Recently, we’ve seen chaos in the Legislative Council. Pan-democrats tore up their ballots and stormed out following a dispute over newly-elected Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s nationality. Leung was asked to provide documents certifying he had renounced his British citizenship.
While this is an important issue for Hong Kong, we are facing a much more significant national identity crisis: that of Beijing’s influence over the city.
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the handover, so this is a perfect time for Hongkongers to reflect quietly on their future instead of getting caught up in vitriol and rhetoric. Although there is a public outcry over Beijing’s so-called interference in the SAR, it’s time to recognise that Hong Kong can continue to thrive even after 2047 – the year Beijing’s 50-year promise to maintain the city’s way of life under the “one country, two systems” principle expires.
At the core of this debate is culture and identity. While at times it may seem that the values of China and Hong Kong are poles apart, a closer look reveals that we have much in common. China is no longer the totalitarian regime that Mao Zedong (Mao Zedong) headed: it still may have a distinctly Communist government, but its open-door policy makes it not too different from the intense brand of capitalism that Hong Kong is famous for.
Also, Hong Kong’s “reintegration” with China would likely speed up its economic growth. Then we would be able to compete on a more even footing with leading mainland cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Perhaps the biggest impediment to self-determination is practicality. Although many student unions and demonstrators clamour for a “free, independent, autonomous” Hong Kong, the truth is Hong Kong has never been any of those things, regardless of whether it was under British or Chinese rule. It was British law that dictated Hongkongers’ national status. It was Britain that co-operated with China to come up with an immigration quota, and Chinese troops that helped enforce these laws. The Basic Law – which gives Hong Kong its current level of autonomy, including the ability to maintain its own currency – was signed by these two sovereign powers.
It seems apparent that Hong Kong doesn’t have the political know-how to stand on its own, and this is not helped by the relative youth of many pro-independence advocates and politicians.
The inescapable fact is that the futures of Hong Kong and China are inextricably linked – but maybe that isn’t as bad as recent flare-ups would have us believe.