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Between Washington and Beijing .. Who wins the battle of Hong Kong?

2019-09-02T09:26:40.418Z



Hong Kong's relatively underprivileged Lam Weng Kee never dreamed of becoming a public figure, especially out of a policy he never fond of. For Weng Kee - like most bookmakers on the tiny island bordering China The president - selling books was nothing more than a hereditary livelihood craft, but this profession specifically put Lam and his fellow bookmakers at the center of a heated political battle over the nature of Hong Kong's unique political system and its relationship with the central authority in Beijing. A new intense conflict over global hegemony between rising China and the Actual fought the free world.

In 2015, Lam, a 61-year-old library owner called Causeway Bay Box, and five other prominent Hong Kong booksellers disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and everyone soon discovered that they had been arrested by the Chinese authorities and directed to them. Charged with attempting to overthrow the Chinese government by sending illegal books to the mainland, where libraries in Hong Kong are particularly popular among Chinese customers crossing to the island for banned books dealing with personal disputes and scandals of high-level Chinese politicians, although China has tolerated About this activity for a role Books in Hong Kong For a long time, it seems that Causeway Bay Box went too far when it published a book about alleged women's relations with Chinese President Chi Jinping outside marriage.

Book seller Lam Weng Kee (Reuters)

Lam was arrested in the southern city of Shenzhen, blindfolded, taken by train and then by car to the detention facility, where he was detained for eight months in harsh conditions, five of whom spent in a small room monitored 24 hours a day and interrogated more than 30 times. The extent to which he called on him to consider suicide, before the authorities suddenly decided to release him on bail and return him to his native Hong Kong after he was forced to sign a letter of confession and an apology for the illegal sale of books, and to sign another document pledging to renounce his right to contact his family. Or the appointment of a lawyer during his detention, with an undertaking to return China once again to deliver a disk containing data of all its suppliers and customers from the book buyers.

Unlike his other comrades who chose safety, preferred to comply with Chinese conditions and kept their pledges to return to the mainland to complete investigations and appealed to Hong Kong's administrative authorities not to intervene, Lam chose a different route (3) and in June 2016 held a press conference to tell the world. Before he led a full kilometer march from his private library to the Liaison Office of the Chinese central government in Hong Kong amid rumors about the Chinese government's requests to the administrative authority in Hong Kong to hand over Lam, prompting the provincial government to declare that it does not intend to entertain L to the Chinese authorities, and that the country is not linked to the law obliged to extradite to the central government in China from the foundation.

Protest in Hong Kong over disappearance of book vendors specializing in publications critical of Communist Party government (Reuters)

Under the Hong Kong Constitution, and the agreement signed between the British Empire and China in the mid-1980s, Hong Kong is a special administrative region with a high degree of autonomy within the Chinese state under a framework known as “one country, two systems,” which defines Hong Kong people as loyal Chinese citizens. The Chinese state is independent of the political system with an independent jurisdiction, a special economic and customs system, and a separate security and police system from the mainland, while China is governed by a totalitarian political system with state-dominated economy, the Communist Party, and security institutions. E, Hong Kong has a relatively democratic political system and a free market thriving business practice and a security system that is subject to control by an independent judicial authority.

But this independent system is under constant pressure from the Chinese government, which over the past decades has steadily undermined Hong Kong's autonomy without officially touching the framework of its "one country, two systems", the latest step being the extradition law. Hong Kong's controversial pro-China chief executive, Kari Lam, on February 1, which gives the government the right to extradite wanted persons for trial on the Chinese mainland, a move that was enough to alarm Panaman and his fellow bookmakers. Apparently, I paid him to leave b Ladie's move to stay in Taiwan is out of reach of the Chinese government.

However, the controversial extradition law did not go unnoticed, as China and the government in Hong Kong appeared to have hoped, and caused 4 million demonstrations unprecedented since the island's famous parachute revolution in 2014, demonstrations erupted in waves in February. April and June coincided with the various stages of the discussion of the law, prompting the authorities to loosen the language of the law and exclude political dissidents, those sentenced to death and even those involved in financial crimes from extradition, before the government was forced to announce a temporary freeze on the law. Stick yet Checked out completely.

Minor concessions made by the government were not enough to satisfy the ambitions of demonstrators who continued their violent protests in July and August of this year, with demands broadening beyond the extradition law to demand the resignation of Karim Lam herself and political reforms. It included the election of the country's chief executive by direct ballot rather than by a 1,200-member committee dominated largely by loyalists as it is currently taking place, as clashes between demonstrators and the pro-Beijing government intensify without any looming signs of détente. The conflict in Hong Kong seems to go beyond being a limited internal conflict over the extradition law, or even a battle over Hong Kong's political independence and the effectiveness of the "one country, two systems" framework that governs the relationship between China and the island, turning into a major and decisive round in the new Cold War. This time, China and the United States are all about defining a new world order and who will dominate it in the coming decades.

