24 September, 2023


Hong Kong: Is This The Future?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

This is an H.G. Well’s version: Off the beaten track but you can’t rule it out; Hong Kong: Is this the future?

The mind of the leadership in Beijing, this time, is inscrutable. Last time in 1989 there where clear indications a fortnight if not a month ahead that Deng Xio Ping was hardening his position and had reached the conclusion that unless the protest movement in Tiananmen Square was dismantled the very foundations of the People’s Republic were threatened. The movement was crushed to save China, or at least so the Communist Party reckoned. This time there is no such threat. A majority of Chinese people are furious with Hong Kong (HK) and want the Central Government to act to end the “riots”; support for the CPC among the people is overwhelming on this issue. Mainland and HK students in overseas universities are brawling with each other, HK is politicised like I have never seen before in 36 years and divided internally as I never imagined possible.

Ordinary folk, media (mostly buffoons) and academics say either the demonstrators must climb down and end mob violence, or Beijing will send in the troops. Beijing will never capitulate so the consensus in HK is that between Armageddon and defeat for Beijing, the former is certain. 

Let us speculate on a contrarian thesis. Things may not evolve in either of these two ways. Let’s image a possibility like this.

1. Beijing and HK Govt let demonstrations drag on as long HK doesn’t become ungovernable. “Let Hong Kong stew or let HK folk themselves bring things within survivable limits. Let the loony fringe rant so long as it remains a week-end side show”. How about something like this being the frame of mind of the Chinese leadership?

2. HK’s importance for China is overrated. At handover (1997) HK’s GDP was 17% of China’s, now it is a mere 3% because the Chinese economy has become huge. Neighbouring Shenzhen already surpasses HK in population, GDP, industrial output and technological sophistication. Beijing has lost faith in HK so it is pouring resources into making SZ a showcase beside which HK will dim. 

3. The size of the Shanghai stock market exceeds HK. If the government wishes it can push it to far outpace HK. It’s really silly to bet against a $15 trillion economy and a population of 1.3 billion people.

4. If (a) to (c) are correct Beijing will not send in the tanks – though this will be unpopular with the Chinese people who are angry with HK and want it brought to heel.

5. China will quell HK not with guns but with economics, water, food and electricity (70 to 80% of HK’s water and 90% of its pork, beef, vegetables and fresh-water fish come from China, 25% of HK’s electricity is from the Daya Bay plant in Guangdong Province). But of course, China will never actually cut off water, food and electricity because HK people are Chinese compatriots.

6. What can derail all this is if HK’s delinquents, desperate to draw attention to themselves, escalate violence. The more Beijing ignores them the more frantic they become to hog the limelight. Some demonstrators are now calling for the return of British colonial rule while others are asking for Trump’s intervention. A pure death wish, if I ever saw one.


Before going further, I need to say that HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam sparked off the troubles by tabling (at Beijing’s insistence or with its consent) the now infamous ‘extradition bill’ and she provoked further unrest by refusing to withdraw it but only suspending it. More seriously the Chinese government has at times infringed on HK’s autonomy, promised in the One Country Two Systems (OCTS) formula, and reneged on the election of the chief executive by universal suffrage. There is a need to calmly negotiate all these matters once the violence subsides. 

HK was a sleepy village of less than a million at the end of WW2; now it’s a bustling city that I love. Prosperity is due to: China-1, China-2, HK’s People, and the Colonial Legacy. China 1: When the revolution won in 1949 the money-pots of Shanghai and millions downtrodden by the horrors of anti-Japanese war and civil war fled to HK giving it a great demographic and financial boost. China-2: When an economic miracle fired-up in China, the biggest beneficiary was HK – entrepot, financial & banking centre, deal making hub. Even now 90% of all transactions that keep HK’s banks and financial markets buzzing are China related. The foundation of HK’s prosperity was the explosive growth of China’s economy

People: The industriousness and quickness of wit and reaction of HK people is legendary; without it, HK will be nothing. Finally, the Colonial Legacy: Traditions of jurisprudence, a law, top-class public-service and police force, and a fabled Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) have established a playing field making Hong Kong the envy of others. It is these traditions that China does not have and had better acquire if it wants to be not only a global power but also a civilised one in the modern sense.

