Writers' Fortnight 2019: The Increasing Level of Subordination Between Hong Kong and China
By Arunav Maheshwari, Grade 9, East Campus
On 26 September 2014, thousands of people poured into a downtown street in northern Hong Kong Island to show their support for one of the most bewitching pursuits of human history: political change. The occupation lasted two whole months and the crowd swelled to a tremendous 100,000 people at its peak, becoming the largest civil disobedience movement ever to occur in Hong Kong.
The protest was in response to a white paper published in June 2014. This asserted that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong, stating that the Hong Kong system was subordinate to, and derived from, the PRC. It seemed a far cry indeed from the high degree of autonomy promised in the 1997 handover agreement between Britain and China.
China’s growing encroachment into Hong Kong’s sovereignty has become more and more apparent since the pro-democracy protests of 2014. In October 2018, China officially opened the Vibrant Express, a high-speed train line that reduced travel time to the mainland from several hours to just 20 minutes. This move is one of many intended to, as one Hong Kong professor put to the Guardian, “tie, link, and tether Hong Kong to the mainland.”
Another such project is the 34-mile highway connecting Macau, Hong Kong and China that cuts 30 minutes in travel by road. Such interconnectedness results solely in further infiltration of Hong Kong by people, products, and culture from the mainland. Not only this, but certain border adjustments have been necessitated by the transport. Kowloon Station, an endpoint of the Vibrant Express, is now a messy patchwork of Hong Kong, Chinese, and No-Man’s territory. An outpost-like Chinese police station has even been set up there. This obscurity of frontiers does nothing but serve as a tool to blur the line between the two entities in the favour of the larger.
It is not only in these tangible, physical bonds that China pulls Hong Kong ever closer - political structures have also been influenced. In August last year, a Financial Times executive editor was expelled from Hong Kong directly after he refused to cancel a pro-independence speech. This was revolutionising; it is the first time in Hong Kong’s history that a journalist has been banished from the city’s lands. Furthermore, perhaps more worryingly, this action was incredibly reminiscent of the PRC. The inhibition of freedom of expression has never been a characteristic of Hong Kong, but this expulsion has sent a painful signal regarding the state of Hong Kong politics.
As the 5th anniversary of the Umbrella Movement rolls around this October, Hong Kong, and indeed the world, must become aware of the creeping global Chinese influence. Over the course of 20 years, China has almost succeeded in warping the Hong Kong democracy into a sick puppet show with Beijing at the strings, with semblance of an Orwellian dystopia. Its potential given time and a more desirable target is to be feared.
The fate of the founders of the Revolution, arrested on charges of public nuisance, is expected to come out on 9 April. It will be a litmus test of sorts for the dominance of the PRC over Hong Kong. Should they be deemed guilty, it would set a precedent for widespread suppression. We must hope that the outcome sends a message of liberty, freedom, and justice, rather than of deterrence, assimilation, and censorship.