By Guan Pei Ling

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Travelling to Hong Kong usually isn’t a big deal. I was genuinely surprised when DFAT advised travellers needed to exercise a “High Degree of Caution”. Of course, I had seen the protests on TV, but I wasn’t worried. As an international city – a hub – genuine civil unrest in Central Hong Kong seemed as unlikely as riot police being deployed at Pitt Street Mall. However, for the few days I was there, something seemed different. The streets were emptier, more shops seemed closed and there was a lingering sense of unease.

Protesters wave flags at Hong Kong International Airport. Credit:AP

Civil unrest should not occur in Hong Kong – not at this magnitude and definitely not for
this long. Hong Kongers are pragmatic, their city is highly commercial, and theirs is a predominantly
ethnically Chinese society that still tightly holds to Confucian values. These emphasise the greater good and respect of hierarchy. Yet demonstrations of a significant scale are occurring.

Why? Is it really about the extradition bill? Yes and no. Over the last two decades, Hong Kong has felt its importance and prosperity diminish. This has fed a growing perception that the central Chinese government is trying to starve the island’s economic opportunity. Some see this as a warning from China for Hong Kong to recognise its true masters, others see this as a way of softening up the island for eventual assimilation.

Disdain for “mainland” China is amplified by the mundane. Complaints about the local fried chicken shop being converted to yet another jewellery store to satisfy the legions of mainland Chinese tourists are a manifestation of a real fear that Hong Kong’s uniqueness is being submerged under a Chinese wave.

And then there are the examples of authoritarian injustice. Booksellers kidnapped and ending up in mainland Chinese jails offer a stern lesson. Beijing holds the reins. Anyone with the audacity to sell books exposing the “princes” of the Chinese Communist Party will be dealt with.

With no ability to influence the political system, is it really that surprising that the people would resort to protest?

Not everyone in Hong Kong supports the protests. Hong Kong’s prosperity is being put at risk and for what? Independence? A democratic voice? The very demands of the protesters are unclear. I feel sorry for them. I understand their frustration and anger. …read more

Source:: Daily Times


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