Sunday, 2 November 2014

How Beijing Can Reoccupy Hong Kong

To most people, it has been painfully obvious from the onset that the ostensible objectives of Occupy Central don’t stand any chance. After more than a month of chaos, it’s perhaps time for Beijing to make a move, and use the opportunity to start Hong Kong’s reunification, belatedly, 17 years after its official return. 

In 1997, when the Western Press unanimously proclaimed the death of Hong Kong, it was economically about 1/5 of gigantic motherland. It turned out the celebration of HK’s death had been premature. China has not taken a penny from its rich son, but instead helped it survive SARS, the financial tsunami, and supplied tourists whose money is welcome, but physical presence daintily despised by HK’s second generation nouveau riche. 

Nor has Beijing interfered with HK’s affairs. China’s been busy, and HK’s significance rapidly diminished by the mainland’s phenomenal growth. Seventeen years on, HK only accounts for less than 3% of the country’s GDP, most of that comes from mainland related activities.

The Democracy Empire must have been surprised by Beijing’s hands-off approach. It inched out of the shadow to “re-colonise” Hong Kong, and promptly took three territories: the mass media, education, and legal theatre. It has been going on for a while. (See my Cultural Revolution Big Character Posters back in 2012). Too bad CY Leung has not been following my blog.

Finally, in 2014, triggered by geopolitics and an increasingly desperate currency tussle, HK is deemed ripe for a colour revolution. Enough brains have been washed from kindergarten, utterly impervious to facts. In the mass media, there’s only one voice left: the deafening shrieks of Democracy. The rule of law has become yet another double-speak, applicable selectively. Students, armed with umbrellas (where did they get so many yellow umbrellas?), glamourised by designed cinematography, flanked by lawyers, funded by professional colour revolutionaries, backed by impeccable logistics, including BBQ stoves and Ping Pong tables, have occupied Central in Admiralty, Mong Kok, and Causeway Bay, away from the bankers in Central.

Beijing waits patiently. Does this look likely to spread to the rest of the country? Nope. The rest of China is shocked by their supercilious HK compatriots’ lack of a purpose and intelligence. It’s a perfect negative example. Let the masses see the true colours of Democracy cultists. The rest of Hong Kong also need to learn what Democracy fanatics are like.

While it might be okay for small groups of leftover extremists to camp by the gutters perpetually, turning themselves into a tourist attraction, the situation can’t drag on forever. It’s time to contemplate what Beijing (and the rest of Hong Kong) could do from here. 

HK’s DNA is commerce. Business people like to compromise. This is a good thing when all is going well. But compromising only works when the parties are committed to find a mutually acceptable resolution. Unfortunately, in politics, when one side has gone to the extreme, the only way to restore “balance” is to put a counterweight at the other end of the spectrum. It’s a mentality that HK is alien to, hence the wishy washiness.

To find a solution — the fastest possible recovery for HK in terms of the economy, livelihood of the average person, and social atmosphere/liveability — short term sacrifices are needed. Attempting to find a solution which pleases everyone is wishful thinking. If we take decisive actions now, it might still take a decade or more before HK is back in full steam. The longer we fret, the longer the recovery will take, and higher the chance of unforeseen complications.

I believe the process of reoccupying HK will be turbulent, but not necessarily traumatic.

Beijing could impose (not propose) a National Security Act (call it Article 23 for familiarity) on HK, using its emergency power provided by the Basic Law. Everything else could be left as it is. How does this Article 23 work? Anyone charged under this national security act would still be tried in a HK court, with bail conditions set by Beijing. But appeals would have to be heard in Beijing, under PRC legal framework and representation, attended by HK DOJ. This ultimate power would hopefully be used rarely, but serve as an effective deterrent. Up until now, HK has been a global exception; dissension a la Hong Kong effectively carries zero consequence provided one waves the Democracy banner, hence the characteristic frivolousness and petulance. 

With a national security act in place, the three fallen territories can be rebalanced gradually. What’s the rush? HK will need time to recuperate anyways. 

A series of economic stimulus can be implemented in parallel. The suspended Shanghai-HK stock express can resume immediately. HK’s role in RMB internationalisation, probably the real cause of the current turmoil, can be strengthened. A lot can be done to jump start tiny HK from this stroke. There will be outcries, no doubt, especially from the West. But whatever China does, they scream anyways, so, what’s the difference? There’ll be another round of boisterous announcements of HK’s death. Let time be the judge, just as before. The stock market may crash, then give its speculative verdict three years down the road.

An alternative approach, popular among mainland commentators on the internet, is to let HK shrivel up, thereby deflating its oversized ego. This strategy is certainly fair enough, and affordable from national perspective, but I think there are at least four reasons against it: 

1. HK as a financial hub of China would be ruined, and the internationalisation of RMB delayed. To the masterminds of the protest, it’d be mission accomplished.

2. It would unfairly penalise the absolute majority of HK which is against Occupy Central. At the time of writing, an Anti-Occupy Central petition has collected more than 1.51 million signatures in just a few days, all with ID card number for verification.

3. Without the legal foundation of a national security act, it’d be extremely difficult to regain the lost territories of mass media, education, and the rule of law. HK will deteriorate, not recover, after Occupy Central.

4. Economic penalties will result in social frustrations. In the next round of OC, the agitators might actually be supported by the majority.

A generation in HK might have been wasted, not only due to this movement. Given a healthy economy and stabilised social environment, the good ones will mature and emerge, as usual. Let the rest figure life out for themselves; they’re old enough.

Hong Kong needs a decision soon, followed by reasonable, magnanimous, but firm actions. Beijing’s macro-intervention will be unavoidable from here on; might as well make it open and legal. Further dithering, praying for the delusive universal answer, would not only be futile, but detrimental to Hong Kong, and the historic experiment of ONE country, two systems.

James Tam


Anonymous said...

James, you wrote: "It would unfairly penalise the absolute majority of HK which is against Occupy Central."

Here's a link from RTHK which says the Hong Kong public disagrees with you:

Roast duck said...

HK Media has been so biased. I am appalled by the way they had covered the whole Occupy Central Movement. I am, however, deeply disappointed that the biased behavior of HK press has reached RTHK. I suspect these guys are all looking for a new career in Apple Daily?

James Tam 谭炳昌 (过渡) said...

Thanks Anonymous and Roast duck. I think one of the positive things coming out of this fiasco is that HK media's blatant bias has become glaringly obvious.

While I was "off-line" and away for a few days, the Anti-OC petition collected more than 1.8 million ID card verified signatures. We all know what that implies in statistical terms. The OC activists also understand their "popularity" in reality, hence the last minute cancellation of a "referendum".

But amazingly, a radio commentator I heard in the taxi last night claimed that "out of 8 million HKers, only 1.83 million are Anti-OC, evidence that the majority of HK is pro-OC!". That mind-boggling and self-deceiving logic is unfortunately commonplace in the mass media.