Hong Kong – who will blink?

From 2004 to 2007 my husband and I enjoyed the vibrancy of Hong Kong — its Asian flavour and exotic nature, stunning scenery, and friendly people, its strange-to-us customs and foods and its unique blend of modern present with ancient traditions. We had an amazing experience. People would ask whether China controlled things, and we would say that the communist regime stays well in the background and allows Hong Kong to be a true example of one country, two systems. A beacon of hope that things might eventually change.

It breaks my heart to see the chaos and violence that has overtaken the city. During the first week of the 2019 protests, where a million protesters marched peacefully on the same streets that I had walked, I cheered for the restraint and resilience of Hong Kong’s citizens. Maybe this time China will listen, I said to myself. Maybe this time the regime will bend just a fraction to maintain the semblance of being a nation that warrants its place on the world stage.

The weeks unfolded. The protests continued. Hong Kong leadership backed down just the tiniest bit. But that wasn’t and isn’t enough for, as most of you are aware, what Hong Kongers desire is freedom and true democracy. What they don’t want is to be swallowed up by the Communist regime.

In a 2017 speech celebrating the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China, Xi Jinping had this to say:

  • The destiny of Hong Kong has always been intricately bound with that of the motherland.”
  • “Twenty years ago today, Hong Kong returned to the embrace of the motherland. This ended past humiliation and marked a major step forward toward the complete reunification of China.”
  • “Since its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has joined the remarkable journey towards the great renewal of the Chinese nation.” As if Hong Kong wasn’t already remarkable and a leading light in financial markets.

Quotes such as these illuminate the true intent of China’s communist leadership.

Humiliation is never tolerated by the Chinese Communist Party and the protesters are humiliating China. Perhaps Xi Jinping is or should be consulting ancient Chinese proverbs:

  • A small hole not mended in time will become a big hole much more difficult to mend. In this case, Hong Kong is the small hole.
  • Fortune does not come twice. Misfortune does not come alone. China’s leadership might expect other parts of China as well as Taiwan to create misfortune.
  • When the wind of change blows, some build walls, while others build windmills. Hong Kong’s actions represent this wind of change. Xi and his colleagues will likely build a wall.
  • New generation can put right the mistakes of the old. Xi is part of the old generation. Many of those protesting in Hong Kong are part of the new generation. Unfortunately, China never admits to any mistakes.
  • When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter. This is like the English saying about rats deserting a sinking ship. If Xi Jinping fails in this contest with Hong Kong, will he be deserted by those with influence in the Communist Party? It’s happened many times before.
  • Think three times before you move. Xi and his colleagues should think at least ten times before making a move. The consequences of the wrong decision could be stunning.
  • Punishment gives less incentive than a reward. Punishing the protestors (over 1000 arrests have happened already) does not end the protests. They may go underground for a while, but they won’t end. And in my humble opinion, this is the fundamental flaw of all totalitarian regimes. Eventually the human spirit rebels. The consequences are never pretty.

Forgive the political nature of this post. My greatest fear is another Tiananmen Square.

PS – this morning’s news reports that Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, has withdrawn the extradition bill. She wouldn’t have done that without Beijing’s agreement. Does that mean China has blinked? Or is China merely following one of the proverbs above: Punishment gives less incentive than a reward? We shall see.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.


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5 Responses

  1. I have been following this story since the beginning, too. Yesterday’s news, however, does not convince me that this is going to have a happy ending. Those in control will not give it up so easily. In light of the US-China trade talks, any further humiliation doled upon China’s plate will not magically turn into humble pie. I fear for those fighting for democracy and freedom.

  2. It’s an interesting scenario, Mary, and your quotes are beautIfully pointed and meaningful.
    I take Carrie Lam’s latest action as a good sign. China’s position globally as well as its superior position within the Asia-Pacific Region is still young and I think they have a lot to lose if they play the Hong Kong card the wrong way. A member of my family works within the Region and the amount of influence China is attempting by economic investment and foreign aid diplomacy is enormous. If Tienamien happened again, all that influence would be destroyed in a heartbeat.
    Then again, I may be too Pollyanna-ish about it…

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