Hong Kong Phooey: Rebel Yell vs Tycoon Pushback

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 9/28/2014 01:30:00 AM
Armagideon time has come to the capital of capitalism--Hong Kong.
[NOTE: Younger readers who don't get the post title's cartoon reference, head here.] Protester vs. cop action seems to be a growth area in Hong Kong and Singapore, capitalist shrines which normally care more about making money than about corny things like Western-style "freedom." But alas, order has been upended as the PRC has--surprise!--provided a rather conservative interpretation of "one country, two systems" that keeps the Communist Party's say in vetting Hong Kong's leader intact. I could have seen this coming as early as, oh, 1984. (RIP, Baroness Thatcher.)

It is here where we most clearly see authoritarianism in action. First, the so-called disorder:
Police used pepper spray and protesters threw plastic bottles in Hong Kong late Friday, as pro-democracy demonstrators stormed a public square attached to the government’s headquarters. More than a dozen people, mainly students, were arrested.

At about 10:30 p.m. local time, several students managed to scale the three-meter high barricades around Hong Kong’s “Civic Square,” a time-honored focal point of peaceful protest in the Chinese Special Administrative region, but which had been shuttered since July. Some 50 people then rushed in but were quickly surrounded by police [see picture above]. Around half this number remained at lunchtime on Saturday, but were quickly running out of supplies.
I kind of feel sorry for these students in their youthful naivete. Didn't their folks tell them about what happens to pro-democracy protesters going against Beijing? Expecting electoral freedom was a delusion to begin with despite the charade. OTOH, the Chinese leadership hasn't exactly made the situation better by adopting the hardline. Just to show you how out of touch they are, they did not consult with students or protest leaders to understand their grievances. Instead, they convened a High Council composed of pro-Beijing billionaires (who have undoubtedly profited handsomely from toeing the Party line):
As trouble brews in Hong Kong, who’s Beijing going to call? The billionaires. With political tension in the southern Chinese financial hub at its highest in years, China’s leaders summoned dozens of the city’s tycoons earlier this week for talks...

“I see most of my old friends,” Xi said with a light chuckle as he sat down for the meeting with 70 of Hong Kong’s richest and most powerful people. Seated next to him in the Great Hall of the People was billionaire businessman Li Ka-shing, Asia’s wealthiest person, who Xi greeted with a hearty double-handed handshake. Between them was Tung Chee-hwa, son of a shipping magnate who China anointed as Hong Kong’s first leader after taking back control of the former British colony in 1997. Other Hong Kong billionaires with interests in property, media, banking and finance and casinos filled out the ranks.
Therein lies the rub: the tycoons are being told to pacify restless Hong Kong natives or face both a worsening law and order situation in the city as well as less favorable treatment in the mainland:
Discontent, especially among the young, is fuelled by a widening wealth gap that many blame on the billionaires, a large number of whom made their fortunes in property development and also sit on a panel that selects Hong Kong’s leader. Once revered for their business acumen, they’re now reviled for cozy ties with the government, which tightly controls the supply of land for development, making home ownership unaffordable for many.

Monday’s meeting was the first time that such a big delegation has travelled to the Chinese capital since 2003. That year, a similar group made the journey after more than half a million took to the streets to protest a deeply unpopular plan to introduce anti-subversion legislation.
All I can say is, if Communist Party leaders are serious about quelling disorder in Hong Kong over the medium- to long-term, they won't likely accomplish this task just talking to those who've sworn fealty to Beijing already. After 1989, the Communist Party actually made strides understanding the demands of young people who sought economic security just as much if not more than political discretion.  Party operatives need to do the same in Hong Kong since it is a preview of China's future in a number of respects.