National Day, Hong Kong edition

HongKongWe read, write and talk about how much giant corporations are willing to pay to support the fiction that climate change isn’t happening, so let’s not talk about it (because shut up!). Similarly, how long will the People’s Liberation Army put up with protests of this size? Tear gas and crowds that big are beginning to put them on front pages. Then what? Crackdown? Is that the game plan?

While many Hong Kong residents support the calls for greater democracy — dubbed the “umbrella revolution” by some, although the crowds’ demands fall far short of revolution — the unrest worries others.

“I strongly disagree with the protesters,” said an older woman who gave only her surname, Chan. “Those of us who came to the city 60 or 70 years ago had nothing and we worked and suffered so much to make Hong Kong the rich city it is today. And now the protesters have made our society unstable. For me, being able to eat and sleep is already a luxury. I don’t need democracy. What does it mean?”

Many younger Hong Kong residents raised in an era of plenty and with no experience of past political turmoil in mainland China have higher expectations. Under an agreement set in 1984, before most of them were born, Beijing promised to allow Hong Kong residents civil liberties unseen on the mainland after it took control of the city of 7.1 million in 1997.

The protesters are dismayed by China’s decision last month that candidates in the city’s first-ever election for its top leader must be hand-picked by a committee of mostly pro-Beijing tycoons. That move is viewed by many residents as reneging on promises to allow greater democracy in the semi-autonomous territory, since Beijing had promised that the chief executive would eventually be chosen through “universal suffrage.”

A promise since the time of the ‘handover’ was popular elections by 2017, and now that looks a little… different. Civil disobedience is unpredictable and that’s the last thing the Communist Communist Party wants. If anything is allowed to get out of hand in HK, look for similar kinds of demonstrations in the other megalopolises of the mainland. But a heavy-anded crackdown also seems unlikely. Watch the bond and stock markets teeter for a few days – they hate disorder, people, rights, democracy. It’s not what they’re about. Who has the upper hand, moving forward? How much can be paid to deny this is happening? Also, pay attention to which Westerners criticize the protesters and why.

Images: Christian Science Monitor, Wally Santana