One country, two systems

To understand the complex relationship between China and Hong Kong, we need to dive a little into China's history and geography, namely the history and geography of the three major Chinese rivers, the Yellow River, the Yangtze River and the Pearl River, where each river is one of the stages of the regional expansion of the Chinese nation. First of all, there was the Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, in which the early ancestors of the Chinese people lived before they stretched south at the expense of the tribes and ethnic groups that inhabited the Yangtze River, China's longest river today, and finally the Chinese civilization extended further south towards the river. Pearls in the Xin and Han dynasties that ruled China from 211 BC to 220 AD.

Since then, the main goal of all dynasties and regimes in China has been to maintain political control over these three regions, including the southern region around the Pearl River until the middle of the river delta, which has been under Chinese control for more than 2,000 years. During that period, Hong Kong - a densely populated barren island with no strategic importance on the edge of the Pearl Delta - did not mean much to the Chinese, but in the British colonial era it turned out to be much more than that. According to the Nanjing Treaty of 1842, at the end of the First Opium War, British Hong Kong annexed the Kowloon Peninsula, which was ceded under the Beijing Treaty of 1860 during the Second Opium War, and also the "New Territories" which China was forced to lease. Britain for 99 years to expand Hong Kong territory under the Second Beijing Treaty of 1898. Of the three regions of Hong Kong, Hong Kong remains the only region not directly connected to the Chinese mainland.

Location of Hong Kong

(6) New and expanded Hong Kong gained more strategic importance than the remote island alone, so if it were in Britain's hands, it would never have returned Hong Kong to China. In fact, the British government sought to contact its Chinese counterpart in the 1980s in the hope of renewing the lease in the Territories. However, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping rejected the British request and informed the British that China plans to regain entire Hong Kong and not just the new territories by the end of the lease term. By the time promised in 1979, the British Empire had already faded and had no choice but to accept the Chinese demands embodied in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty by 1997, but with a pledge that the political and economic system The unique island will remain unchanged for 50 years to come, ie until 2047.

From the point of view of China, the framework of "one country, two systems" did not reflect a form of full consensus between London and Beijing as much as it was a pragmatic Chinese political ploy aimed at gradually absorbing Hong Kong into the Chinese state. After all, it was the British who built and ruled Hong Kong for more For 150 years, they inherited a completely different set of values ​​and political structures from those adopted on the mainland under Chinese Communist rule. From the West's point of view, it was always hoped that Hong Kong would be a Trojan horse to reshape the political system in China. China to become more compatible with the world order Governed by liberal democracy.

Beijing was more serious about implementing its vision of integrating Hong Kong into the Chinese project from the West and its project, and embarked on its vision within a short period of its control over the country. At the outset, China was keen to impose a restrictive framework on the democratic process in the region by limiting the election of the country's chief executive to a small constituency of 1,200 senior politicians, businessmen and community figures, which China has considerable control in. At the same time, China supported its loyal government in Hong Kong to suppress all popular protests against that restrictive political framework and Beijing's efforts to undermine the independence of the province, as happened during the 2014 Parachute Revolution and the "Occupy Central" demonstrations demanding the holding of the Presidential elections. A country through direct ballot.

Beijing not only used force to impose control over Hong Kong, but adopted a complete approach to community control through the country's central government liaison office, which has influence within the city's 18 administrative districts, and has internal council offices and representatives in all Sectors control government appointments, distribute jobs and benefits to buy loyalties, and mobilize popular support for pro-Beijing candidates in the election.

Unlike its policy in other regions and provinces on the mainland, China recognizes that repression alone will not be enough to subdue Hong Kong while the “one country, two systems” framework remains effective, which, after all, restricts Beijing's ability to intervene. For example, by sending military garrisons to quell popular protests or infringing on the country's independent jurisdiction, and recognizing its inability to transcend the "one country, two systems" framework, of which China itself is currently the biggest beneficiary, Beijing remains the winning choice. I tried it in Hong Kong and always bet on it Time, with a combination of political promises and limited repression to discourage protests and disperse and maintain stability on the island, which China considers the spearhead of special care in the economic sphere strategic interests.

