Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Hong Kong can be a gateway to liberal values for China (economist.com)
60 points by baylearn 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments

The 'gateway' to liberal values in China really is Taiwan that shows that China and Chinese culture are compatible with democracy and these values despite what some claim to justify refusing any such development on the mainland.

Taiwan is the home of the Chinese state that ruled over the whole country from 1912 to 1949 and it managed a democratic transition.

Hongkong has no "liberal" credentials. It has always (which means 150 years) been a commercial and trade centre only without democratic tradition and the recent protests show that politics very quickly turns into "my way or the highway" on both sides.

Moreover Taiwan's transition to democracy was 'indigenous', as it was never effectively colonized by the West (barring some isolated outposts), therefore defeating all the silly talk of "democracy is a cultural norm imposed by the West and is not compatible with Chinese culture" that pops up every now and then, including in this thread.


> Taiwan, officially the Republic of China...

ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan

Taiwan was no democracy until 1989. It had a right-wing dictatorship with a one-party rule.

Yes, exactly my point.

The political regime was very authoritarian and under martial law, and then they opened and liberalised.

This is wishful thinking, the mainland Moloch will devour and assimilate any traces of liberal values in Hong Kong. It's a tiny morsel by Chinese standards, they've assimilated much more.

Heh don't be so sure. At least we're trying, not armchair losing before even fighting.

China is large, vastly uninformed and HK is very far from liberal values by western standards. But heh we can show them small improvements, like how to change their over protective labor law encouraging slacking at work.

Incorporating HK isn't going well so far though, is it? The future isn't written. A few weeks ago, it was inconceivable that the extradition bill will be withdrawn.

I'm not saying things will turn out one way or another, only that it feels misguided to think anything about this situation is a foregone conclusion.

Agreed. And if there ever was a chance for HK to be free, it all disappeared in a sudden pop when Winnie the pooh took over and made himself leader for life.

I think that was actually part of the original plan, China didn't have to agree to the two system thing, but Deng chose to do it. China under Deng's leadership was very bold on testing big policy changes, from various special development zones, to limited experiment with democracy in HK.

Sadly several key reformists had to resign after Tiananmen massacre, so when Deng stepped down, the more conservative forces took over and have been dominating since.

Small correction: Tiananmen protests started in part because of the death of one of the biggest reformist voices in the Polit Buro, Hu Yaobang. Other reformers were sidelined during the protests.

Basically, in the beginning many voices in the CCP and Deng Xiaoping himself were sympathetic to the protests, but as they dragged on and more radical voices gained ground with demands like opening the country and introducing free elections, the tides in the upper (and lower) branches of the CCP turned against the reformers.

It is also interesting to note that while the reformers have been mostly side-lined since then, and Xi especially is a hard-right hardliner, the party is still at least paying lip-service to reformers. - For example one of the key policy goals of the last 5-year plan was to continue to develop Hong Kong into a global financial centre and broadly liberalize the chinese economy.

pishpash 8 days ago [flagged]

And HK protestors are making the same mistake, radicals have taken over.
wtdata 8 days ago [flagged]

Demanding due process and civil liberties is not radical, it's just following the UN chart for human rights.

EDIT: The immediate downvote of any pro HK civil liberties comment continues on HN and still @dang, instead of looking into the real issue and into the number of new accounts created on HN to specifically support the PoC in these threads, chastises whoever points what is happening.

Over half the entire population out demonstrating is not the radicals taking over, but there's bound to be a few easily found to spin up any desired message, amongst millions.

What matters is they're too radical for the current CCP leadership. It doesn't matter that the agreement provides mutually agreed and signed written promise of universal suffrage in election of the Chief Executive, and I think of the Legislative Council.

Which is a slap in the face for HKers with every Chief Exec appointee from Beijing with the comical farce of the "show election". Surprise, Beijing's choice wins every election!

Had Hu not been forced to resign and publicly recant, Tiananmen and the China wide protests might have gone very differently. The hopes and optimism expressed in the article had a real chance of becoming true. Being forced out for not being harsh enough on protesters, months before Tiananmen and only weeks into the demonstrations changed everything both in China, and for Hong Kong's future.

