Monday, August 12, 2019

Civil Unrest in Hong Kong - How will it all end?

[News articles from 4 Aug 2019 onwards on the HK protests.

What started as a protest against a law, has escalated/deteriorated in anti-government protests and demonstrations for democracy. It has been more than 2 months now, and protests/demonstrations or "riots" if you prefer, have increased. What used to be weekend protests have extended to weekdays and strikes and disruption to business and work. 

And, China has now referred to the protestors as "violent separatists". So... they are now trying to separate from China? Hmmm...

How will it end?

Not well.]

Hong Kong braces for largest citywide strike in decades on Monday

Hongkongers have long put work as a priority. But now some people are defying that and supporting the five demands of the anti-extradition movement, including a full withdrawal of the now-abandoned bill and an independent investigation into police’s use of force on the demonstrators.

South China Morning Post

04 August, 2019

HONG KONG — Hong Kong is bracing for the largest citywide strike in decades on Monday (Aug 5), after about 14,000 people from 20 sectors vowed to join the industrial action against the now-abandoned extradition bill, first called for by staff unions of transport operators and social workers.

But business leaders have warned the employees of a government and an economic backlash.

Protesters were set to launch the strike in eight districts — Admiralty, Mong Kok, Sha Tin, Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun and around the theme park Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

Police said on Saturday they had received applications for rallies from six districts and issued no-objection letters for Admiralty, Wong Tai Sin and Tuen Mun.

Hongkongers have long put work as a priority. But now some people are defying that and supporting the five demands of the anti-extradition movement, including a full withdrawal of the now-abandoned bill and an independent investigation into police’s use of force on the demonstrators.

On Saturday, nine people, many of them wearing masks, said in a press conference they had gathered 14,000 locals from more than 20 sectors, and some had already applied for leave to take part in the strike.

[Er... "applied for leave to strike"? OK. I guess that's how HK does it.]

A spokesman for the strike’s organising committee who gave his name only as Chan, said they were left with no option but to go on strike as the government “did not pay heed to people’s demands”.

“Various sectors have expressed their views in most peaceful ways. But, the government did not listen to them,” he said.

“A lot of protesters were attacked with violence, and persecuted by a tyranny … When society has become like this, we need to paralyse it temporarily to force the government to face the problems.”

At the same event, a person from the insurance industry who identified himself as Poon, said he hoped employers would not punish their workers for taking part in the strike.

“Some frontline insurers specialise in clients from mainland China, who trust Hong Kong’s legal system. But the government here has repeatedly challenged our rule of law. I hope the insurers stop meeting their clients for a day and go on strike,” he said.

With workers from sectors — such as finance, civil service, education and arts and culture — expected to join the strike, the city, which always prided itself for being efficient and convenient, could see large-scale disruptions on Monday.

Earlier, labour unions from five airlines, two in the bus industry and one for the city’s railway called on their members to go on a strike and 33 social services were expected to be suspended as more than 2,000 social welfare workers showed their support to the movement.

Police said it was regrettable that some people had called for initiating an uncooperative movement – such as obstructing doors at MTR stations, besieging bus stations and staging clashes in tunnels.

“We will have close communication with MTR authorities and enter stations to help maintain order if needed,” a senior superintendent of Kowloon West Regional Headquarters Cheung Wai-wah said.

When asked whether anti-riot vehicles armed with water cannons would hit the streets, he said the vehicles had been undergoing road tests and could be deployed if they were considered fit, but only under exceptional circumstances.

“There are strict deployment guidelines. Use of the vehicles will be considered only in case of serious casualties, massive road blockages or destruction of public property,” he said.

Nearly 40 coffee shops and at least 45 other businesses, including local travel agency Morning Star Travel, would down their shutters on Monday to express their solidarity with the movement.

More than 30 programme hosts from two broadcasters — Commercial Radio and the state-run RTHK — also gave their backing.

Mr Dennis Ng Wang-pun, president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, said foreign firms had not lost confidence in Hong Kong, while adding the strike would be unlikely to change the government’s stance.

“Do you think the government will kneel down? If I was the government, I would only get tougher. If it compromises because of some radical acts, how can it govern the city?” Mr Ng said on a radio show.

Mr Law Ka-chung, chief economist and strategist at the Hong Kong branch of Bank of Communications, said the strike would not have a serious impact on the city’s economy.