Chinese spearhead

Since the arrival of communist rule in China, Beijing has regarded Hong Kong as pivotal and decisive, not only for the country's economic interests, but for the survival of communist rule itself, even though the country came under British control at that time, apparently with Chinese blessing. In 1949, before the founding of the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong rejected calls for the restoration of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty and preferred to leave it to the British, a move that was later used to signify Mao's wisdom and long-term vision. China succeeded in overcoming the US-led blockade since 1949. Later, during the Cold War, Hong Kong was the largest source of foreign exchange for China - a one-third share - and was the only outlet for the smuggling of Western technology, equipment and medicines to China, as well as the export of a Chinese food products abroad, has also worked as a base activity for the business operations of Chinese companies and an intelligence center for Chinese customers.

For a long time later, Hong Kong played the role of economic bridge between China and the world and quoted trade and investment flows in both directions, but the relative weight of the country's contribution to the Chinese economy began to diminish in recent years with China's decision to open its borders and integrate relatively with the global economy. Hong Kong's total contribution to China's GDP shrank from about one-fifth (17%) in 1997, with China's control of the country returning to just about 3% at present, thanks to the country's steady growth and remarkable increase in incomes, with more than 200 million cities competing To contribute substantial shares The country's total output.

Hong Kong has historically enjoyed a stable investment environment protected by transparent laws and fair courts, making it always more attractive to investors than the mainland.

Reuters

But the focus on the overall contribution to the economy is a very simplistic view. Hong Kong's pivotal role as a gateway to the Chinese economy, especially in the financial sphere, is overlooked. The paradox is that the more authoritarian China becomes at home, the more Hong Kong needs as a trade gateway. The country has a special status in international laws and regulations and financial and credit advantages that allow it smooth access to Western markets. These benefits include a high credit rating, which means less investment risk, greater ability to attract foreign exchange flows, and independent membership in the World Trade Organization. Global Wara, as well as hosting one of the most important financial markets in the world, Hong Kong Stock Exchange recognized advanced Kporsh by the world's most important financial institutions.

In contrast, Hong Kong has historically enjoyed a stable investment environment, protected by transparent laws and fair courts, which has always made it more attractive to investors from the Chinese mainland, prompting China to rely on the island as a land to test its most important financial reforms. The yuan to the global currency basket began in Hong Kong in 2009 when the region's advanced stock exchange was used to offer yuan-denominated government debt to foreign investors.

The region's benefits are not limited. Hong Kong remains the main source of foreign direct investment in China, accounting for 60 to 70 percent of the country's total foreign direct investment (FDI), estimated at $ 2 trillion. Chinese companies (11). For example, between 2012 and 2014, Chinese companies raised $ 43 billion of IPOs on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for $ 25 billion raised from mainland exchanges.Hong Kong is also an important source of bank loans to China.In 2018, net debt owed Hong Kong banks to banks, companies and customers in the mainland about 93 billion US dollars.

For China, Hong Kong was simply a city linked to the Chinese mainland and ultimately under the control of the Communist Party, but at the same time fully integrated with the world economy.

Reuters

Chinese companies, led by technology companies such as Tencent, Xiaomi and ZTC, and e-commerce companies such as Alibaba, are using Hong Kong as a gateway to move their money and business activities beyond China's borders. 2017 saw an influx of nearly $ 179 billion of Chinese companies' assets and investments across Hong Kong. Kong, these companies have been keen to take advantage of the unique financial and legal situation in the region to expand their activities abroad with the blessing of the government, which sought to employ these business operations as a spearhead of China's external influence.

In short, China has been the biggest beneficiary of Hong Kong's unique status and the framework of "one country, two systems" despite being repeatedly criticized by Chinese hawks. For China, Hong Kong was simply a city linked to the mainland and ultimately controlled by the Communist Party, but at the same time Fully integrated with the global economy and not subject to Western restrictions on transactions with China, allowing China to use them to circumvent US controls and restrictions and even sanctions as it did when it purchased US-made satellites through a company registered in Hong Kong as "Asia" As in 2017, Beijing smuggled oil to a North Korean ship using a Hong Kong-registered ship, Lighthouse Winmore, as well as Chinese officials using passports from the HKSAR to facilitate their movements in the West.

The interests of Uncle Sam

Hong Kong's trade and financial interests do not seem to be confined to China alone. As a global financial hub, the region hosts the regional headquarters of nearly 1,500 multinationals, including more than 700 US companies, although larger US technology companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook chose Opening its regional headquarters in neighboring Singapore, the size of Western companies and capital operating in Hong Kong makes the protests in the province far greater than local strikes.

