Saturday 30 May 2020

I share the sense of dread…

“Dread”. Anticipation with a sense of fear.
Prof Scott Kennedy says his one metric of whether “One Country Two Systems” is working is whether information is freely available in Hong Kong, including that critical of China.
That’s also been my favourite metric: freedom of the media. So far, since 1997, there has been. And I’ve said if that goes, I go. I value it too much. I find when I visit China, all else is fine, food, people, transport, all fine. What I miss is not being able to access international media and my favourite blogs. Including even this one.
Fortunately I’m in a privileged position. If we had to leave it would be easy. Not the case for many in Hong Kong.
So we dread. Or, at least I dread. For Hong Kong, for its people, for its young folk, for what it is and for what it has been.
A longtime Beijing-based said the other day “they [Beijing] inherited a nice city; they’ve turned it into rubble”. I kind of disagreed, as it doesn’t look much like rubble. Everything is operating again, after protests and Covid, and all looks well. But overall, I take his point. None of this was necessary. And while there’s plenty to blame the protesters for, and we have, there’s sure a lot of blame in China too, and in particular that brute Xi Jinping. It did not need to be this way.
Now we have the Security Law drama. Trump has just announced the US would rescind the special trade conditions HK has had since ‘97, as an autonomous region of China. Part of the HKHRDA provisions which we’ve criticised before.
Bloomberg thinks there’s room to deescalate, but it’s not a good trend. We are the piñata. Beaten by both sides, till we break and spill our contents on the ground.
The dread that I share with Scott Kennedy, by the end of the decade:
… the decline and withering of independent political parties, street protests, impartial courts, a free media, an open internet, critical arts, liberal education and autonomous religious organisations. All that might remain of current society is driving on the left, and Beijing could even attack that as a colonial legacy. [Here]
Theres rather more there than one metric, the erosion of media freedoms. But it could happen. Many will say it’s inevitable, now. And what then? For Hong Kong? For us?
For now it’s stay put. Hoping for the best, fearing…. Dreading.…

ADDED: I’m remembering that in 1983, when I was working in Australia’s Office of National Assessments, I was tasked with writing an assessment of that would happen to Hong Kong under Chinese rule. What prompted this was Margaret Thatcher’s visit to China to discuss HK with Deng Xiaoping (the architect of “one country, two systems”), and the Joint Declaration of 1984. I wrote it together with the late, wonderful, China scholar, Ross Maddock. As I recall, we wrote it fairly pessimistic. We did not think China would deliberately aim to destroy Hong Kong.  We thought damage would happen because Chinese leaders, bureaucrats, apparatchiks, did not understand what made Hong Kong tick. In the decades since then they have basically stood back. Now they’re wading in, and it looks like we may be proved right after all. Sheer incompetence and ignorance may do for us. 
Oh dear…