Even if the whole population came out, so what? You do not believe a population can be radicalized?

You conveniently forget that also in the Basic Law is a signed written promise to legislate a national security law, i.e. Article 23. Rejecting that means the die has been cast to forego reasoned compromise and go down the road of political confrontation. Then it becomes a power game that HK will lose every time, dragging the prospects of political liberalization in the mainland down with it.

> Even if the whole population came out, so what? You do not believe a population can be radicalized?

If you meet one radical on the way to work, you met a radical.

If you conclude that the entire population of a large and established polity is radical, you're the radical.

The UN chart for "human rights" is not some kind of holy scripture.

Just calling all these people from all walks of life "radicals" doesn't even pass the smell test either way.


You can give up your own human rights however you wish, but not those of others on their behalf.


edit: wow, I dropped 14 karma in a 13 minutes of posting this comment, because apparently one or more people are going through older of mine comments and downvoting anything that can still can be voted on. That's actually the first time in over 6 years that happened.

It is a document ratified with the agreement of China.


I'd argue that had also things have been going in that direction (to some extent), before Xi Jinping assumed power in late 2012.

Deng stepped down in '92, so sure, it's been something that's been developing before Xi Jinping.

You gotta love how predictable and consistent The Economist is. When it was founded in the 19th century it was a strong advocate for forcing China to open up to British opium. It was important to The Economist then, like it is important to The Economist now, that westerners be allowed access to Chinese people and Chinese markets.

One could argue that the United States has been operating a regime change operation in China since 1949. But The Economist, they've literally been arguing the same thing since like 1850.

A guest post from one of the protesters, who happens to be a student at the University of Washington, is not "The Economist" arguing anything. It couldn't be more clear that it's an independent view from some third party.

No, it can’t. This line assumes a rational, strategic-thinking CCP with long time horizons.

Pre-Xi, possibly. But Xi is a dictator, a leader for life. He is optimising for short-term political survival. There is zero chance of China liberalising until he either dies or is deposed. With respect to either, Hong Kong will likely be irrelevant.

Hong Kong could be the catalyst for Xi being deposed. Not likely, but it could happen.

I guess this is exactly why a popular opinion in mainland China now is that there is safe net between China and rest of world. Most of them don't want to be liberated, at least not to outsiders' terms.

How liberated they want to be, we will find out after the Dec 15th tariffs hit and what happens to their currency.

Lot's of people are going to take a hit and no one knows how many are going to unhappy about that.

Probably because liberty does not mean prosperity.

> Probably because liberty does not mean prosperity.

In the post WW2 era, it has overwhelmingly meant that. Not subtly, not kinda sorta, overwhelmingly. And the lack of liberty has overwhelmingly meant poverty.

The scales are so radically tilted toward those things, that the outliers are few on each side, counted on one hand typically.

Prosperous + high degrees of liberty: Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Iceland, US, Canada, UK, Denmark, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Belgium, France, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, Italy, South Korea, Spain

You know, just nearly all the most affluent nations on the planet. Nearly all the most prosperous nations are also high liberty nations.

The list continues even further on down the line: Taiwan, Portugal, Estonia, Slovenia, Czech, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Greece, Poland

Even Romania for example now has a GDP per capita well exceeding that of China and Russia. How is that possible, that Romania is embarrassing Russia economically? One has far more liberty than the other; one is democratic, the other is autocratic to an extreme. In the not so distant future, Romania will double Russia's GDP per capita. Russia's liberty deprivation is beginning to show itself - again - in their economic regression (eg falling incomes for 5-6 years) and general stagnation.

What are examples of very impoverished high liberty nations? There are exceptionally few. So few I would challenge anybody to name more than three or four out of ~196 nations.

Outliers in the prosperous group when it comes to low liberty? Also exceptionally few: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE

The low liberty group of nations is dramatically dominated by poverty by comparison.