“Retail may be affected as shops will be closed. But the city’s economy is all about large commercial transactions and infrastructure, which might not be directly hit,” he said.

Strikes have been rather rare in Hong Kong. One of those that made headlines was the 2013 Hong Kong dock strike, which lasted 40 days. It was said to have involved about 530 dockers who were unhappy with their employers. Another well-known industrial action was initiated by steel fixers in 2007.


Hong Kong police make fresh arrests, city braces for further protests

04 August, 2019

HONG KONG — Hong Kong police said on Sunday (Aug 4) they arrested more than 20 people after violent clashes with anti-government protesters overnight, as the Chinese-controlled territory braced for more protests and a general strike aimed to bring the city to a halt.

On Saturday police fired multiple tear gas rounds in confrontations with black-clad activists in the city's Kowloon area, the latest escalation after more than two months of protests against a proposed bill to allow people to be extradited to stand trial in mainland China.

In a statement early on Sunday police said they had arrested more than 20 people for offences including unlawful assembly and assault.

Protesters had set fires in the streets, outside a police station and in rubbish bins, and blocked the entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, cutting a major artery linking Hong Kong island and the Kowloon peninsula.

Major shops in the popular tourist and commercial area Nathan Road, normally packed on a Saturday, were shuttered including 7-11 convenience stores, jewellery chain Chow Tai Fook and watch brands Rolex and Tudor.

Large scale protests are planned for Sunday in western districts of Hong Kong, including the town of Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories, and activists have called for a mass strike on Monday across transportation networks and business districts.

What started as an angry response to the now suspended extradition bill, has expanded to demands for greater democracy and the resignation of leader Carrie Lam.

[I guess they have to have some short term victory. If Carrie Lam resigns, that will be a victory. I pyrrhic victory. A meaningless victory. A short term victory. But in the long term?]

The protests have become the most serious political crisis in Hong Kong since it returned to Chinese rule 22 years ago after being governed by Britain.

Thousands of civil servants joined in the anti-government protests on Friday for the first time since they started in June, defying a warning from authorities to remain politically neutral.

The protests mark the biggest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he took office in 2012.

Hong Kong has been allowed to retain extensive freedoms, such as an independent judiciary but many residents see the extradition bill as the latest step in a relentless march toward mainland control.

Months of demonstrations are taking a growing toll on the city's economy, as local shoppers and tourists avoid parts of one of the world's most famous shopping destinations.


[Now a flashback to an earlier article - 20 July 2019 on what lies ahead]

What lies ahead for Hong Kong, a city on edge

20 Jul 2019 

HONG KONG: She is mild-mannered and soft-spoken in person. So it would be difficult to guess that Bonnie Leung is the same lady behind the biggest protests Hong Kong has ever witnessed.

But when the government attempted to expand a bill to include extradition to China and Taiwan, the 32-year-old issued a rallying cry to the people to oppose what she believes would have “destroyed” the principle of “One country, two systems"

“Anyone in Hong Kong, including human rights activists of course, and even a lot of businessmen … could be in danger of being extradited to China,” says the vice-convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organised last month’s record-breaking protests.

“I don’t want to see Hong Kong become a place without rule of law, without freedom, without human rights … So we need to protect our home and make (it) a better place — make our home as it should be.”

What Hong Kong has become, however, is a city on edge.

Public concern that its residents would be exposed to China’s legal system, which the protestors believe is a flawed system, has not been eliminated by Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s two apologies, one in writing and the other televised.

Her declaration that the bill is “dead” has not placated protestors either. They have promised more rallies until their demands are met, which include her resignation and an official withdrawal of the bill.

Related articles:
Hong Kong's 'grey hairs' march to support youth protesters
Hong Kong's expat police becomes focus of protester rage

Although demonstrations are not unusual in Hong Kong, and there is a historical mistrust of Beijing that goes beyond the current issue, this is “the biggest political crisis since the handover” in 1997, says Legislative Council member Dennis Kwok.

So will the government cave in? What’s next for Mrs Lam and her leadership? And how can Hong Kong’s problems be resolved? The programme Insight looks at what is on the cards.


When a million people took to the streets on June 9, the South China Morning Post called it “the most unified protest march in the city in more than a decade”.

