Hong Kong Protests

Amrita Jash
Doctoral Candidate at the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The “Occupy Central” protest led by thousands of Hong Kong citizens against the CCP led electoral policy in Hong Kong has continued to its second week. Since its start on September 22, the movement has called for the resignation of the incumbent Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. With the  scheduled ‘negotiation talks’ being called off between the Hong Kong authorities and the pro-democracy leaders in order to come to a compromise,  the crisis has taken the much larger form of civil disobedience. In this impasse, it can be argued that Beijing’s long- suppressed revolution has finally taken roots in Hong Kong’s ‘democratic’ soil.

On August 31, the National People’s Congress had ratified the plan that Beijing would vet all candidates for the chief executives in the 2017 election. This decision on part of the CCP leadership was seen as a breach of confidence under the ‘one-country two-systems’ formula. The protesters demand the freedom to elect their political representative by popular vote. CCP wants its own loyalists to rule Hong Kong rather than possible anti-Communist democrats. This clash of interest between Hong Kong and Beijing has posed a severe challenge to PRC’s primary national interest of maintaining internal control and most specifically, to the sanctity of its “One Country, Two Systems” policy.

In this tumult, several parallels have been drawn between the Hong Kong protests and the 1989 Tiananmen protests. Having been groomed in a western outlook till its return to China, has made Hong Kong develop its own identity which runs counter to Beijing’s Communist identity.The clash is evitable in their distinct political and economic divide which makes Hong Kong within China a ‘land of its own’.

Here, the quandary lies in the fact that there is no middle ground between the two sides, where both are at opposite poles. Hong Kong is assertive on its freedom of choice to elect its representative while CCP led China is opposed to a western style democracy in Hong Kong.

For long, China has succeeded in keeping its domestic upheavals away from the global eye. But Hong Kong’s distinct move has taken a global stage. Hong Kong protests have emerged as the biggest political challenge for China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago, bringing PRC’s leadership under the global watch. Deng Xiaoping’s Tiananmen military crackdown of 1989 is not a rational choice in this scenario China cannot afford to go back to a phase of political isolation and condemnation at the international stage, when it is aspiring to become a global power.

Therefore, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement will have ramifications on China’s long standing ‘red’ control. With this act of civil disobedience to China’s central authority, Hong Kong has joined the league of the long standing internal challenges posed by Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. Though their ‘calls’ are different but the common factor lies in the fact that they are opposed to the CCP led PRC’s political control. It is thus, the test of time as to how Hong Kong will change the course of politics in China.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of IIT Madras China Studies Centre)


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