The Three Won’t Happens

Anthony Cheung – academic, moderate ex-pan-dem and former government minister – marks the 30th anniversary of Hong Kong’s Basic Law with a good three-point summary of why it isn’t working:

…a great majority of Hongkongers dislike a government they have no part in electing. This calls for revamping the system of self-administration through political reform.

… a popular pro-democracy opposition with majority voter support cannot be casually treated as an enemy of the state

…civil society is increasingly alienated from the establishment. If young people are expected to get more serious about national identity, patriotism has to be an inclusive notion, factoring in Hong Kong perspectives and values.

He doesn’t consider how a paranoid, Leninist dictatorship can adjust to accommodate a free, pluralist, separate society that it does not totally control. Instead, he portrays the ‘two sides’ (Beijing and the Hong Kong people) as somehow equivalent and potentially able to resolve their differences through ‘mutual trust’. But this misreads the power dynamics – the CCP is an imperial ruler that sees its subjects as its property to be forced into conformity and obedience, while the Hong Kong public have no constitutional standing or means of input.

The best hope, Cheung suggests, lies in Hong Kong’s usefulness to China. After some clichéd blather about the two places’ respective GDPs, he points to Hong Kong’s exceptionalism – the things that differentiate it from Shanghai or Shenzhen. The problem here is that the CCP has little use for/fears/detests Hong Kong’s rule of law and free flow of information. All it really values is Hong Kong’s open capital account, so the elites can dollarize their assets and launder their wealth.

Meanwhile, Beijing is assuming control of Hong Kong’s security and law enforcement apparatus, and has appointed veteran bureaucrat-hacks with no local knowledge to oversee the city. They appear oblivious to the problems outlined in Cheung’s three points, and indeed speak mainly in terms of tightening control and suppressing opposition.

The reality is that the CCP doesn’t do ‘hard truth acceptance’ (or see ‘1 Country 2 Systems’ as a meaningful principle). Beijing will not allow more representative government, it will treat the pro-dem majority as the enemy of the state, and it will alienate civil society and the young. Until its dying breath.

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10 Responses to The Three Won’t Happens

  1. donkeynuts says:

    It’s funny how I make the very same point that you do about the “necessity” of Hong Kong. It’s the only portal to the world of riches and exponential wealth creation… for the elite. But somehow this continues to be ignored by those who claim that Hong Kong is simply a target that Beijing wants to burn to the ground.
    I’m sort of torn, to be honest.
    On the one hand, money is very important. Access to cash flow is necessary. There has to be somewhere out in that globalist muck where a good upstanding party elite can make an honest corrupt living.
    But then the other part of me, the one that has been called a conspiracy theorist by China lovers and applauders of the CCP response to Hong Kong and the virus — believes that the party mechanism, the elite, and Xi himself cannot see beyond the self-perpetuating delusion that they must keep dragging through the ocean, as if they are propping up a dying whale shark, endlessly trying to wash water over its gills.
    The thing that is so dangerous about communism; the thing that Western powers long ago tried to keep from happening, was the incessant need that communist party followers have to keep the delusion moving. It ends up being a juggernaut that destroys even itself. In so doing, it destroys the very best parts of the world, and the protective mechanisms that are put in place to guard against its creation and spread.
    The China brand of governance is very much like a virus. Lifeless, it invades every aspect of civil society to replicate it in its own image, destroying the host, and mutating the virus.
    Until it’s out of control.
    What I fear most is that they will end up destroying Hong Kong, even though they mean to preserve it just for themselves.

  2. For a few Dollars Poor says:

    Good one donkeynuts!!!

    Hemlock: “Beijing will not allow more representative government, it will treat the pro-dem majority as the enemy of the state, and it will alienate civil society and the young. Until its dying breath.”

    And die it must … Hopefully the world is waking up to this.

  3. Mark Bradley says:

    Seriously thought provoking comment @donkeynuts. Just as good as Hemlock’s blog today.

  4. Cassowary says:

    It seems to me that the CCP must regard Hong Kong as some sort of magical cash machine that is, to their great consternation and alarm, infested with ants. They’ve tried bribing the ants, scaring the ants, spraying the ants, and banging on the cash machine with their fist and screaming, but not only do the ants keep coming back, they crawled up their leg and bit them on the bum. They could go in with a flamethrower and roast them all to death, but that would destroy the cash machine too. It drives them NUTS.

  5. Bob Barker says:

    Or, you throw just enough cash around to make western firms and governments to overlook their moral qualms and the “party” can continue.

  6. Guest says:

    The tiny virus has exposed a lot of juggernauts around the world that are rotten to the core and can take us down with them.

  7. For whom the dole swells... says:

    Well if the SCMP is right, the CCP have bigger fish to fry than Hong Kong at the moment with 205 million freshly unemployed. If they don’t get that sorted sharpish, their time is likely up — they have been somewhat on probation since 1989 but the bargain they made to stay in power back then was: you guys look the other way on the political freedoms and we’ll make you richer every year.

    A global recession, massive Local Government debt, widespread dodgy company accounting and the flight of manufacturing to Vietnam et al leading to mass unemployment, a stock crash and the loss of savings, is a bit of a deal-breaker.

    No idea how they’re going to try to fix all that (some is beyond their control, some has gone on to long to unpick without massive blowback), but I’m fairly sure the Party is doomed to fail.

    @Bob Barker
    They’ve already got that setup — they call it “Shanghai”.

  8. Stanley Lieber says:


    “…the self-perpetuating delusion that they must keep dragging through the ocean, as if they are propping up a dying whale shark, endlessly trying to wash water over its gills.”

    Nicely put.

  9. Casira says:

    @For whom the dole swells…

    Western expatriates above a certain level can’t stand living in Shanghai (apart from english teachers for obvious sexual benefits that bores them after a couple of years anyway). You find more executives ready to live in Dubai and be at the mercy of Sheikhs than Shanghai and be at the mercy of local officials.

    Shanghai is a failed experiment, even the Chinese prefer to live in Shenzhen or Hangzhou to avoid those entitled biggots.

  10. For whom the dole swells... says:


    That was basically my point: the party in full control is anathema to serious business, no matter how many IPOs, stock exchanges, special trade zones, tax cuts and so on that you throw at them.

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