A week later, two million protestors piled the pressure on Mrs Lam’s government. So for her to suspend but not withdraw the extradition bill “has got to do with face”, reckons Mr Kwok, the lawmaker representing the legal sector.

“She doesn’t want to appear to cave in to the demands of the Hong Kong people,” he says.

[Maybe. But it also means that the bill can be revived with just 12 days of notice for the Second reading by the LegCo. Maybe she REALLY does not intend to revive the bill, but she has not "dropped the gun" only lowered it, and even if her finger is not on the trigger, that can change. Maybe it's "face". Or maybe it's not.]

Expressing a different view is Mr Bernard Charnwut Chan, the convenor of the Non-Official Members of the Executive Council. He feels that because the bill is effectively 'dead', it is no different from being retracted.

“The one reason we aren’t calling it a retraction is that, I suppose, the bill itself has some merit … There are supporters of this bill,” he says.

[And that means that they may still push ahead if they think they have an opportunity...]

The original idea, he argues, was not to harm the freedom residents enjoy, but rather to allow Hong Kong to handle — case by case — extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements with the city.

[Beijing does not require such a law to... "extradite" suspects. Google "Hong Kong Bookseller Disappearance".]

But some observers cite the reaction against the bill — including the storming, vandalism and ransacking of the Legislative Council complex — as an indication that 62-year-old Mrs Lam, a career civil servant before she assumed office in March 2017, should go.

“I don’t think, nowadays in Hong Kong, a lot of people can trust (her),” says Dr Kwok Ka-ki, the Legislative Council’s medical sector representative. “She was a very competent civil servant, but her judgement and her decision-making are terrible.

“We had three young people dying. They committed suicide because they were so … disappointed with what had happened in Hong Kong. And she didn’t say a word.”

Her approval rating has plummeted to the lowest yet for a Hong Kong chief executive, and Mr Kwok agrees that her administration is “effectively dead”. “She’s dealt a terrible blow to her credibility, to her ability to govern,” he says.

“This is purely her own misreading … of the Hong Kong people. And she has to pay the price.”

Others insist that she should fight on and stay the course. For example, former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang thinks her administration had been doing well “for a couple of years”.

“She obviously concentrated her effort, and the efforts of the government, on tackling economic and livelihood problems … and everything seemed to be going smoothly,” he says. “I can’t see anyone else who can do the job better.”

[Well, it is good to see someone still believes in her.]

Mr Chan is another who hopes that residents can “give her a chance again” following her apologies. “She still has a lot of plans in mind, especially … dealing with the daily lives of Hong Kong people,” he says.

“It’ll take time for her and her administration to prove to the people that she has the ability … But I have confidence that she can do it.”

However, whether she stays or goes — as the pro-establishment figures or pan-democrats see it — political observers agree that the ball is in Beijing’s court, not hers.

And the idea that her departure could “help improve the existing situation”, and that of the Hong Kong government, is “only a theoretical viewpoint” to government and public administration senior lecturer Ivan Choy at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“(Leung Chun-ying) was also very unpopular, but the central government let him finish his first term,” he cites. “(Tung Chee-hwa) provoked half a million people (to take) to the streets, but the central government also allowed him to stay.

“The most important point here is that Beijing would only allow you to resign when the Beijing authorities have found another suitable guy.”


The reality of a fractured Hong Kong also goes beyond a loss of trust in Mrs Lam. Its pro-democracy activists see any attempt to speed up Hong Kong’s integration into China as an interference in their internal affairs.

[But even if they "win" and stop the attempt to "speed up HK's integration into China", it is only temporary. Eventually, HK will be integrated.]

This is fuelled by their fears about the erosion of the civil liberties that set this former British colony apart from the rest of China. In terms of economic importance, however, cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen have surpassed Hong Kong.

So with Chinese cities that boast greater resources, a wealth of talent and powerful ambitions, Beijing does not rely on the special administrative region as much as it did. The importance that it places on international opinion has also diminished.

“Prior to, for example, the Olympics, I think China was a lot more careful about doing things that might sour its international reputation,” notes Mr Duncan Innes-Ker, regional director (Asia and Australasia) at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

“In more recent years, China’s been willing to kind of take the pushback from countries like the United States and the United Kingdom on Hong Kong because it feels stronger.”

