Large scale anti-China protests have been occurring in Hong Kong for over a month now. What started as a demonstration against an extradition bill led to the storming of parliament, and has most recently manifested itself in Lennon Walls, a series of walls within the S.A.R covered in coloured notes with pro-democracy, pro-independence messages written on them.
It’s safe to assume that the sentiment of the Hong Kong population is generally anti-China. The behaviour of the police force, including excessive violence during the protests, has not helped matters. On top of this, Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong currently has a disapproval rate of 67%, according to University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP). The fear amongst protestors, put simply, is that Hong Kong is going to become increasingly a part of Mainland China now, rather than in 2047, as agreed upon in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. China argues that the declaration is simply a historical document, and not legally binding, so they can treat Hong Kong as they wish, given that they see it as a part of their country.
Here’s where it gets difficult. The vast majority of Hong Kong does not want to become a part of China. A further study by HKUPOP shows that 52.9% of those living in Hong Kong identify as a ‘Hongkonger’, whereas only 10.8% identify as ‘Chinese’. 35.8% of people see themselves as being of ‘Mixed Identity’. The dichotomy between the societies of China and Hong Kong is extensive: Hong Kong runs on capitalism, whereas China is proudly communist. Hong Kong speaks Cantonese where the Mainland speaks Mandarin. Hong Kong is a lot more ‘free’ by Western standards: China is known for its censorship. Hong Kong has free access to most things on the internet. Hongkongers have made it clear that they want to keep it this way.
So what is Mainland China to do?
At first, it seemed like the Mainland sought to quell objection with fire, with police cracking down hard on protestors. This did not dissuade them. Next came verbal reprimand. This did not do much either. Apology followed this, when Carrie Lam lamented her responsibility in causing “controversies, disputes and anxieties in society.” Hong Kong did not accept the apology.
Now, China is drafting an urgent plan to get back into Hong Kong’s good books. They have ruled out military force – it seems that lessons have been learnt from the violent clashes between police and protestors that drew international controversy in early June. The Mainland seems eager to keep matters under control of the Hong Kong government, rather than that of the PRC, allegedly telling Lam that she needed to clean up “the mess she created.”
Beijing will, however, be presented with an immediate plan to quell the mass protests, as well as a longer-term strategy in the handling of the SAR, South China Morning Post have reported. This strategy could lead to an “overhaul of Beijing’s approach to managing the restless former British colony”.
A source for the newspaper also told them that the Mainland was surprised by both the scale and intensity of the series of protests in Hong Kong. China’s intelligence, the source said, had “failed to accurately gauge the public mood”.
Beijing is now determined that the instigators of the protests lie elsewhere, and that Hongkongers have been influenced by foreign agents who are attempting to destabilise the Mainland. They do not believe that it is an isolated incident.
Now, the main goal is to quash dissent in Hong Kong, attempting to minimise bloodshed and unrest, whilst also uniting the pro-establishment camp in both regions.
Whether this will happen is up in the air – with the way Hong Kong has responded to the Mainland previously, it seems that Beijing will have to work hard to get the SAR back on its side.