Protesters Gathered in Hong Kong Center
The last straw was drawn for Hong Kong, late September, when the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress announced its decision in regards to proposed electoral reform, saying that they would elect the general candidates for citizens to vote on rather than having civil nomination of candidates to take office. Seeing this as another form of oppression by China, to fall in line and become part of the mainland, Hong Kong broke out in protest with hundreds and hundreds of protestors, mainly students, in key areas of special economic zone.
Hong Kong is up against the single largest country in the world, yet they seem to have a chance at reaching a beneficial conclusion for both sides involved. It all comes down to how Hong Kong seizes the moments to come in the following weeks. So far Hong Kong has to power tactics that they can use to negotiate against China, which are Hong Kong’s significance to Chinas economy as a whole, and the social aspect along with its implication to Chinas social policy. A week and a half into the conflict Hong Kong has managed to hold its own but for how long will these bargaining chips hold? The protesters in Hong Kong need to act swiftly and quickly if they want the reforms that they stand for to last.
The first advantage that Hong Kong has is their effect on Chinas economy as a whole. Hong Kong for the last couple of decades served as Chinas connection to the world’s economy in that it became a special economic zone, and even before that in that they grew accustomed to trade with the world economy. As explained by the magazine The Economist “It (Hong Kong) is a city that is sealed off form the mainland but closely connected to it; a territory that is fully integrated into the world economy but ultimately controlled by the Communist Party in Beijing.” Throughout the demonstrations the protestors have occupied the financial center putting a hold to most financial activity. Even though Hong Kong’s percent of Chinas GDP drop significantly in the last couple of years, Hong Kong still accounts for a very large number of investors from mainland China, as well as form the rest of the world, that take part in Hong Kong’s economy. In response China has cancelled flights into Hong Kong with the hope that investors from the mainland cannot keep pumping money into Hong Kong’s economy. By doing so Hong Kong can no longer depended on investors based out of China, as well as having to deal with foreign investors pulling out of the Hong Kong market due to lack of stability
This shows Chinas main tactic “anaconda strategy” towards the protestors. By cutting Hong Kong of certain resources means that anyone employed or doing business with people from the mainland are not working right now and in risk of losing money or their jobs. This has caused non protesters to confront protestors in Hong Kong, while the police and other forms of authorities just sit back and watch it all unfold.
This leads to the second bargaining chip that Hong Kong has. Going back 25 years ago Beijing had protests of well over a million people leading to the Tiananmen Square protest. This created ripples that where felt all over the world, and made “Red China” look even more menacing, and further demonized China. It is unlikely that the Honk Kong protests will ever escalate to this level, mainly because just today both sides will talk to ease tensions, but Hong Kong should still take advantage of the publicity they are getting and get across certain points in regards to current conditions Hong Kong have to live under.
Protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing
Hong Kong without a doubt is one of the most economically active regions in the east, which will inevitably play a huge role in deciding the outcome of the protests, and perhaps even the future of Hong Kong and its relationship with China. Hong Kong has a chance now to put some pressure of their own give their economic stance in Chinas economy. China has also historically not been able to deal with protests in a very calm manner, which again gives Hong Kong an upper hand in pushing China, and making them seem like the enemy. Hong Kong future might not lie directly in this protest, but it will definitely shape the direction in which the region is heading.