With other Chinese cities growing at breakneck speed, Mr Chan is concerned that if Hongkongers “don’t start to pay attention and care about what’s happening to China, then we’d easily be made irrelevant”.

One disappointment for Beijing, however, is that the mindset of Hong Kong’s residents has not changed since the handover, despite the influx of mainland Chinese into the city.

“(The mainland Chinese) started to … adopt many of the political values that most Hong Kong people cherish,” says Professor Jean-Pierre Cabestan, who heads the Hong Kong Baptist University’s Department of Government and International Studies.

[So given a taste of "freedom" the mainland Chinese were "assimilated".]

“Now, Beijing isn’t going to admit it’s been defeated. I think Beijing will continue to intensify its migration policy … and encourage more mainland Chinese people to come here in order again to integrate Hong Kong into China.”

It would also suit President Xi Jinping’s governing style “to do something” to change things, says Mr Choy. “He’s a strongman. He can’t be patient … any more.”


But the consolidation of Hong Kong’s culture, political identity and legal values — and the use of Cantonese, versus Mandarin — over the last 20 years tells Prof Cabestan that many people will “want to protect Hong Kong the way it is”.

“Some people are going to leave, but most young people are, I think, going to stay and try to fight,” he says. “That’s my prediction.”

Among those who feel that Hong Kong is still one of Asia’s gems, whose freedom, rule of law and “one country, two systems” are at its core, is Ms Leung, who is also a district councillor.

“We’ve shown to the world that we’re prepared to sacrifice a lot … to protect all these values,” she says.

(If) we can have one man, one vote for the chief executive and for the whole of the Legislative Council … and if we can build up this system, we can be a showcase for China.

Despite such idealism, Hong Kong’s fate may have already been decided, with the “one country, two systems” formulated by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping coming to an end in 2047. So are the current acts of defiance a futile effort?

Mr Kwok thinks it is “too early to say that”. He says: “Our mini constitution, the Basic Law, doesn’t say that, by 2047, it will expire. So what will happen post-2047 is obviously a question that we need to address.”

[Seriously, there are two options - it ends or it continues. Beijing will want to end it. HKers would like it to continue. Whether is continues is up to Beijing. What conditions in 2047 would persuade Beijing to allow it to continue? What value does HK have to China  in 2047 as an SAR that would tip the scales towards an self-administered region? What is HK's unique selling proposition then?]

For now, the activists have scored a victory by getting the extradition bill shelved. But as they rally week after week, it is also becoming clearer that Beijing holds the trump card and remains instrumental to Hong Kong’s future.

Prof Cabestan’s worry is that “revenge” will come “sooner or later”. Mr Chan is hoping for compromise.

“It’s going to be very challenging to explain to the rest of the country why Hong Kong can continue to retain these special privileges after 2047 … if we don’t offer them anything new,” the latter says.

[Here is a comment:
There are several possible final episodes:
1) Global Warming/Climate Change and HK goes under water. However, HK is actually quite hilly and mountainous, so, it will most likely survive quite drastic sea level rise (which SG might not). But I do not know how much of developed land is low-lying and how much would be safe, so this is just speculative and it most unlikely. But if it does happen, it would be around 2040 to 2100.
2) HKers who can emigrate to other lands - Australia, SG, Canada, US, UK, do so. However, there are 7 million HKers, and even pre-1997, the numbers that migrated were not that many. About a million? And of course, the main criteria is "who can migrate". Those who can would have already made arrangements. Those who are left are those less able or willing to. Of course, all the recent developments may give them fresh impetus to do so. If they were to do so or want to do so, they should do so immediately (or as soon as possible - within the next few years).
3) 2047. When the British returned HK to China in 1997, it extracted a promise from Beijing to allow HK to continue as it was with a Basic Law as its de facto constitution. This would be for 50 years. So Beijing's promise will expire in 2047. At that time, Beijing is under no obligation to extend their promise or allow HK to continue under a separate system of governance. HK as we know it today will then cease to exist after 2047... unless Beijing has some reason to extend the status of HK.
4) HK will gain independence from Beijing. KIDDING! Beijing has not let go of its aspiration to "reunite" Taiwan, which has a separate govt, it's own military, and a "defence arrangement" with the US. What does HK have? Beijing continues to hold onto Tibet despite its longer struggle for independence. And then there is Xinjiang. And how would an independent HK affect China's claim of the area in the South China Sea.
The scenarios above ranged from long term speculation - global warming and sea level rise putting an end to the whole situation (which I have checked against some projections - HK is very hilly, and sea levels have to rise 13 m or more before there is significant flooding of HK, and maybe 60 m before one might arguably say that HK has been reclaimed by the sea); 2047 when China's undertaking to allow HK to have it's own government expires, to the very unlikely (gaining independence and full democracy).

