There have been numerous up-to-date reports on Hong Kong’s protests against the extradition bill, proposed by Chief Executive Carry Lam, to extradite suspected criminals to China. Since Lam’s government refused to withdraw the bill formally, remove the denigrating “terrorist” label applied to demonstrators, or allow an independent investigation into police brutality, the protesters have not given up their cause of defending the city’s autonomy, its rule of law, and their basic rights promised when the U.K. returned the city to China in 1997.
How the demonstrations will end has become a burning issue to the international community, with many wondering whether a military suppression like that of 1989 in Tiananmen Square might take place in the semi-autonomous city. American President Donald J. Trump already said that the Chinese troops are moving near the border with Hong Kong.
Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2019
However, no one knows what will happen until it happens. And yet, anyone who sympathizes with the protesters’ cause or is concerned with the city’s stability and prosperity certainly hopes that Chinese authorities will not decide on military suppression as its final solution to the protests.
Military Intervention in Hong Kong
As one may guess, Beijing probably wouldn’t want to use force unless it feels it is the only way to maintain their legitimacy and power as the sole ruling party in China. They know that Hong Kong has been the most viable international financial hub in Asia with about 60 consulates and over 8,500 regional headquarters and offices of multi-million-dollar multinational corporations stationed in the city.
It is simple logic that all these diplomatic connections and the huge international capital would feel compelled to leave Hong Kong should Beijing decide on military suppression.
The foreseeable immediate losses for China are obvious since Hong Kong would fall quickly into decay, and China’s policy of making Hong Kong a showcase of its “one country, two systems” model to the international community, especially to the people in Taiwan which China claims to be part of its territory, would also become a total failure.
In short, the “Pearl of the East,” the title of a popular song used as the symbol for the luster and flourishing of Hong Kong, would forever become yesterday’s memory with the implication that China’s governance is not any better, or perhaps even worse than British colonial rule.
Hong Kong as Financial Hub
It is true that Hong Kong’s economic importance in terms of its GDP has been overshadowed by megacities such as Shanghai in China. However, neither Shanghai nor other Chinese metropolises have thus far developed the necessary infrastructure based on the rule of law for fair, transparent, and trustworthy financial operations for the international community.
This means that none of these metropolises can currently provide the kind of operations underpinning the global monetary system, something Hong Kong has been providing for decades.
If the Beijing government is serious about making China an economic superpower, one must certainly wonder why it would want to ruin Hong Kong’s legal and financial system by resorting to military means. After all, Hong Kong has been functioning as the key nexus that links China with the global financial system.
If Hong Kong is destroyed, it would mean that China chooses to cut off its own credible link with that system despite the unimaginable social and economic losses to be incurred by the predictable exodus of financial and human capital.
What protesters in Hong Kong have been defending is not just what was promised to them in the Basic Law, but also something that would help China to develop genuine rule of law for its own system and people on the mainland.
Of course, no one should underestimate the strong will of any authoritarian regime to crush anything deemed to be a threat to its rule. One can only hope that the aspiration of the current leadership in Beijing to revive China’s ancient glory will also make them remember that those who win the “empire” are the ones who win the “hearts and minds” of the Chinese people, including certainly the people of Hong Kong.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.