Hong Kong protesters rally for democracy as throngs take to the streets in what is quickly becoming China’s biggest crisis since Tiananmen Square. Not since 1989 has China had to deal with this much revolution. This time it is taking place in the information age, which China itself helps to fund and build. Twenty-five years ago, China was not as open as it is now, and controlling news was a much easier task. Now it finds itself inundated by a populace of Hong Kong protesters equipped with some of the world’s most advanced communication devices running on high-speed networks who are able to do end runs around authorities faster than Communist President Xi Jinping can say Mao Tse Tung.
Like most military and law enforcement agencies, China’s runs on a chain of command. When orders are given to move into an area and disperse crowds, it is immediately communicated to fellow occupiers who can adjust accordingly. This movement and counter movement sets up a chess match that operates with the speed of an Xbox car chase. However, not every confrontation is averted. The idea of the Hong Kong protesters’ occupy movement is to clash, albeit peacefully, with the police and disrupt the flow of everyday life thus bringing attention to the issue at hand. In this case the issue is democracy.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading bastions of free enterprise. Everything is available at a snap and everything works. It is ironic therefore that it is democracy itself that must be disrupted in order to preserve itself. The main issue is that China’s central government has decided it will vet all candidates in future elections. What this means is that the citizens of Hong Kong will lose their right to choose who will represent them and in effect control the government. One country, two systems appears to be headed for the history books.
By the agreement made in 1997 China promised it would leave well enough alone until 2017, but has chosen now to break its promise. It appears that the government in Beijing is getting too uncomfortable with the freedom being enjoyed in the former British Colony and is choosing to act now. They seem to feel it better to nip the garden in the bud rather than have to deal with a full-grown forest later. And China is dealing with the Hong Kong protesters in much the same way it deals with everything, physical force.
To open up a dialogue with any of the leaders of the Hong Kong protesters’ occupy movement would be an admission that perhaps they have a point, should be heard and that maybe a compromise may be worked out. But that would be an admission that there is something wrong, and this is China as run by the Communist Party. There is nothing wrong, so what is there to talk about? But amid this monosyllabic propaganda, backed by the promise of violence, Hong Kong protesters continue to rally for democracy.
The majority of Hong Kong residents would prefer real democracy to anything the Communist Party has to offer up. The “proposals” over electoral reform put forth by Beijing sparked the current unrest. The Communist Party leaders are now worried that calls for democracy may spread to the mainland. Their attempts to censor information and keep a lid on this are naïve. The cat has already been set amongst the pidgins. Estimates of up to 80,000 of them are already on the streets and actively challenging authority. If Beijing does not have enough on its plate Taiwan is getting involved. President Ma Ying-jeou has publicly stated that Beijing needs to listen to the demands of the people.
The US has urged restraint and Britain has called for the Hong Kong protesters’ rights to be upheld. Despite all this Hong Kong’s banking business has managed to continue mostly unabated. How long that will continue is unknown. China’s National Day is October 1 and a rally of support of the occupy movement is planned in Macau. The government fears an escalation of events in Hong Kong and fears the “revolution” may spread elsewhere in the country.
The elite of China have a different view. They believe the Hong Kong protesters who rally now for Democracy will lose out in the end, that the entire situation is hopeless. One country, one system will soon be the order of the day. When the Communist Party leaders watch the reports on television they see pepper spray and tear gas blow through the air. For almost everyone else the winds of freedom are blowing. A century ago another revolution tossed the rulers of China onto the ash heap of history. This time, “give us liberty or give us death” echoes on the streets. How long before the reverberation knocks down the walls to the Forbidden City is what scares those who live behind them the most.
Opinion by Nile Ford