But as this blogpost asks: "What does 'winning' mean?"

That the extradition legislation is formally withdrawn? That the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam resigns? That there is 'greater democracy'? That there is an independent inquiry to police actions against the protesters? That there is amnesty for the protesters? (These are what the protesters have asked for recently.)

All these requests or "victory conditions" are short term at best. 

China did not need an extradition law to "extract" the Causeway Bay booksellers to face persecution... oops!  I mean "prosecution" in China.

Carrie Lam's replacement would be one endorsed and approved by Beijing.

How "independent" can any inquiry into police actions be? And "amnesty" or a "get out of jail free" card for the arrested protesters? Whatever the outcome of these short-term demands are, it does not change 2047.

Same for "greater democracy". The HK Free Press explained that what the demonstrators want is for the universal suffrage promised in the Basic Law to be implemented. Beijing has been slow in implementing this by requiring the Chief Executive to be approved by Beijing.

Of course, Beijing's goal is to eventually integrate HK into China's system, so why introduce processes that would only widen the differences? That would only slow the process of integration.

And is there anything in Hong Kong to be saved? 

So here's a British Economist, Martin Jacques, providing one view of Hong Kong's spectacular rise in the 80s and 90s.

It was all because of luck. Hong Kong got lucky because China started to open up in 1978. And until China joined the WTO in 2001, HK was the beneficiary of China's opening up its markets. Foreign firms trying to get a piece of the Chinese market found HK a convenient and the default base from which to venture into China. Let him explain it (watch the video).

The speaker is British Economist, Martin Jacques, author of "When China Rules the World".

So the success of Hong Kong was because of their luck in being at the right place at the right time and being Chinese while governed by the British, when China was tentatively connecting with the world through trade. And then China fully opened up and joined the World Trade Organisation.

And where did that leave HK? 
In 1997, HK's economy was 20% of the Chinese economy. In 2017, it was less than 3%. HK has become mainly a financial services hub.
If HK was still 20% of the Chinese economy, HKers would still have some leverage. At 3%, and as the city with the most billionaires, they might still have some leverage, but not as much.
HK still has the advantage of being seen as a free market and and having no import restrictions to import technology and innovation. BUT as has been shown with Huawei, all this can change on a whim.
The sad reality is, HK has no leverage with China. "Greater democracy"? In exchange for what? Peace and order in HK? Why? The only damage HK is doing is to HK itself - businesses, tourism, and commerce are affected by the upending civil unrest.

Would China intervene militarily as it has threatened? Well, few people would bet AGAINST it.

The video above leans towards the "greater democracy" faction, but it does have footage of peaceful demonstrations, and examples of the range of HK populations that have marched in support of the protests - lawyers, mothers, retirees, aviation employees, civil servants, and bankers.

So it is not just students with too much time who are the protesters. For those whom time is money, and stability is profit, they have also supported the protests.

To what end?

That is the BIG question. 

Which SG's Law Minister answered in an interview with SCMP.]

Will China allow a different system in Hong Kong? Wishful thinking, says Singapore's Shanmugam

11 Aug 2019 

SINGAPORE: Will China ever allow a different system of government in Hong Kong? That is “wishful thinking replacing reality” by some protesters, said Singapore’s Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.

In an interview with South China Morning Post and Lianhe Zaobao – the transcript of which was released on the Ministry of Law’s website on Sunday (Aug 11) – Mr Shanmugam addressed questions about his views on the situation in Hong Kong.

Solutions have to be found, both for the socio-economic and ideological issues that Hong Kong is facing, he said. To solve the problems, Hong Kong needs a supportive China, and the solutions need to work for both Hong Kong and China, he added.

[I agree. To solve the socio-economic problems, HK needs China on their side. But where would the starting point for the ideological divide begin? And this is conceded in the next line.]
But with the “deeply entrenched positions” of some protesters on ideological issues, there is “no easy way forward” for Hong Kong, Mr Shanmugam said.