In the long-run what will prove decisive for Hong Kong is not the military farces, if it happens, but its steady economic decline which now seems inevitable. Something that only people who have lived in China, HK or places like Singapore, or have close friends in Chinese communities will fully appreciate is the importance of trust and reliability – I will tell you a story in a minute. What has now happened is that HK has lost China’s trust; China will not protect and mollycoddle HK anymore; HK are not reliable as a compatriot anymore. Only someone familiar with the ethos will understand the importance of what I am saying. 

The little story. I was with a friend YC some years ago, when something in the papers caught his eye. He jumped up and rushed out. When later I inquired “What happened YC?” he explained he had seen that his friend, say FC was contesting some post and needed sponsors and proposers. “FC did me a favour in (19something – many years ago) and I must return the favour”. That kind of returning a favour loyalty is quiescently Confusion – maybe you’ll find guidance somewhere in the Analects!  

I can see two consequences of the loss of trust, one immediate, one further down the road. The Chinese language press is saying that Beijing has decided to “uncage the tiger”. It is no secret that Shenzhen was rearing to go and straining at the leash to be allowed to roar ahead and overtake HK “in everything”. It was said that the Central Government was holding Shenzhen back to shield Hong Kong from eclipse. Well the shield has gone; Beijing has decided to cut free the tiger let it roar and outshine Hong Kong. 

The long-term consequence is that there were hopes that the Centre would agree to extend OCTS beyond the 50 years stipulated in the Basic Law; constitutionally there is no obstacle to an extension. Now forget it! With trust destroyed Beijing will never agree to any talk of extension. If things get really bad it is possible that the Chinese parliament (NPC) will enact a constitutional amendment to reduce the 50 years to 30 or 40 years. 

If my speculations prove mistaken and if it is going to be military action (god forbid), it will be quick and decisive. One can speculate as follows: The PLA and PAP (People’s Armed Police) will take control of the airport and fly in airborne brigades, the navy will sail into Victoria Harbour and land battalions in Tsim Sha Tusi and Central to linkup with the garrisons. Helicopter bore units will secure power stations and strategic assets. The HK police will secure government offices, tunnels and transport hubs. I am sure PLA brass must be itching to showcase lightning speed capabilities and impress the world and their bosses after the Tiananmen Square debacle in 1989. Furthermore, will thousands of HK’s pro-China trade unionists and China supporters venture out to mop up? I shudder! A several-day blanket curfew will be better.

What this essay offers is a speculative hypothesis which is more desirable than the military option. It cannot emerge unless violence and rioting stops and Hong Kong becomes governable. If large-scale breakdown of law and order persists, obviously a State of Emergency will be declared and military intervention will ensue. 

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Professor David has gone into overdrive here.

    I particularly admired the penultimate paragraph where the Professor outlined the ‘military option’.

    I expect those friendly cousins in Taipei must be taking note.

    • 1

      KD: Loo forward to an analysis of South Asia’s Hong Kong – Kashmir like Palestine a colonial legacy left behind like and oozing sore to cause regional instability, which is now being played by USA to sink the rise of the Asian Continent.
      This is Asia’s Century as Emanuel Wallestine or was it Gunder Franke wrote in the book: Re-Orient
      The reason that Indian PM, Modi acted swiftly to take over Kashmir at this time is that it could well become like Hong Kong, with the Trumpland plan to de-stablize Asia and make America Great again…
      Kashmir would soon be like Hong Kong with a little clandestine help from the Special Operations Forces and Saudi.. Over

  • 1

    Rajan, a Chinese warships outside the Colombo harbour (remember the Indian cruiser outside the Colombo harbour in 1987?!), warships outside Trinco, Galle and of course at Hambantota and Chinese troops of a few battalions, just like during the JRJ/Gandhi fiasco!! BUT this will be more serious because the Yanks will not allow that. They will definitely put “boots on the ground”.

