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China Seeks to Buy Control of Hong Kong Companies (bloomberg.com)
168 points by JumpCrisscross 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

A significant number of the seats in Hong Kong government are voted/belong to "industry/corporations", and these have been able to decide the Government recently. China buying control of the corporations will further subvert the democracy.

Rather like the City of London then [1] - not the only similarity between the two places. I think the system dates to British rule in Hong Kong, which became partly democratic rather late in the day.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_London#Elections note: this is the City of London (~1 square mile) not the metropolis.

Edit: ninja'd by louthy and djcapelis

Towards the end of British rule in Hong Kong the Brits sought to make HK more democratic but were rebuffed by Beijing, as in the 1960s [1].

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/28/world/asia/china-began-pu...

The original source of this narrative is VJMedia.hk [1], popularized by QZ in English web [2]. VJMedia is operated by RongLeQi who was a member of the League of Social Democrats at the time, aka pro-democrat party who participated in the LegCo oath-taking controversy. Unsurprisingly, it's a fairly biased and disingenuous interpretation of FCO40/327 and the Thatcher memo that border on propaganda. The primary sources quoted in the article has nothing to do with democratic reforms but UK seeking HK sovereignty as a self-governing dominion like Singapore (not just democratic reforms) as an alternative to handover because it would stabilize investor fears - the concerns were purely economic. Obviously China would reject this proposal which basically tried to circumvent handover by making HK dejure independent in 1997. The reason why UK/Patten introduced some democratic reforms near handover was a last minute effort to maintain some political and economic influence over the colony. There was never any effort in the 60s to grant HK democracy within the context of Extension of Hong Kong Territory lease - they asked for sovereignty which was never an option - and what little that was given was a last minute geopolitical power play.

[1] https://www.vjmedia.com.hk/articles/2014/01/11/60039

[2] https://qz.com/279013/the-secret-history-of-hong-kongs-still...

Is there a problem with a de jure independent HK like Singapore, if so I can’t see one. I’m not saying Beijing would agree to be sure.

The greater context according to FCO40/327 (1960s source), "self-government" was actually suggested by the US, probably in context of cold-war containment, the Chinese viewed it as US imperialism. More importantly in the Thatcher memo, I think Deng pretty much states the legitimacy of the CPC rests on it's ability to reunite HK and if that didn't happen the CPC should just disband. There's also no geopolitical benefit to ceding territory, especially developed metropolis to ideological opponents.

> There's also no geopolitical benefit to ceding territory, especially developed metropolis to ideological opponents.

I think that can be true, but it's a difficult needle to thread. I don't know there's huge geopolitical benefit in holding onto a tiny outcrop of land that actively rebels against you on the regular and causes trouble. It's pretty insignificant these days in the bigger picture of the PRC except to your point the CPC's ego rests on it.

As I see it, it's mainly because not that many people live in the City, and this enfranchises employees.

CEOs/industry could be boycotted induce political change. To mitigate that risk, China really should just have elected representatives as a political proxy. Then HK can have the same system we do where corporations really run the show.

Sounds like their cup didn't runneth over with democracy even beforehand... that's bizarre. Like a modern House of Lords that just leans into giving corps a seat in government...

IMO this has to do with Beijing's pushback in the mid 1900s against expanded political freedoms in what I would assume was an anticipation of the end of the 99 year lease on the New Territories [1] and the fact that HK was caught as the middle region in a multi-circle Venn diagram (between China, the UK, the US and other regional powers). They weren't able to really push any one thing too far in any direction without pissing off one of them. So they focused on what they could control: creating an incredibly effective financial center. Corporations in HK don't have nearly as much power in the US as if they pulled to far, someone would come knocking.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/28/world/asia/china-began-pu...

Probably more like the Corporation of London



That's how it was designed by Beijing. Every single Chief Exec since handover has been Beijing's choice, and the legislature balance has always been in Beijing's majority. That's because the proportion of votes to each trade and whether an industry gets a vote at all was decided in proportion of how Beijing sympathetic they were. There's more - Wikipedia has the full absurdity.

That is how you create a show democracy, with show elections, and give the impression there is democracy to subvert.

Companies are buying the American democracy through lobbying and campaign contributions. The disastrous decision of the supreme court called "Citizens United" puts the US in a similar situation as Hong Kong. That's why the flow of foreign money (including Russian money) will not stop to influence US politics in the foreseeable future.

Citizens united was about people not losing their individual rights when they group together.

Do you have a problem with someone writing a book about a presidential candidate?

If not, why would you have a problem with a movie being released?

Do you think newspapers and tv shows should endorse candidates? Or choose which ones to cover and how much to cover?

Citizens united is incredibly misunderstood.

If anything, the problem is that there is so much money being spent by the federal government that it makes sense to try and and get it.

That's nonsense. People don't lose their rights when they control a company. They continue having the ability to contribute to whomever they want as an individual.

> there is so much money being spent by the federal government that it makes sense to try and and get it.

The money spent by the federal government is people's money. Trying to get it is called stealing.

Citizens United was a group of people who made a film and wanted to release and the government said that couldn't. The created a corporation to make and release the film.

Citizens United has nothing to do with campaign contributions.

Let's not pretend corporations are groups of people.

Let's not pretend the Sierra club and ACLU are _incorporated_ entities whose speech could (and would) be throttled by restrictions on "corporate" spending.

Citizens United was the an extremely beneficial ruling IMO. Your opinion on it being a “disaster” is not a fact, it is an opinion. Citizens United allows everyone who wants to, whether its corporations or unions or groups of people, to make their case directly to citizens. This is a Good Thing. It also isn’t the case that spending hundreds of millions of dollars guarantees you a victory, as the recent example of billionaire Tom Steyer entering the presidential race and being unable to qualify for the debates despite millions of dollars spent on advertising.

The difference is that billions of dollars tends to make a "better case" than those ideas without billions of dollars. Why do you think that money accumulated by the greedy should be given an advantage in the marketplace of ideas?

Trump won both the primary and the general even though he spent significantly less than his opponents in both.

Money talks, but it isn’t everything and can’t buy elections in the USA right now.


It has been this way since 1997; Hong Kong is the only terretory I know of governed by a CEO.

The City of London has a system not too dissimilar.

Note: The City of London is not the same thing as London. It’s real weird.

> Hong Kong is the only terretory I know of governed by a CEO

Many US counties have a similarly-titled head of government.

No, since when America practicing functional constituency [0]? It was invented long before 1997 when HK was still under British rule, nothing to do with China, so I think you can take easy with whataboutism.

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_constituency_(Hong_...

The problems of Hong Kong started with colonization by the British. But of course only now the western journalists are worried.

Most HKers would not see that as a problem. The city thrived under British rule.

That’s because the British killed all the HKers that resisted. Most HKers lived as second class citizens for decades.

It culminated in the ‘67 protests, where the British killed over 50 protesters.

It was only after the 80s, when decolonization was popular and the return of HK inevitable, did things change for the average Hong Kong citizen.

By protestors, you mean people who attempted to spread the cultural revolution into Hong Kong and ultimately failed.

HK continues to thrive under Chinese rule.

We have the most unaffordable property market in the world, technology is stagnating, corrupt construction companies are cutting corners and building dangerous infrastructure. Yeah sure.

Because they were ( partially ) left alone, as was originally agreed till 2050.

How can you (already?) forgot the massive protests against Mainland China? A country is made of civilians, not corporations.

Under the rule of British, the people of HK could never protest like they're doing now.

What are you talking about? Hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers were protesting about Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. That was eight years before the hand-over of HK.

During the ‘67 protests, the British killed over 50 Hong Kong protesters.

`67 "protests"? You must be kidding me. The series of events, known as the "1967 riots" in history, weren't really just protests or riots, but also a series of indiscriminate terrorist attacks against Hongkongers. Over a thousand bombs --- yes, a thousand, no kidding --- were planted, among them about a hundred were real. Most westerners may not know this, but this series of so-called "riots" is actually one of the largest-scaled terrorist attack in modern history.

And you said that the British had killed over 50 Hong Kong "protesters"? I don't know how many Chinese terrorists were killed, but I am sure that tens of Hongkongers had been murdered by the Chinese terrorists. Some were killed by the bombs planted by the terrorists. Some were killed by Chinese militants (equipped with firearms) near the border. A famous broadcaster, Lam Bun, who criticised the Chinese terrorists, was even burnt to death inside his car.


Yeah. A lot of journalists are ignoring the indigenous peoples that were massacred during colonization.

They even ignore the fact that for much of Hong Kong history, the people were treated as second class citizens.



That seems pretty smart to me. If your two choices are either assimilation or to make a separate state (with separate laws, etc.) out of your 8th or so largest city, I can see doing this.

Obviously, both sides will alter each other with the largest one doing most of the altering.

Thats is the obvious move. Can't beat them into submission? Buy them.

Obvious in what way? The protestors are not the same people who run these companies as far as I am aware so not sure what you're referring to.

Not the OP, but I guess that most of those protesters work for said Hong Kong companies and when your new politically-appointed boss tells you that you either fall in line or you can go and look for another job I think most of those protesters will choose to fall in line.

I guess that makes sense but aren't the protestors already risking their jobs by continuing to protest? I've heard of people having "sick" days and "working from home" in order to plausibly skip work in order to protest. If the goal is to fire protestors from their jobs, I don't think China buying controlling shares in a few companies makes much sense. The other comment in this thread about buying votes in the government seems to be more plausible.

You can't fire 2 million+ people in a city with a population of 7 million

You could, and people would likely start springing up cooperatives and forcibly taking company property over like what happened in Italy during the crisis. Not sure how well those fare now.

Not to mention this would vastly fuel the protests.

Those people are on the street facing a militarized police force. Do you think their boss will stop them?

I find a lot of parallels with the French Enlightenment and HK.

It caught my attention because I'm listening to Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon by Suzanne M. Desan on Audible.

Soon the course will cover the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storming_of_the_Bastille. Apparently it's common in history for societies facing extreme tension to have groups rise up and loot military garrisons (lest they starve). Thankfully, this doesn't happen as often because societies let their people participate in the future of their country by voting.

Backing up though, in last weeks audible lesson, I learned coffee shops were popular in pre-Enlightenment France for people to discuss their disapproval of the rulers and ideas for a new system (Voltaire loved coffee). During this time, plain clothes police would write dossiers on the speakers. The French had a name for them, "flies". This reminded me of claims on /r/hongkong spotting infiltrators blending in with protesters.

I hope HK protesters don't suffer unnecessarily for being targeted for political disagreements. From the news, protesters are interpreted as a national security / subversion concern, if this is true, doesn't that sort of contradict the 2 systems concept?

If HK can have their system, how can the law be improved if citizens can't communicate their feelings without harassment / surveillance? Wouldn't chilling of expression / speech spoil a system where the people rule?

The French Revolution had many differences, but the core of it is people were allowed to think, have self-rule, and wouldn't be bullied when they communicated displeasure it sucked they starved while aristocrats ate well (among a trove of other things).

In HK, wouldn't having more direct rule by the people result in new laws to ease the housing costs and make people feel pride, inclusion in their own region?

With this enthusiasm for liberty and democracy surging through HK, it's only a matter of time until they are granted universal suffrage forever, since PRC agreed that they are a separate system and always intended this level of freedom and flexibility for them.

The obvious response is going to be boycotts of those companies.

There’s a CGP Grey video on the London inside London https://youtu.be/LrObZ_HZZUc

I see almost all comments on this article are sympathetic to China. I have not dug deeper but I wonder if the accounts making these comments are all real, or could they be part of China’s propaganda apparatus?

Kindly re-read the HN guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Please don't make insinuations about astroturfing. It degrades discussion and is usually mistaken. If you're worried, email us and we'll look at the data.

It's spooky to see this going on. I can only hope that this is resisted by those companies and the people sufficiently enough to limit the damage this could do.

It would be nice if Hong Kong citizens had a choice of where to emigrate outside of China but Hong Kong should be integrated into the Greater Bay Area.

Hong Kong’s economic relevance to the story of China has fallen to almost negligible levels, it doesn't make sense to identify it as separate from the 8 megacities that surround it which are economic marvels and productivity houses.

Our news should be populated by the numerous things occurring in the 8 larger, more populated, higher GDP outputting cities in the Guangzhou region. Shenzhen alone, bordering Hong Kong, is likely more interesting this decade and into the future.

Hong Kong functions as a mere administrative convenience for circumventing customs duties to the rest if the world.

Any nation in a similar situation would look at all avenues of integration, no matter how skeptical people were. Is that inaccurate?

I think this perspective isn't presented.

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