China has never been a place where criticism of authority is tolerated by the authorities, however, the people of one small island that has been remerged with the People’s Republic of China is not merely testing the toleration of the authorities in Beijing, but is defying authoritarianism in China directly. Hong Kong protesters are denying Beijing’s rule over the future of Hongkongers.
Imagine the exhilaration of the Hong Kong people that were demonstrating against the extradition bill when over one quarter of the population rallied together. However, those familiar with such mass political demonstrations would have known that it wasn’t over, that the totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in history to this day are not so easily moved by public opinions.
The escalation of tensions between the official authorities in Hong Kong and the protesters is devolving the peaceful display of solidarity in democratic rights into a fight. A fight in which nothing new will be gained, but a fight to maintain, to conserve a way of life that Hongkongers believe they have a right to, at least for another twenty seven years or so.
It is plausible to say as well that the authorities in Beijing are also pressuring the officials in Hong Kong to crackdown on the protesters in order to maintain their way of life. Beijing most probably considers failure to contain the mass public dissent in Hong Kong as an existential threat to their control of China in general. Furthermore, it can embolden areas such as Tibet, and Xinjiang, or even worse, Taiwan.
Thus, the clash is literally for survival, ideological survival that is. Communist China has rose on the banner of actual survival. Communism is essentially an ideology based on the elimination of the secrecy of perpetual private ownership. The idea that a particular area in China has the special allowance of freedom from the Communist party’s control is seen as extremely detrimental to the communist justification for administering a vise tight control over Chinese “autonomous” regions such as XinJiang and Tibet. The last thing Beijing wants is a solidarity uprising in Xinjiang and Tibet following suit after Hong Kong.
Beijing will most likely further push for more incrimination, incarceration, and suppression via Hongkong official’s, instead of taking the responsibility directly. However, the movement of personnel at the border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong suggests that the communist party will directly intervene if the police force of Hong Kong fails in controlling the situation. But doing so will put Beijing directly under pressure from the international community.
The Tiananmen massacre, or as the CCP would have it the “Tiananmen Incident“, will be brought up as a historical reference and justification for condemnation or even intervention by the international community. What happened in Tiananmen wasn’t just happening in Tiananmen, and that is what the CCP fear the most; widespread dissent on a national scale.
Thus, censorship, propaganda, and disinformation has been the CCP’s crucial tools in manipulating public sentiments in the mainland concerning what’s happening in Hong Kong, once the epitome of Asia’s area code envy.
The Hang Seng Index has tanked 9 percent in August, making 2019 culminate into a loss year amid sell-offs in both Hong Kong orientated stocks and those with potential negative affects from further spread of civil turmoil. Hong Kong is the only developed stock market out of the 24 tracked by Bloomberg that is now in the negative numbers this year.
Financial flights by shaken residents looking for exit strategies if all hell break loose along with the business sector fleeing devastation from having to close down have been made worse with the shutdown of Hong Kong international airport. As protesters and police taunt one another with fervent determination, an airport manager tries with little appreciation to be the moderating buffer between the opposing groups.
China has been able to keep the masses in their place, relinquishing privacy and certain rights for the trade off for economic prosperity, a piece of the Chinese Dream. But, the carrot is a used up motivational apparatus for Hong Kongers. The new generation growing up after the handover of 1997 has seen nothing but a dimmer and ever diminishing hope for a good and affordable future as wealthy mainland immigrants surges real estate prices and poor mainland immigrants scramble for whatever jobs available.
This is the chink in China’s economic armour, what happens when everyone has gone past the first two basic blocks in Maslow’s pyramid of needs. When people start to feel love and belonging to their communities, to their way of life. When people feel the esteem of being who they are as a unique set of peoples. When the collective self of Hong Kong actualizes they don’t want to be ruled by Beijing.
Hong Kong is the test that will prove Xi’s CCP as ready for a higher place in the international community, or will it prove to be a continuation of the Tiananmen Incident where the world failed to act.