I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a “tough business.” I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?

- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2019

In fact, the motives of Western - and particularly American - interest in Hong Kong, a small area of ​​just 1,100 km, go beyond purely economic interests to more comprehensive geopolitical concerns. The American presence in Hong Kong dates back to 1843, when Washington opened its first consulate in Hong Kong. Ironically, Washington remained a long-time supporter of Hong Kong's restoration of Chinese sovereignty until the Red Revolution in 1949, when the United States began to realize the region's vital location on a "bamboo curtain." Comma between communist governments and the free world.

US interests in Hong Kong became more evident with the Cold War, which forced Washington to put its top priority on keeping Hong Kong a strategic foothold for the West at the gate of Communist China. To do so, Washington pursued a twofold strategy: on the one hand, it supported لحكومة هونغ كونغ البريطانية لتحسين قدراتها الدفاعية لردع أي هجوم صيني محتمل جنبا إلى جنب مع الاستثمار في تحسين وضع البلاد الاقتصادي، ومن ناحية أخرى كانت واشنطن حريصة على الاستفادة من وضع هونغ كونغ الفريد لمتابعة أهدافها الإستراتيجية وفي مقدمتها إنشاء أكبر فرع استخباراتي أميركي خارج الحدو In the US Consulate in the region, which hosted two full attachments to the CIA and the FBI, they ran anti-Soviet propaganda and espionage operations in East and South Asia.

Subsequently, the broad geopolitical interests of the United States in Hong Kong were institutionalized under the Hong Kong Policy Act 1992, recognizing the territory as a non-sovereign entity distinct from China under US laws, meaning that the territory enjoyed preferential treatment in terms of trade, investment, immigration, transportation, and international agreements. The law also refers to Washington's pledge to support democratization in the region, and authorizes the State Department to closely monitor Hong Kong's autonomy, with the US president authorized to suspend "part or all" preferential treatment of Hong Kong. China has undermined the independence of the measures taken a sovereignty and territory.

The Hong Kong protests and China's efforts to undermine the independence of the region are widely watched in the corridors of US policy, not only by the Trump administration; but also by congressional deputies.

Reuters

Nonetheless, the prevailing impression 13 in the post-Cold War era is that Hong Kong's value to the United States became primarily economic, having become its 19th trade partner and the largest contributor to the US trade surplus of more than $ 31 billion last year. While hosting the largest number of US corporate headquarters in Asia with 290 regional headquarters and 434 regional offices according to the same year statistics, careful consideration of political details reveals that Hong Kong continues to play a significant role in advancing US strategic interests clearly beyond Notch only Economic.

Considering the strategic location of Hong Kong, the US Consulate General in the Territory reports directly to the British Foreign Office and not to the US Embassy in Beijing. The US Navy continues to maintain regular contact with the Hong Kong port to determine the routes for deployment of US ships. The region's airport regularly, and many American politicians still hold the same old view of Hong Kong as a Trojan that could change China and integrate it into the world order - a look back to the 1970s Nixon and his historic visit to China are renewed under Carter, Clinton and Obama - which makes Hong Kong's recent ongoing protests and China's efforts to undermine the independence of the region enjoy a great deal of follow-up in US politics, not only by the Trump administration; Some have warned that China's intervention in Hong Kong would be a total break with the free world and a response to the "dark years" of Mao Zedong's rule, in an atmosphere that looks like a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing, which hawks now see as the last bastion of communism. It was at home with the collapse of the Soviet Union early nineties.

Great Wall of Hong Kong

The main lesson to be drawn from Hong Kong's geopolitical history is that the territory has always been at the center of conflicts between the US and China since the Cold War. While the US has used Hong Kong as a gateway to contain the spread of the communist tide coming from the Soviet Union and its allies, Beijing has resisted containment. Later, when the United States sought to use Hong Kong as a gateway to pass liberal and liberal policies to China, Beijing adopted a defensive approach and prevented Western ideas from infiltrating the territory into China's mainland. Iasa, and instead they have intensified their efforts to re-absorb the system of Hong Kong to Chinese political and social values.

As soft and as coarse as possible, China is seeking to undermine Hong Kong's independence but without risking destroying the "one country, two systems" framework that Beijing benefits.

Reuters

Three decades after the end of the Cold War, it became clear that the United States failed to implement China's liberation plan peacefully. Instead, Beijing emerged as America's rival superpower under a new paradigm of authoritarian capitalism, transforming Hong Kong into its own Trojan horse, It has benefited from the Western privileges granted to the territory, while at the same time intensifying its efforts to fully absorb it and paving the way for the total abolition of Hong Kong's self-rule by the time of its renewal in 2047.