“Hong Kong is part of China. Beijing will expect Hong Kong to adapt to the political structure that prevails in China. Adapt, not adopt," he said.

[To-may-toe, to-mah-toe. Adapt-Adopt. China would see it as "adapting". HKers would see it as forcing them to adopt (and accept) the political structures imposed by China.]
“Some of the protestors seem to think that China will allow a very different system in Hong Kong. That is wishful thinking replacing reality,” he said. “How will China's leaders look at it?

“You sing the US national anthem, you speak in Mandarin and tell the Chinese tourists to go back and take these ideas back to China. The leaders could think Hong Kong is just the start, for something that some people want to hope to start in the rest of China.”


Mr Shanmugam’s comments came amid another tense weekend in Hong Kong, with demonstrators taking to the streets in a movement that began in opposition to a Bill allowing extradition to mainland China but has become a call for greater democratic freedoms.

The weeks of increasingly violent protests have plunged the city into its biggest political crisis for decades and pose a serious challenge to Beijing, which has condemned the protests and accused foreign powers of fuelling unrest.

[And here is where Beijing has been attempting to gaslight the world. HKers are not so stupid as to burn their own home at the slightest instigation by "foreign powers". If anything, HKers are very savvy people. But say they WERE instigated by foreign powers... and China tried to play that game... And instigated some other groups in HK to counter these protesters... And all they got was gang members? To beat up random civilians in train stations? I think when the only "pawns" you can get are gangsters/triad members for your cause, you have already lost the moral high ground. Especially when what is arrayed against you are lawyers, civil servants, mothers, and bankers. 

Ok, maybe not bankers. Also not sure about lawyers.]

In his interview, Mr Shanmugam also criticised international news organisations for their “very superficial analysis” and “engaging in labelling” on the events in Hong Kong.

“All protesters are automatically, generally, democracy fighters. Police, on the other hand, are oppressive, attacking the forces of democracy, using excessive force. ‘They’re negative, they’re an evil force.’”

Some of the news coverage reflects a “skewed perspective, from a very ideological lens”, he said.

[I don't disagree that the news media is biased. But what we have learned in the last 3 years is that ALL news media have biases. So, no big reveal there.]

China has “competent, (the) best people” in its government. And over 35 years, the country has lifted 500 million to 600 million people out of poverty, Mr Shanmugam said.

[OK. Here is SG sucking up to China. So what if China has lifted 600 million people out of poverty? HK was not impoverished. Oh so, to balance off 600 million lifted out of poverty, 7 million HKers have to pay the price? Though to take Martin Jacques' point, HK benefited from China's opening up, so HK's prosperity was because of China. So... that gives China the right to take away HK's rights?]

“No country has done that in history, in 35 years,” he said. “Not enough credit is given for that. It’s a huge achievement.”

[I don't know what logic he is using, but really, has anyone been arguing that China has not done well economically? This is the logic pedophiles used to mitigate their offences: "Yes, I raped my daughter, but I was otherwise a good father, and good provider. If you lock me up who will raise my daughter?"]
Could that have been achieved under another system of government? Can another political system do better for the people of China, compared to the current system? There is none – and ideology must square with reality, Mr Shanmugam said.


The minister also dismissed “superficial” comments that Singapore benefits from the instability in Hong Kong.

“We benefit from stability across the region, including Hong Kong. If China does well, Hong Kong does well, the region does well, we do well,” Mr Shanmugam said.

“There’s no profit in seeing instability. And if Hong Kong is at odds with China, it’s a problem for everyone, including us.”

Hong Kong’s strengths as a financial centre and its valuable position as an outpost for China are not going to go away overnight, he said.

[Here, in a way, he is lending support to HK. China's view would be that HK is 'just another city'. It has no special significance, and is of no greater importance to China, that warrants special treatment other than the promise extracted from Beijing by the withdrawing British. Therefore China does not need to concede an inch to the HK protesters. 

HOWEVER... if Shanmugam is correct and HK has strengths and value to China that is not replicated by any other Chinese city (not Shanghai, not Beijing, not Shenzhen), then China has every reason to make concessions to HK.

