Yesterday, while sitting on the Star Ferry Pier, I had the dubious pleasure of listening to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s speech about Hong Kong. His words marked the end of the yearly National People’s Congress meetings, and the question of Hong Kong –with random images from the Fishball Revolution showing how bad young Hongkongers are– served as the finale to the event. According to the Chinese Premier, not only did China avoid any intervention “with the complicated problems and situations facing Hong Kong” –I guess the five missing journalists kidnapped themselves–, but “Central government policies of One Country, Two System, Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong people, and a high degree autonomy have not and will not change.” Mr. Li is quite optimistic about the future of Hong Kong, but Hongkoners should not.
That same day Starry Lee Wai-king, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, stated that “Hong Kong belongs to the whole China” and that separatism “is equal to committing suicide.” According to her, and to other pro-Beijing figures, Hong Kong independence would not only be “impossible,” but also “impractical” because “if Hong Kong had independence, where would our water come from? Where would our food come from?” But just in case you are not convinced yet, “in terms of history, culture, blood ties, and nation, we’re the same as the mainland.” All these declarations sprouted as a reaction to an article published on the latest issue of Undergrad, a student’s magazine of Hong Kong University (more on this at the end).
It doesn’t really take a genius to answer all these questions, and that’s probably why they were asked by politicians. First of all, even if we accept that Hong Kong belongs to a cultural entity called “China,” should that be the People’s Republic of China? Hong Kong was founded in 1842, while the Republic of China, now Taiwan, was established in 1912 after the Qing Empire collapsed. Later in 1949 the Chinese Communist Party took over most of the continental land of the Republic of China and created the actual People’s Republic of China (PRC). How can a territory founded in 1842 belong to a country born in 1949? If anyone has some legitimacy to reclaim a territory, that is Taiwan and no one else. The mainland territory of the People’s Republic of China belongs to Taiwan. Now, if Starry Lee or anyone else wants to discuss if Hong Kong belongs to Taiwan or not, I am sure we can have a civilized conversation.
Secondly, to assert that separatism “is equal to committing suicide” is an absolute lie, and Singapore, the second most powerful economy in the world after Hong Kong, is a good example. Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 because the latter would not recognize racial equality, and while Singapore is now one of the cleanest, safest and richest countries in the world, Malaysia ranks 29 in economic freedom. On the other hand, the PRC separated from the Republic of China in 1949, and has since enjoyed a poor economy and no freedom at all. The PRC ranks 144 in economic freedom, whereas Taiwan ranks 14. Maybe the pro-Beijing front should take their own advice and return China to Taiwan.
Next, how can independence be impractical? Water and food may come from PRC now, but it hasn’t always been like that. Before 1997, did water, food or any other goods come from Britain? No country can produce all the resources it needs, which is why humans invented trade. Hong Kong has a long history of free trade and economic development and freedom that has never had anything to do with the Chinese mainland.
Finally, there is the question of the “blood ties” and the common “history, culture” and so on. Well, given that Hong Kong was founded more than 100 years before the PRC, it is not that Hong Kong is the same as the mainland, but, in any case, the mainland would be the same as Hong Kong. Nevertheless, many countries have close ties, both in blood and culture, while remaining independent. For example, over fifty countries in Europe share a common racial, cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage. But they are independent. In the Middle East most countries enjoy a similar situation and only terrorist wish to create a united front (just like the Chinese). On the other hand, however, although Hong Kong preserves “Chinese culture” in the form of traditional Chinese characters, right-to-left writing in many places, hundreds of temples dedicated to Tin Hau or Pak Tai, and many other things, the “mainland” has no Chinese culture at all. It is a dictatorship which is based on the writings of a German guy, Karl Marx, as interpreted by two Russian tyrants, Lenin and Stalin. It is a totalitarian state where Confucius Institutes teach foreign kids to love the Chinese Communist Party and where writing in traditional Chinese characters is banned in public places.
But solutions to the “Hong Kong question” are difficult to find because the local government controlled by the PRC has too much power and the common people cannot even choose their own leaders. The aforementioned article from which all this criticism arose, “Statement of the Generation” (UPDATE: English translation here) wants to create a New Hong Kong by 2047, when the Sino-British Joint Declaration expires and Hong Kong looses all autonomy, sinking deep in the dark seas of the PRC. But, why should liberty still wait thirty more years? By 2047 there would be no Hong Kong anymore –the actual youths who fight for freedom would either have boring jobs and no time to demonstrate, or have migrated somewhere else, and the new generations, brainwashed as they will be by pro-Beijing government education, will truly believe Hong Kong has always been part of China. The future is now or never.