However, in its attempts to domesticate Hong Kong and transform it into a new Chinese red site, Beijing is committed to maintaining that fine line between undermining the de facto "internal content" of Hong Kong's independence and maintaining its external independence. In other words, China is seeking as smoothly and as little as possible As much coarse force as possible, undermining Hong Kong's independence, but without risking the destruction of the “one country, two systems” framework that Beijing is currently making the best use of.

This means that the brutal intervention of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) to directly suppress the protests is not a favored option for Beijing, although it has implicitly used it either through statements by some Chinese officials or through recently broadcast propaganda tapes that have shown training units for demonstrating units and countering riots in a message. Beijing is well aware that violent intervention by sending its troops would be dangerous, undermining Hong Kong's business climate and provoking further anger among the region's citizens toward China - anger at its highest level. Already- what D risked undermining the framework of "one country, two systems" effectively.

With regard to winning the hearts and minds of Hong Kong people, Beijing is already facing a difficult situation. (15) A survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong in May found that only 27% of the population of the province were satisfied with the leadership of the pro-China city, while the proportion of those In contrast, the public's pride in Hong Kong's growing popularity has been one of the main reasons for the reluctance of the Chinese leadership to use direct repression and its preference to rely on subsidies. Local government instead.

In this regard, China already has many viable alternatives to kill protests, led by the police, which has not only used known repression tactics, including techniques to break up demonstrations and expand arrests - the wounded have been arrested from hospitals - to kill demonstrations. Overturn serious accusations of collusion with the well-known Trinity gangs that run organized crime in the province, where attacks by gang activists on demonstrators and citizens in Shor'a'a and Wara'a were observed in the absence of police who only appeared after the gangs disappeared.

But all this does not mean that the option of direct intervention by the Chinese army in Hong Kong to suppress the demonstrations altogether - or what in the West is called the "Tiananmen option" relative to the famous demonstrations that the Chinese government brutally suppressed in the late 1980s - does not mean that the difficult choice remains unlikely. Overall, after all, China could at some point conclude that the risk of Hong Kong's democratic aspirations for greater autonomy for the stability of the Chinese system outweighs the economic benefits Beijing derives from the region's nominal independence, especially if the Hong Kong protests inspire similar moves on China Prime threatened the control of the central government to regional governments, which China may push in the end to the use of the military garrison stationed in Hong Kong, which is estimated at 6,000 troops, to nip the protests in full if other tactics have failed to dump the crowds or to contain the anger of the protesters.

America could use its "nuclear paper" and cede full influence in Hong Kong, making it risk undermining the region's status as a financial, commercial and customs center

Reuters

The United States also has its own options to respond to China's regional moves, though the Trump administration seems to prefer to treat Hong Kong as a special Chinese issue to prevent further bickering with Beijing. At the outset, the United States could be content with a verbal threat that any erosion of Hong Kong's independence would be countered by deducting the territory's concessions under the Hong Kong Policy Act. This approach is likely given the US's clear recognition of China's sovereignty over Hong Kong. Successive US warnings have not prevented China from pursuing its own policies in the region, believing that US warnings will not be followed by actual measures as they were tested during the 2014 umbrella revolution demonstrations.

The United States could also opt for a de facto escalation by abolishing certain concessions under Hong Kong law through presidential decrees or perhaps abolishing the law altogether, as some congressional delegates have suggested. It would risk undermining the territory's status as a financial, trade and customs center, and although this would clearly hurt China economically, it would hurt the Hong Kong population in the first place, as would the US itself, given the risk of Hong Kong imposing corresponding tariffs on goods. The US, and more importantly, if the United States has taken this step Beijing Vcetkchw it has nothing to lose if the escalation of repressive measures in the region or even proceeded to cancel the framework of "one country, two systems" entirely.

The United States' last option remains targeted sanctions against individuals and entities involved in violating Hong Kong's autonomy, whether from CPC members, bureaucrats, and government members in Hong Kong. This option could raise the cost of any Chinese measures to undermine autonomy in the province, But China will certainly respond to this option also by imposing counter-sanctions, which means that, in any case, Hong Kong will continue to play the same role as West Berlin during the Cold War and will remain a playground for open conflict between the states. United and the Yen, but Washington does not have today enough stock to achieve such legendary victory achieved when the great Berlin Wall fell and collapsed with the Soviet Union, leaving the United States, a single and dominant force on the world.

Source: aljazeera

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