HMS Britannia: Come back? (03.07.12)

3 07 2012

Source: The Washington Post

“One country, two systems”. These words were on everyone’s mind on the 1st of July 1997, when the British dependency of Hong Kong was reverted officially to the People’s Republic of China, thus ending what many believe to be “the end of the colonial era”. Even though, it must be added that it was especially on those whose purpose it was to leave the ex-colony, which provoked a fairly substantial diaspora in recent history.

Recently, the chief executive of the once-upon-a-time British colony was elected. His name is Leung Chun-ying and many people in Hong Kong are worried that his close affiliation to the Chinese Communist Party is a major threat to human and civil rights of the region, despite clear statements from the local government which reassure that no such thing will take place. The integrity of his personal and financial affairs is also under scrutiny, in a region where protests are allowed and civil liberties are mostly respected.

Also, there is the question of how democratic the elections of this region really are: There is no direct and universal suffrage. Instead, an election committee stands between the people and the elected. This is indeed something to worry about. Even if HKSAR will not cease to have its current system until 2047, the influence of the mainland is slowly but surely making its way.

Hong Kong seemed to be immersed in a delirium of confusion last Sunday, when not only the above-mentioned was appointed to office, but also received the visit of the Chinese President Hu Jintao and HKSAR (the official name of Hong Kong: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) celebrated the 15th anniversary of the handover to China.

And to make matters even more interesting, according to personal contacts, many British Hong Kong flags stood high and proudly among many protesters. It seems that some miss the departure of HMS Britannia from the peaceful shores of Hong Kong.

Some hay made the fire more intense on Sunday as protesters rallied the town in order to demonstrate and decry their anger towards the mainland’s (Chinese) human rights policy and to denounce HKSAR’s social policy. The latter comes as a shock because Hong Kong is a well-known place to have not only one of the leading world markets (thus uniting vast amounts of wealth) but also for maintaining in the past the most extravagant and ludicrous records, such as “the place with the largest number of Mercedes-Benz per capita”. However, here is an example of our current global economy and of how wide the rich-poor barrier can really be.

Another big problem in Hong Kong is something we’ve been seeing around the world recently and that has partially provoked the current economic crisis at hands today: A very big real-estate bubble. Housing is only affordable for the wealthy because of the vast amount of speculation over the past years. Even mainland officials have important stakes in the region. A word of warning must be issued.

As things are, Hong Kong controls one of the main financial centres in the world but this is not a solution to its democratic, social or housing problems. Notwithstanding, the main and foremost basic reform must be substantiated from within the local government, to serve example and not to produce in its citizens a sentiment of nostalgia as a foreign colony.

Cecilio Oviedo

References:

International Herald Tribune

The Economist

How Governments work, by DK

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