    What a sad shame!! A peaceful nation till the 1970s, then the separatists get going, leading to the Indian involvement, then the power of the LTTE increasing requiring MR to get Chinese help at premium rates along with all the connected corruption, Tamils fleeing the country, etc etc.

    Go back to 1956. SWRD comes along and introduce the infamous ‘Sinhala Only’ act which was the root cause of all this, as well as the curse of property nationalization and resulting in the chaotic economy. Were you aware that Ceylon loaned Stg 50 million to Britain in the early 1940s for the war effort!!??

    • 2

      ‘Ceylon loaned Stg 50 million to Britain in the early 1940s for the war effort’

      You mean the BRITISH Government of Ceylon loaned Stg 50m …..

      Also let us not forget that ‘Sinhala Only’ was the policy of the UNP as well as the SLFP. In fact when SWRD tried to have place for the use of Tamil, the UNP arranged a march from Colombo to Kandy to oppose it.

      • 1

        OK, so apart from Sinhala Only, what do we have to be proud of?

      • 0

        Your memory is not playing tricks! Sir John, prior to being responsible for the UNP being reduced to 6 seats in the 1956 election and “finding” the means to live “in the manner to which he was accustomed” on his farm in Kent, jumped on the “Sinhala Only” bandwagon but it was too late in the campaign and that briar-smoking, bow-tie and tweed-wearing son of the Maha Mudliyar prevailed while not missing a beat in the maintenance of his pure-bred Greyhound kennel.
        I don’t know the origins of the fiction of Sri Lankans being politically savvy but there seem to be many aberrations along the way! Of course this idiotic adherence to some Hitler-like fantasy doesn’t help!

    • 0

      Oliver Cromwell,
      Your, ‘the infamous ‘Sinhala Only’ act which was the root cause of all this’, is way off the mark. DS did it in a masterly fashion. SWRD ruined it. Subsequent to SWRD, all others – including the current one – is following the DS’s way! Subjugation of Tamils is going on merrily, but silently.

  • 0

    I think today’s youth need to think a lot more before starting political activities. It looks those youth have some problems. International Geo politics spoils every thing in the world. They talk a lot about Trump and Ammerica’s democracy. That is good publicity for Trump and his political campaign. China has told just to calm down until the Presidential elections are over after which these melodrama would disappear. Media talk different stories. Any HongKongers are screwing them up. What a pity.

  • 2

    HK population increased from 5M in 1997 when Brits left to a 7M as today with Chinese from mostly Guangdong province have populate HK.

    Among others, HK still control 70% of FDI into China including big entities like Lenovo, Tencent etc etc., listed in HK Stock Exchange and Chinese CCP is not that stupid to make a mess out of it.

    Moreover a significant number of HongKongers do have multiple passports like Canadian/Aus/UK/US and they will be migrating if the issues are not resolved soon.

    As recently explained by Steve Bannon the former strategist to Trump., if China interfere militarily in HK., it will be the end of Chinese communist party.

    HK still is the Asias capital city with the British style civil service., judiciary and safety are conserved and sill rise up again after this chaos.

  • 4

    This is another try by the British and Americans to stage a ‘colour revolution’. Though the experiment failed they will do anything to destabilise China. They never wanted to return Hong Kong to China and this tis the way they seek revenge.
    This will fail too however, and in another month or two there will be other spots for them to move on to.
    China’s 1.5 billion people are too united for them to destabilise with a few millions in the Hong Kong hell hole.

  • 0

    Colonial trails left behind.
    First tier Democrats were happy as they were. Also not interested to demand or ask the colonials to introduce Universal Franchise.
    First Tier people have retired and the 02nd tier Pan Dems have appeared along with the 03rd tier.
    Universal Franchise is the name of the game.
    01st & 2nd tier Pan Dems hob knobing Uncle swam and introducing the 03rd tier as well.

