.

The rapidly growing population of Hong Kong needs social housing. Hong Kong has enough land, but the constant conflicts between the executive and legislative authorities and civil activists slow this process down. As a result, Hong Kong has become one of the most expensive places in the world for living. More than 200 thousand people huddle in the already notorious so-called box houses measuring 180 by 60 centimeters. Last month, a kind of record was set - a place in the underground parking in the city center cost the buyer $664 US.

Twenty percent of the inhabitants of the megalopolis live below the poverty line. The number of unemployed is growing, especially among the indigenous population. Since the Hong Kong economy is becoming increasingly connected with mainland China, companies are more willing to hire Chinese emigrants. The local population mostly owns the Cantonese dialect of the Chinese language, while the state language of China is Putonghua.

 

Revolution of umbrellas

Demonstrations of protest in Hong Kong is a common phenomenon, but there were two serious political crises. In 2003, half a million people came to the streets of the city at the call of the opposition. Beijing planned to expand the powers of law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, promoting a bill aimed at suppressing anti-state and subversive activities, as well as separatism. As a result, this bill was canceled.

The events of 2014-2015 were named "The Revolution of Umbrellas", as the youth, who made up the bulk of the protesters, used umbrellas to protect themselves from pepper spray and tear gas used by the police to disperse the demonstrators.

Since the principle of electing the head of Hong Kong through the electors' vote was constantly criticized and was the cause of constant protests from the public, Beijing proposed to reform the electoral system in 2017. Voting will be universal, but of three candidates, preliminarily approved by the Election Committee, controlled, of course, by the central authorities.

Democrats demanded free elections without any restrictions, and Beijing's refusal triggered massive unrest that continued intermittently for almost a year.

This year there were also many thousands of demonstrations against attempts to deprive the legislative assembly of four opposition members. During the ceremony of oath, they raised placards with the inscription "Hong Kong is not China".

The new head of the administration, Lin Zheng Yue, the first woman in the history of Hong Kong, began her duties in the days of the celebration of the 20th anniversary, the first of July. Literally the next day, she announced that she intended to end confrontation with the democratic forces of the city and invited them to cooperate. Beijing did not react to this statement. Apparently, it preferred to wait and see the attitude.

 

Anniversary with a warning

More than three thousand servicemen of the Chinese National Liberation Army marched on the main avenues of Hong Kong on the day of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the return to China, helicopters, mobile rocket launchers, tanks and armored personnel carriers were involved. President Xi Jinping of China, who spoke of the futility of attempts to use Hong Kong as a platform for inspiring anti-Chinese activities and undermining national sovereignty, greeted the marchers from the tribune.

Polarization in Hong Kong society is increasing. Beijing is particularly concerned about the radical sentiments growing among the younger generation. In June, the University of Hong Kong conducted a survey and found that 94% of residents aged 18-29 consider themselves Hong Kongers, not Chinese.

Therefore, the Chinese leader warned that excessive politicization of society harms the economic development of the city and stressed the need to improve the system of moral and national education in Hong Kong.

According to the Sinologist of the Moscow Carnegie Center Alexander Gabuev, Hong Kong is an interesting indicator of Chinese development - towards the expansion of civil society without the abolition of a one-party system, or the curtailment of space for civil speech and the more severe control of the party over society.



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