> Russia's liberty deprivation is beginning to show itself - again - in their economic regression (eg falling incomes for 5-6 years) and general stagnation.

Let's be fair, the last few years recession in Russia was largely, if not entirely, caused by post-Crimea sanctions and crashed global oil prices, it had little if anything to do with liberty deprivation.

As to the general point, nobody in Russia knows or cares how well off an average American is. People care how well off they are relative to their own yesterday. Russians know they have it better today than in the 90s, and they (think they) know whom to thank for that. I guess same goes for Chinese as their economy has been growing wildly at the time, although I have no personal experience there.

To be extra clear, this does not mean at all that autocracy contributed to that growth in any positive way – most probably the opposite, – only that it appears so from the inside, as without freedom of speech it is very easy for the regime to take credit for any improvements and blame the west for any setbacks. Russia excels at that game domestically, which explains why Russians are largely fine with the relatively small amount of freedoms they're enjoying. Again, probably a similar situation in China.

(I didn't downvote you, just wanted to expand on GP's point)

> Let's be fair, the last few years recession in Russia was largely, if not entirely, caused by post-Crimea sanction

And where did the Crimea sanction come from, if not from an autocratic, follow-the-leader regime who created the problem in the first place?

The sanctions came from liberal nations, to state the obvious. An external enemy, as far as Russians are concerned. The same countries never sanctioned USA over any of its similarly unjustified wars or the coup d'etat-s it organized. It's a matter of power relative to other nations, not the level of democracy in the aggressor.

Again, I'm not defending Crimea invasion by any means, but the original question is why do people accept autocracy, and the answer lies in their perception as much as actual truth, neither of which should be ignored.

Liberty is more important than prosperity.

This is the problem with current world, everything we say is absolute, no compromise, you are either with me or against me. Anything can be important when you don't have it.

The author of this story was a front line protester involved in the LegCo incident in early July.

He is a currently PhD student studying political science abroad.

Not sure he will ever be able to return to HK ...

An interview with him about the smashing of LegCo building: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3017530...

They say that history repeats, first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. I think with HK, the situation is reverse. It was farce in 1996 and tragedy today.

Just before the handover, when there was a buzz of discussion around the relationship between Hong Kong and China, one of the common talking points in the West was that legally China may be absorbing HK, but economically HK would absorb China. The party line was that

1. China needed more foreign capital inflows, and so HK would be a model of open capital markets. (see this Rockefeller report:

"One important component of this trade, and a major engine of Chinese economic growth, has been the freer flow of foreign capital into the Chinese economy. Foreign- funded enterprises — the majority of which are supported by overseas Chinese based in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other countries in Southeast Asia — account for more than one-third of Chinese exports." https://www.rbf.org/sites/default/files/attachments/china_co...

2. China would need to democratize more to overcome problems with CCP rule.

3. China's economy was reaching diminishing returns in the current system.

I recommend reading the summaries of that Rockefeller paper, starting on page 4.

HK was so much wealthier and advanced whereas China was considered backwards, and so it was just assumed that China would be copying HK as much as they can.

The reality proved..different. China became an industrial powerhouse (something HK never was) much more dependent on capital outflows than inflows. It increased centralization, reversing Deng's reforms. It did not suffer any diminished capacity to either act internationally (see Belt and Road) or to increase industrialization. There was no devolution, no reform, no democratization, and no financialization or internationalization of the economic decision making process. Even culturally, HK had a movie industry in the 90s that was completely eclipsed by mainland China. Same for fine arts, classical music, everything. There is no area, either cultural or economic, where HK has a leadership role now.

And the position of HK as a crucial financial gateway to China that allowed China to access western capital began to fade, as did the wealth discrepancy between top tier cities in China and HK. At this point, HK's economy is underperforming mainland China and most mainland Chinese don't view it as having any kind of leadership role, either as demonstrating a system to be emulated and admired or even as demonstrating a possible path forward for China, which is deep into nationalism and xenophobia.

So today, given the huge reversal of importance of HK and China, to be bringing out this old line -- it seems crazy.

