Kerry Brown, author of “The New Emperors,” examines the recent protests in Hong Kong, the Umbrella Revolution, noting that they offer limited insight into the true mindset of the current Chinese leadership.
The Evolution Of The Hong Kong Protests: From Passion To Politics
The Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, sparked by the announcement regarding the 2017 Chief Executive elections in September, has encountered setbacks. The initial fervor of the protests, which endured despite heavy rainfall, has diminished.
Street demonstrations have their limits; activists must now navigate the intricacies of politics and negotiation. This phase is critical, determining whether tangible progress is made or all is lost. Street protests serve as a form of spectacle; their impact lies in energizing subsequent efforts to establish lasting solutions and concrete outcomes.
The political stance of Beijing’s leadership regarding the Hong Kong issue is unmistakable. Contrary to the previous perception of “One country, two systems” being a balanced concept, it’s now evident that Beijing prioritizes the “One country” aspect over everything else.
The notion that both parts of this framework held equal importance was illusory. For Beijing, the emphasis has always been on maintaining the country’s unity and securing its envisioned future. Beijing never considered the prospect of Hong Kong adopting a political system diverging from that of mainland China as viable.
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Rethinking Hong Kong’s Relationship With Beijing
The recent developments have shattered illusions both among Hong Kong democrats and the international community regarding the future of Hong Kong, particularly in the absence of former colonial powers like Britain. There is a crucial need for a shift in mindset. Beijing leaders, particularly under Xi Jinping’s administration, view Hong Kong as a province despite its unique status.
Many domestic issues and concerns, ranging from regional unrest to urban development demands, intertwine with Hong Kong’s situation. Hong Kong residents must recognize their connection to Beijing’s governance and acknowledge that their fate is linked to the success or failure of China’s broader management strategies.
Rather than clinging to inherited entitlements from British rule, Hong Kong citizens should seek smarter ways to align with Beijing’s priorities and become proactive allies, understanding that their privileges hold little sway in the face of larger national objectives.
Critique Of Chief Executive C Y Leung’s Leadership
Chief Executive C Y Leung’s tenure has been marked by failure on numerous fronts. He has demonstrated ineffectiveness in advocating for Hong Kong’s interests in Beijing, a critical task for his role, and has struggled to communicate effectively with the Hong Kong public.
While the limited representation offered to Hong Kong in 2017 is a modest achievement, a skilled politician could have leveraged it more effectively. However, Leung’s shortcomings have prevented him from capitalizing on this opportunity. He will unlikely have a political future beyond 2017, as his reputation is already tarnished.
Shaping The Future Strategy For Hong Kong Protestors
The protestors must now strategize meticulously for the future. They have successfully shattered the myth of Hong Kong’s apolitical population and must now focus on advocating, mobilizing, and building support beyond 2017. Engaging with the business community, a constituency that Beijing values, is essential.
It’s imperative to articulate a demand for higher-quality leadership in the future, as business, political, and social stakeholders desire. If Beijing insists on a restricted candidate pool for the Chief Executive role, protestors can leverage negotiation space to demand candidates of superior caliber compared to past incumbents.
All three previous Chief Executives have fallen short, granting Hong Kong the right to demand better candidates capable of fulfilling their responsibilities—an attribute lacking in the current incumbent.
Assessing Xi Jinping’s Leadership Amidst Hong Kong Protests
The events in Hong Kong raise questions about Xi Jinping’s leadership strength. While some may argue that his firm stance portrays strength, others contend that a truly strong leader would have allowed Hong Kong more electoral openness post-2017 without fearing repercussions in the mainland.
Xi’s risk aversion, akin to his predecessor Hu Jintao, suggests a preference for safe choices, particularly domestically. Xi Jinping’s leadership could have garnered more commendation if he had directly engaged with the people of Hong Kong to explain Beijing’s stance. His leadership appears to follow a similar trajectory to previous administrations, prioritizing domestic challenges over Hong Kong’s affairs.
Despite this, recent events in Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution offer limited insights into the true intentions of Chinese leaders. One must look beyond Hong Kong and observe their actions across the border to truly understand their beliefs and objectives. Thus, Hong Kong remains unique as the last bastion in China where leaders can reveal their true selves, albeit only to a limited extent.
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