Why Hongkongers find it difficult to trust Beijing

SC Yeung, Hong Kong Economic Journal
December 29, 2014

It・s not surprising that Hongkongers neither trust the communist Chinese government nor reject the increasingly popular faith among Hongkongers that Hong Kong is entitled to political independence from China, but it seems the country・s leaders refuse to admit that the problem they face is on their side, rather than on the part of the former British colony.

Why Hongkongers find it difficult to trust Beijing
Many Hongkongers still think of the Communist Party-ruled China as what their parents or grandparents were fleeing when they took refuge in the city.

The top cadres believe they need only mobilise their supporters to dilute the impact of Hong Kong・s core values of fairness and justice, so as to facilitate effective rule by Beijing.

Lau Siu-Kai, former chief of the Hong Kong government・s Central Policy Unit and a close ally of Beijing, said the country・s leaders do know the difference between ruling Macau and ruling Hong Kong, citing the historical fact that Hong Kong was a destination for people fleeing the Communist Party in past decades.

That has led to the poor implementation of :one country, two systems; in the city state as compared with Macau. Chinese President Xi Jinping・s praise of Macau・s implementation of the :one country, two systems principle; was meant for the ears of Hongkongers. He said the Chinese government has been worried about Hong Kong in recent years.

Beijing has yet to understand how to rule Hong Kong well, otherwise it wouldn・t have reached the conclusion that Hongkongers・ insistence on freedom, human rights and the rule of law could lead to Hong Kong becoming a base for subversives to overthrow Chinese government.

This misreading is now the main source of conflict between China and Hong Kong.

Xi・s praise of Macau will further erode Hongkongers・ trust in the Chinese government. It won・t be easy for Beijing to change the mindset of Hongkongers who have been living in the city state for decades after escaping from communist rule.

So, Beijing has been using its migration policy since 1997 to move Chinese to Hong Kong, with a daily limit of 150, to dilute the anti-Communist population and make pro-Beijingers the majority of Hongkongers eventually.

While this migration policy focuses on the quantity of people, Beijing is now looking for quality, as well. So, it is now doing foundation work in tertiary educational institutions in Hong Kong to mobilise pro-Beijing students to voice their stance.

One recent example is some students declaring their opposition to the dominance of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), which played a leading role in the 79-day Occupy campaign. That・s a tactic used by Beijing to divide the university students in Hong Kong, as surveys have shown a majority of youngsters oppose Beijing・s proposal for Hong Kong・s electoral system.

The sudden appearance of pro-Beijing voices in universities suggests a hidden agenda. Now, some students are complaining the HKFS took too prominent a role in the Occupy campaign and are urging their student associations to leave the umbrella student body, saying the fight by the HKFS for true democracy is not fully supported by other students.

Of course, that is only a minority among university students, but a pro-Beijing Hong Kong Tertiary Student Alliance has been active in universities to lure supporters. That could gradually break the dominance of HKFS in the student campaign. And Beijing will be happy to see the split within tertiary students, as it has been losing support from tertiary students since the June 4 massacre in 1989.

Students should think independently and critically about current affairs. The students・ Occupy movement shouldn・t be oversimplified into merely an anti-Beijing campaign, as what they were doing was trying to preserve the core values of Hong Kong.

Beijing・s incubation of a group of young loyalists from universities will fail to answer the question of why Hongkongers don't embrace Beijing・s rule as well as the question why the Hong Kong Independence Movement is growing faster than Beijing expects. And it runs the risk of further alienating the people of Hong Kong.