So which is it? But Shanmugam is NOT an economist. And HK's importance to China has shrank over the last 20 years. From 20% of China's GDP to less than 3%. The value of HK as China's outpost has already been eroded. The markets are more concerned about the trade war than the unrest in HK.]

Mr Shanmugam also said the majority of Singaporeans think they are lucky that the same things are not happening in their home.

“If this happened to us, it would be bad for our economy and we don’t have the advantages that Hong Kong have to weather such a situation,” he said. “Hong Kong has the huge advantage of China’s support. Singapore has no one to support it.

“So from that perspective, I think Singaporeans see that and they say if this happens in Singapore, it will be very troublesome and they are grateful that it is not happening here.”

Source: CNA/cy

[So what are the choices for Beijing?]

The tough choices for China over Hong Kong unrest

05 Aug 2019 

BEIJING: China has only tough choices as it looks to end more than two months of pro-democracy protests in its semi-autonomous southern city of Hong Kong.

The protesters have shown no signs of backing down, despite increasingly violent confrontations in which Hong Kong's police have regularly fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

The protests were triggered by opposition to a planned law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, then evolved into a wider movement for democratic reform and a halt to eroding freedoms.

Here are the potential options for the central government as it seeks to end the crisis, and the problems associated with each:


Beijing's current approach has been to express firm public support for the Hong Kong police and the city's chief executive, Carrie Lam, while warning the protesters their actions are "intolerable".

"Beijing has adopted an intimidation strategy and is trying to wait it out until at least early September, when (school) term starts - many protesters are high school and university students," said Hong Kong-based political analyst Dixon Sing.

[Well, that's still about 3 weeks to a month away.]
The party is also preparing for the 70th anniversary of the founding of modern China, and is unlikely to want to take antagonistic steps ahead of that.

The wait-and-see approach is similar to how it approached the 2014 pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement" in Hong Kong.

The 2014 events saw protesters occupy parts of the city for more than two months but faded away without winning concessions from Beijing after key leaders were arrested.

But this may not be enough.

By waiting, it risks further embarrassment for a government led by Chinese President Xi Jinping that tolerates no dissent.

"The protests in Hong Kong are a serious loss of face for Beijing, and presents a key political and strategic dilemma for the Chinese authorities -- do we intervene, when, and how," Michael Raska, assistant professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told AFP.


Beijing could pressure Hong Kong's government into adopting a more conciliatory tone and finding some way to compromise with the protesters.

Their demands include an independent inquiry into police methods, and the permanent shelving of the extradition bill.

The government could also orchestrate Lam's resignation, another key demand of the protesters.

"Lam has become a colossal political liability both locally and internationally," said Sing.

However doing so would be seen to be giving in to the protesters and rewarding their actions.

"The likelihood of Beijing adopting non-violent, conciliatory measures is low," Hong Kong-based political analyst Willy Lam told AFP.


The central government could step up its pressure and intimidation tactics against the protesters.

There has already been increasingly strident condemnation from authorities and state media.

The Chinese military last week described the unrest as "intolerable" and released a slick propaganda video showing a drill of armed troops quelling a protest in Hong Kong.

"At this stage, (Chinese president Xi Jinping) is gravitating towards a more hardline stance," Lam said.

But if Beijing does not plan to carry out such threats, then there is a risk of needlessly causing further panic. This could trigger a flow of money and companies out of the global financial hub.


The most dramatic - and risky - strategy for the central government would be to send in military reinforcements.

There is already a garrison of thousands of troops from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) stationed in Hong Kong, though they generally keep a low profile.

While Hong Kong's law states PLA troops "shall not interfere in the local affairs of the region", it also says they can be deployed to "maintain public order".

But this last resort could spell financial disaster for Hong Kong and wholesale global condemnation for the Chinese Communist Party.

"It would seriously undermine the political legitimacy of Xi Jinping and the CCP, both internally as well as externally, with widespread international condemnation reminiscent of the 1989 suppression of Tiananmen Square protests," said Raska.

Source: AFP/aa

[Speaking of President's Xi's political legitimacy, former President Jiang Zemin and his faction seeking to undermine Xi would be pleased if China intervened military in HK to quell the unrest

Most likely if there are to be military intervention, Beijing hopes it would be later.

If it happens sooner, and Xi has his "Tiananmen", then Jiang Zemin's faction would have a (small) victory and Xi would be diminished.]

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