Beijing ′seeking to intimidate′ Hong Kong democrats | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 12.06.2014

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Asia

Beijing 'seeking to intimidate' Hong Kong democrats

Protests have erupted in Hong Kong after Beijing issued a white paper stating its "comprehensive control" over the territory. Scholar Perry Link tells DW the move shows Beijing's intent to further "digest" the city.

China has warned Hong Kong that there were limits to its freedom and it should adhere strictly to the law. The State Council's Information Office issued a white paper on June 9 reiterating that Beijing had "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the former British colony which became a special administrative region of China in 1997.

The policy document states that some people are "confused or lopsided in their understanding of one country, two systems and that this has led to "many wrong views" about the city's economy, society and the development of its political system. The publication of the paper comes ahead of planned protests by the pro democracy movement, "Occupy Central," which could potentially cripple commerce in the city's Central Business District.

China scholar Perry Link says in a DW interview the policy document appears to be a clear violation of Deng Xiaoping's promise of "one country, two systems" for fifty years and shows that the leadership of the Communist party wants to keep any pro-democracy movement from spreading to the mainland.

DW: What exactly does this white paper mean for the future of Hong Kong?

Perry Link: The White Paper means that Beijing wants to continue its digestion of Hong Kong, which has already been underway for several years. It appears to be a clear violation of Deng Xiaoping's promise of "one country, two systems" for fifty years. But in fact it is not really new. Deng's promise was never a promise in the conventional sense.

Link: Beijing feels it needs to snuff out proto-democracy to keep it from spreading to the mainland

Link: "Beijing feels it needs to snuff out proto-democracy to keep it from spreading to the mainland"

Why would Beijing release this paper just now?

I think the impending "Occupy Central" project is the main reason for the timing. The June 4 Tiananmen Square memorial has added fuel to the Occupy Central movement, but Occupy Central, not the commemorations, is what motivated Beijing to do the White Paper.

How important is Hong Kong for China?

The word "China" here is ambiguous. For the regime, the words "occupy central," directly translated into Chinese, can be terrifying. They sound something like "invade the heart." I can see why those in Beijing would feel terrified by the phrase Occupy
Central.

For the Chinese people as a whole, Hong Kong is an important outpost. For instance, it is a place one can buy safe milk powder and uncensored books, and a place a pregnant woman can go to give birth to a person who will grow up with the security of having a legal way out of the mainland.

The movement for universal suffrage in Hong Kong is an important demonstration that democracy and Chinese culture can fit together quite nicely. The regime hates this example, but many Chinese citizens welcome it.

Why do authorities want to extend their political control over the territory?

Authoritarians everywhere like to extend their power, of course. In addition, the Communist Party of China (CPC) feels it needs to snuff out proto-democracy to keep it from spreading to the mainland.

What message does Beijing want to send with this paper?

The purpose is to intimidate democrats and their followers in Hong Kong.

Is there anything people in Hong Kong or the international community can do against China's tightening control over Hong Kong?

Sure. People can keep pushing back, being transparent, and telling the truth. It is not true that the great power to the north is unified and invincible. It is hollow inside, insecure. This insecurity is precisely the reason it feels a need to snuff out opposition before a movement even begins.

Students look on before singing to commemorate China's 1989 Tiananmen Square events ahead of a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on June 4, 2014. Up to 200,000 people were set to take part in a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on June 4 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, as China seeks to wipe the incident from memory.

People in Hong Kong can keep pushing back, being transparent, and telling the truth, says Link

What impact would stronger control from Beijing would have on the territory, both politically and economically?

I don't think it would make much of a difference economically. Most of the Hong Kong tycoons are already allied with Beijing. Politically, stronger control from Beijing will sharpen and deepen the political problems in Hong Kong. It will enforce a surface appearance of unity with Beijing, but cover a resentful populace who will now have even more reason to feel resentful.

China scholar Perry Link is Chancellorial Chair Professor for Innovative Teaching Comparative Literature & Foreign Languages in College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, and Emeritus Professor of Asian Studies at Princeton University.

The interview was conducted by Gabriel Domínguez.