How Hong Kong can be gateway to liberal values when it itself cannot be liberal enough to reconcile with the fact that everyone in Hong Kong is a Chinese citizen (except few permanent residents) following Chinese nationality law. Unless it cannot be liberal enough to acknowledge it's true state how can it serve as an example to others.

For people who lived in Hong Kong before 1997 and after it Hong Kong people (except the discriminated groups) discrimated openly people from China and other parts of Asia except Japan. If they happen to seat in MTR, the Hong Kong person will not seat next to them even, deny them jobs due to ethnocity. Indeed in some cases they run full page ads against them openly without repurcussions, which might result in a severe punishment in UK in the form of libel laws, in USA in the firm of racial discrimination.

There are no laws against racial discrimination or discrimation based on color in Hong Kong. There is a small toothless organization trying to show as if they care.

This is laughable by the economist to even think Hong Kong can ever be an example of liberal values to Chinese in China who did not treat people from other parts of Asia with open contempt like in Hong Kong.

Again as it is a minority view I know it will be downvoted, but for people who lived there know the truth.

It is true that mainlanders face discrimination in Hong Kong. But let's not forget that a huge portion, if not the majority, of people who call themselves Hong Kongers were born in the mainland, or have parents that came from the mainland. So it's worth examining where those feelings of ill will towards mainland Chinese come from, because it's certainly not ethnic.

Hong Kong has a very "western" culture (for lack of a better term, because Hong Kong certainly has a heady mix of Chinese, British and American culture, with the rest of Asia sprinkled in). The increase in anti-mainland sentiment seems to me to correlate closely with the fear of Chinese government encroachment on Hong Kong's institutions, and outright attacks on those institutions and values. From national security legislation, to education reform, to reducing the prominence of Cantonese, to the stifling of the free press by purchases of news organizations by mainland companies, all of this creates a feeling among Hong Kongers that they are losing the way of life they treasure.

In addition to that, there is the economic pressure from rising property prices spurred by endless flows of money and people (albeit in quotas) from the mainland, and world-record income and wealth inequality (a problem Hong Kong's government set itself up for long before the handover).

This is in no way a defense of the despicable treatment many mainland Chinese have experienced in Hong Kong. That is indefensible, and it is shameful in an otherwise liberal society. But it is just that, an exception to the rule in a liberal society being squeezed relentlessly by the mainland government—and most lately by the Hong Kong government itself, which no longer makes its own decisions.

> people (albeit in quotas)

If you know the history of this issue it is based on reinterpretation of Basic Law Hong Kong people asked for limiting legitimate spouses and children of Hong Kong residents to re-unite as a family in Hong Kong.

It's the most inhuman treatment Hong Kong people forced China to take against human rights and UNHCR guideline. Today Hong Kong SAR is the only exception in this world which makes its own citizens stateless and deny them rights as enshrined in UN conventions and guidelines.

Today China is able to interpret Basic Law is a result of this, which Hong Kong wanted for economic benefits.

So part of the blame for current situation is still with Hong Kong people, who wanted China to reinterpret basic law for its own economic interest. Obviously it was a dual edged sword so now it's inflicting injury on other side. China is well within it's right to interpret Basic Law, given Hong Kong people asked for it on the first place and opened the doors.

> This is in no way a defense of the despicable treatment many mainland Chinese have experienced in Hong Kong. That is indefensible, and it is shameful in an otherwise liberal society. But it is just that, an exception to the rule in a liberal society being squeezed relentlessly by the mainland government—and most lately by the Hong Kong government itself, which no longer makes its own decisions.

It is hardly an exception. Being a HK born, and lived abroad, I've seen exactly the same kind of discrimination that the previous poster had mentioned, the ones toward mainlanders.

When I was working in HK, I've heard barbs behind my back about how I'm here stealing jobs. Online, I've seen barbs about how just because people like me have "the 3 stars", the right of abode, it doesn't mean that people like me are Hong Kongers.

