"This city is normally associated with money making, not radical politics. But activism has been stirring, creating unease in Beijing and among local oligarch business interests. However puny Hong Kong’s voices of dissent may seem, they are a reminder of the catalytic role the territory has played in politics in the past — as a source of new ideas for China and refuge for dissenters like Sun Yat-sen, Ho Chi Minh and Emilio Aguinaldo of the Philippines."
This week, "five members of two pro-democracy political parties are due to resign from the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s lawmaking body. Their objective is to spark a special election that they want to use as a referendum on universal suffrage for the next elections in 2012. At present, Hong Kong is on track for democratic reforms at a snail’s pace. The local administration, pressured by Beijing, which associates democratic development with dissent, remains reluctant to submit to greater public accountability. All democrats, whether or not they support the move by legislators planning to resign, want more directly elected seats to the Legislature in 2012 and a timetable for the full democratic election of the legislature and chief executive."
In recent years, Hong Kong has been seen as rather compliant with Beijing's demands. Yet Bowring notes several strains of dissent that have been growing, in addition to the continuing calls for greater self-rule from the democratic parties:
- People on the bottom end of a growing income gap, who are getting the impression that "government is simply an accomplice of big business"
- Middle class people, who want stability, but want the government to be more responsive to their needs.
- Students, who care about things like human rights and the environment, which are often subsumed to the interests of powerful polluters
As Bowring points out, "the rise in anti-government and anti-Beijing sentiment may seem surprising given the recent improvement in Hong Kong’s economy and its increasing dependence on the mainland’s surging economic growth. Patriotism and pride in Chinese achievements have also been on the rise. [And I can tell you, some Hong Kongers are very pro-China.] Yet here's the crux of it:
"But Hong Kong has always separated its Chinese identity from Communist Party rule. Beijing’s unholy alliance with local vested interests offsets much of its patriotic appeal. Recent mainland crackdowns on dissent and the Internet have added to Hong Kong’s fears."
Indeed "Beijing’s recent moves may have strengthened Hong Kong’s role as a refuge for future Sun Yat-sens." So thus, Bowring notes, it may turn out that the resignation of members of democratic parties on the Legislative Council won't work. "But as an assertion of commitment to values other than money-making, they will make an impression not just on Hong Kong but on China, where the intertwining of political power and money-making is germinating a new radicalism."
I hope Hong Kong will stand up for values. Show the world there is something more than money! It goes far beyond making waves in the West -- you must demonstrate this idea to the Sinic world. Google can do it. So can you.