By Kumar David –
On Sunday 31 May I wrote that over 6 months of rioting and lawlessness in Hong Kong made it inevitable that China would enact tough legislation. Even readers opposed to the Chinese CP who side with HK’s demonstrators (agitators, militants, whatever you call them) have to concede that the gloves are off and it’s a fight to the finish. Militants are determined to fight to the end, the Beijing determined to end it. Radicals are geared to bring HK to a standstill in an open-ended hartal, Central and HK governments will not tolerate any more civil disorder. Lately protesters launched out on the “independence for Hong Kong” road, an invitation to a civil war. To use a rough analogy, it is like LTTE vs SL Govt; whichever side you support the end has to be victory for one side or the other.
In using the LTTE-SLG analogy, I am not saying anything about terrorism or human right’s violations. Even if both sides had fought clean it would have end in victory for one side. Neither would or could give in on secession (Eelam). When HK’s rioters made nonstop hartal, that is fierce confrontation their strategy, laws curbing “secession, subversion, terrorism, foreign interference and behaviour that threatens national security” was the inevitable response. You may have your allegiances to one side or the other, no matter, but Newton’s Third Law on action and reaction is as predictable as night follows day.
However, scratch below the surface and you see a starker reality. The volcano is not Pan-Dems and insurgents versus the Chinese Communist Party. The elephant in the room is 1.3 billion people. There is zero sympathy in China for the Pan-Dems or the protesters; to a man the 1.3 billion are opposed to the “trouble makers”. I visit Chinese universities and have friends close enough who won’t tow the party line in personal conversation. Not one has a good word for the hartal. “These fellows are mad or foreign inspired; they have had it too good for too long; they are being treated too leniently”.
This has frightening practical implications. Tibet and Xinjiang have had inward population movements with state encouragement. About 7% of the population of Tibet and 40% in Xinjiang’s are Han Chinese – the biggest Chinese ethnic group. These percentages are proxy for the willingness of large numbers to move to other parts of China if the opportunities are good. HK is an attractive destination but Mainland migrants are strictly controlled to 36,500 a year. If the flood-gates open it will transform HK’s demographics. If rioting restarts the obvious option is to encourage loyal Chinese citizens to settle in HK. There will be a political transformation especially if Party loyalists are given preference. The membership of the CCP is 75 million, the population of HK 7 million. The cards are stacked against HK if it is so foolish as the take on the 1.3 billion across the border. It is easy for China as it will require administrative adjustments not legislation, but demographically and sociologically so extreme that it will only be a last option.
Chinese nationalism is on the boil; it is not being stoked by the government. In circumstances such as now it is ‘normal’, though the animosity is less fierce the Sinhala-Tamil-Muslim race hate, Sri Lanka’s staple for three generations. Why are HK people anti-Mainland? First, they are anti-communist (parents or grandparents fled during war and feminine in the 30s and 40s, or the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s). Second, HK people think they are superior to Mainlanders since on average they are richer and till recently better educated (not so now; China is intellectually-scientifically and culturally ahead of HK). Third, they have fashionable Western mores and greater familiarity with English. Petty things count in the recesses and dark corners of the human mind.
The last point is US threats to revoke HK’s status. Will the city become an economic war-front between Beijing and Washington? HK enjoys financial and trade privileges with the US which have benefited China too since its goods tranship HK. Mainland IPOs financial deals are processed in HK banks. But Washington knows Beijing will not back down so it will do something to save face with its allies, but no more. HK’s Pan-Democrats have made their bed of thorns and have no option but to lie on it, alone and without their American pants. Trump is too busy saving his own skin from activists of the type he so wantonly encouraged in Hong Kong.