During my time there, I got along with the mainlanders working in the office because of these reasons. They throw barbs behind my back, but when they have no choice but needed my help, either they put on a thin veneer of civility, or couldn't simply be forthright about it.

They believe the reasons why HKers from overseas advance in their career because of who they are, but never questioned why. Perhaps they done more work that delivered more value, willing to take risks for their career, instead of relying on this magical status of "studying abroad".

A lot of Hong Kongers feel inferior compared to others, and it partly has to do with the education system - largely a carry over from the Colonial days that punishes students severely from being "wrong", stifling creative thinking and risk taking; and partly has to do with Hong Kongers in general with their discriminatory streak.

> The increase in anti-mainland sentiment seems to me to correlate closely with the fear of Chinese government encroachment on Hong Kong's institutions, and outright attacks on those institutions and values.

This is the lie that Hong Kongers like to tell themselves. The anti-mainland sentiment had always been around. The word 阿燦[1] came to be in the late 70s. That dark undercurrent had always been there, alongside the discrimination towards Filipino and Indonesian maids and their treatment. New slang term came up and took their place, dehumanizing them to locusts, or start calling them derogatory terms dating back to WW2.

A Bangladeshi-Canadian friend of mine and I just visited last year. He knew he was going to be discriminated upon in China, but was taken aback by the amount of discrimination he had seen in Hong Kong. He recounted about how daggers were coming out of peoples' eyes, even your typical servers at a restaurant, and they had only relented when he spoke in Canadian English. This is particularly telling, because they had expected him to speak in an South Asian accent, and already lumped him into that group that had always been looked down upon.

You can see this with the initial protests, outside of government buildings, it's typically in TST / MK, where a lot of mainland tourists tends to shop; and border towns in NT where mainland grey-market buyers tend to grab milk formula. And this went on full-display when they occupied the airport, and held the two mainlanders. The protesters said that they had been anxious of instigators, but the fact of the matter is, their discriminatory sense was on full display, and if one were to look at it at the point of view of the protest-supporter, it was a colossal strategic mistake.

> Hong Kong has a very "western" culture (for lack of a better term, because Hong Kong certainly has a heady mix of Chinese, British and American culture, with the rest of Asia sprinkled in). By this, you mean if one were White, they'd look at them fondly. If one had dark skin, then they'd look down on them, either because they're labourers, e.g. Filipino / Indonesian maids at near indentured-servitude; or part of the people segregated into their own enclaves.


Articles like these masks the core problems underneath, the deep-seated discrimination that had been festering for decades. The sentiments that HK has a western culture, or it was liberal, or democratic, and had it taken from them ignores a lot of the realities on the ground, and history. Colonial HK only got its first indirect-election in '85 [2], after the Joint-Declaration; the first direct election in '91 [3]. The article lamented that the LegCo wasn't 100% directly elected, but rarely people look back and figure out that the functional constituency [4] is from the Colonial days, and pro-democratic leaders like Martin Lee and Szeto Wah was elected through the FC in '85 [2]

1: https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%98%BF%E7%87%A6 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1985_Hong_Kong_legislative_ele... 3: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Hong_Kong_legislative_ele... 4: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_constituency_(Hong_...

All this to say "Many Hong Kongers are racist". That's correct, sadly. But there is no doubt that anti-parallel trader demonstrations are a new phenomenon, and directly correlated to the disruption to daily life in the border areas. This has not all arisen out of nowhere.

I'd be very interested in understanding mainland Chinese sentiment better. My impression is that there is a lot of love for the current Chinese political system, and I'd like to understand why that is. Can anyone refer me to writing pieces that focus on this?

Stop trying to make china something they are willing to fight be. Stop financing authoritarians on your way to doing so.

Pure, unadulterated propaganda on HN... I despair. Even worse it's total nonsense.

"Hong Kong can be a gateway to liberal values for China". Oh really ? Is China aware of this ? I think we should stop trying to export western values to China. Ladies, Gentlemen and all non-binary people, I have a news for you. These guys are a bit different.

Exactly we should be exporting anything their or doing business with them

Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact