Why Hong Kong is Burning

Why have one million citizens taken to the streets of Hong Kong to protest against the forced extradition bill which China has insistently been requesting? The most widely accepted explanation, as also reported by the South China Morning Post, is that the people of the former British colony have a sense of freedom in their DNA which is lacking in their cousins of mainland China.

Between hope and illusion

Many citizens of Hong Kong consider their city a separate state from China, with greater affinities to the Western world than to Asia. The problem is that Hong Kong, historically, has always been considered a part of China, except for the years during which it was under British rule. Since 1997, all of the pieces have been put back into place, and the balance between the two territories is guaranteed by the “one Country, two systems” approach to governing. This clearly highlights how, all in all, Hong Kong still maintains several economic and administrative advantages, a luxury which mainland China does not enjoy. Despite its special status, China considers the former British colony a Chinese province by all standards, and therefore it cannot conceive explosions of dissent like those which broke out on Sunday; it is simply unimaginable for Mainland China that something like this could happen on any part of its territory.

Hong Kong is not the West

The friction between the expectations of a number of Hong Kong’s inhabitants and the reality of China’s expectations has often sparked revolts, with differing degrees of violence. The people of Hong Kong are proud to fight for democracy, while Beijing points out how a portion of its territory left in the hands of the West has turned into a land where protests and riots can break out from one moment to the next. Due to certain lenient regulations, or loopholes, Hong Kong has become the perfect haven for criminal associations; triads, as well as habitual crooks, have become convinced they can get away with anything in this “Asian oasis.”

How to fill in a dangerous legal void

For this reason as well, China decided to introduce an extradition bill which, once approved, (if it is approved by Hong Kong’s local parliament) will allow to transfer fugitive criminals to Beijing where they will be tried according to mainland China laws. Human rights groups revolted, accusing China of wanting to put its hands on Hong Kong’s justice system, despite Hong Kong having become a champion of democracy only 150 years ago. The former colony still feels free, democratic and a part of the West, and yet it has been returned to China which is based on values and models which contrast those prevalent in the West.

A warning to Taiwan

Beijing intends to annex all those Chinese territories which it considers rebellious. It has already been successful in doing so with Hong Kong and Macau, whilst Taiwan still stands. In order to convince Taipei to take steps towards mainland China, the Dragon might use Hong Kong as an example; the freedom which the city has enjoyed has revealed itself to be the cause of its woes. In such a free port (although increasingly more Chinese and less free), legislative voids and lack of control have caused instability in relation to social harmony between Hongkongers and the Mainland Chinese. China would like to pass the message on to Taiwan.