    Also Taiwan & West Europe is now open for asylum to those facing prosecution for political / social ideology after Germany opened the door to 02 umbrella movement players.
    Also, money flows and its mainly students of 11 Unis who are involved. West and/Taiwan would love to open doors to grab these Uni student.

    It now appears to have reached a point of no return unless PLA walks in to guard major installations after emmergency declared & for HK Police to clear up the protestors.
    Month of September will decide HK’s fate.
    It is sad to see the unwonton Vandalism with people mermerised by the white man and the West are in it without a reason.

    • 1


      Did you really give this subject a thought before started knocking the keyboard?
      Have you seen the dieheart pro Chinese SJ anywhere in this forum recently?

  • 0

    Hong Kong rule by British colony over may be two centuries . The Land are concern that clear-headed man or women knows which HK part of PRC . Since it liberation came on 1949 leadership of CPC was not really interest to take over HK, because it give so many access Trade, Finical and Development of China.
    While the task of reconstruction and rebuild and its challenge an before PRC were unprecedented. They that came clean mind of view by leaders of PRC.
    All theses facts take into an account by very seriously which leadership CPC of Mao Zedong.
    Well PRC path and model of development complex one and long-term ,by the way it has nor short cuts or any cross roads either NOT that believed the miracle of economic development by PRC .
    Undeniably, Hong Kong played important role of pushing Economy and it serve purposed access to basic need of sustainability of survival of nation as whole. That is why they later understood PRC need set of policy of that One Country Two system an introduce by CPC.
    Unlike Trotskism that CPC was/is not an adventurist politics, its apply more prudent Marxist dialectics which that colonial sovereignty rule by British Empire rule of authority has given to that access to control Financial Capital Market being exist years to come?
    An Other theorist are reluctant to recognized a PRC of CPC a major shifted in Globe economic power and balance as rise by China.
    USA of hegemony continuations to exercise Trade war and currency manipulation by Federal Reserved and US Treasury domination over the China in regionally and globally.
    The unrest of politics and new form anarchism of street fighters in HK fundamentally NEW political phenomenon that stage in experiment by USA .
    But that is Not democracy ,it will failure deal with PRC by USA..

  • 1

    China weekly goods countrly. Velly big economy. Amelika also velly big. Amelika puppet Gotabaya Lajapakse next Plesident. Comrade David your JVP cannot cross 15%. Amelika get Tlincomaree harbour

  • 0

    The Professor has no clue about China – that much is obvious!
    China is not a monoculture – it is made up of different ethnic groups who don’t like each other.
    Chinese “Economy” is based on made up data (which they openly admit is the case). The reality is they are drowning in a sea of debt.
    The Professor is dreaming if he thinks anything but Tiananmen Square 2 is about to happen. The brutality of Beijing is about to become apparent to the World.
    What Sri Lankans need to understand is that Chinese care only about China – you don’t want these people in your country. They are not your friends.

  • 0

    Hong Kong people are fighting our fight, China with the communist party is a mafia organization. 100% CONVICTION rate if the ccp doesnt like what you stand for. Hong Kong has a law , which is very equitable. The HK people are fighting for justice and rule of law. CCP considers all others with the chineese management system of Barbarian management.
    Allies or foes , ccp will bribe/blackmail or kill the leaders to there fold, In Sri Lanka they bribed the leaders to get the ports and other assets for pittance.The uyger leaders were asked to come for a meeting with mao, and there plane was shot down. Then china invaded east turkystan(1948-1949).
    Tibate/myanmar all are vessal states by bribe or killing the leaders. CCP time is up for its down fall. fake economics/ 840% debt over GDP, All show china is going down.
    In micro level why chineese are competitive: 1. Drugged workers 2. free or minimal transport cost for chineese export companies 3. Slave labour 4.Accounting is not heard of. what ccp says is what the stats put out. 5.RMB is not convertable, only 1% world trade accepts at present. 6.R & D Is mostly copied, no innovation as thinking for innovations not heard of in command economies.Theft of interlectual properties is norm.

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