Hong Kong protests: what's at stake for China? | The Economist

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  • Published on:  Wednesday, August 14, 2019
  • The Hong Kong protests are the most serious challenge to China's authority since the Tiananmen Square massacre. Read more about the Hong Kong protests here: https://econ.st/2YKYdWV

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    This protester calls himself “Bruce”. We’ve hidden his face and obscured his voice to protect his identity. He’s one of the millions of Hong Kongers taking to the streets.

    What started as a protest against an extradition bill has become the most serious challenge to the Communist Party’s authority since the Tiananmen Square protest three decades ago. As the demonstrations enter a third month neither the government nor the protesters is willing to back down.

    But it’s not enough to deter the demonstrators. So what happens now?

    Hong Kong is one of the most important financial centres in the world. And it has a unique status. It’s a city in China but it’s not entirely Chinese. It has its own currency, its own passport… its own legal system. There’s even a boundary between Hong Kong and the rest of China and you need a permit to cross it. This is all down to its history.

    In 1842 Hong Kong was ceded by the Chinese to the British after the first Opium War. But in 1997 Britain gave it back to China. With one important condition - for 50 years Hong Kong was to be governed under what is known as “one country, two systems”. The chief executive who runs Hong Kong would be appointed by a pro-Chinese committee. But the city was guaranteed a high degree of autonomy with its own government, legal system and economic independence until 2047. Over the past decade those rights have been eroded.

    Fuller democracy, promised as part of the handover agreement has yet to be granted by China.

    China’s grip has got ever tighter. In 2012 the government tried to install a patriotic pro-Chinese education system. Then five Hong Kong booksellers who sold material banned in mainland China disappeared. In 2016 pro-democracy opposition leaders were thrown out of Hong Kong’s parliament for insulting China when swearing their oaths. And then in February this year the government introduced a bill which would have allowed extradition to the mainland.

    All this is fuelling the protesters’ anger.

    As the protests get larger and more violent the chance of China intervening increases. Beijing has made thinly veiled threats to send in its military forces - the People’s Liberation Army.

    In 1989 a student demonstration in Beijing ended in massacre. Hundreds, maybe thousands, were shot dead. For the Chinese government the Hong Kong demonstrators are defying the authority of a Communist leadership that cannot tolerate defiance. Another fear is some protesters’ demand for full independence. But military intervention would be a very risky strategy for Beijing

    In 1993 Hong Kong’s GDP accounted for more than a quarter of mainland China’s. Today China’s remarkable rise means that Hong Kong’s economic output makes up less than 3% of the mainland’s. But Hong Kong remains important for China. Multinationals use it as a launch pad to the mainland and it gives Chinese companies access to the rest of the world.

    So how the turmoil is resolved matters to more than just the people of Hong Kong.

    This all comes at a time when China and America are waging a trade and technology war. Bloodshed on Hong Kong’s streets would make relations deteriorate even further. Beijing is now blaming outsiders for the trouble.

    For China the situation has become much more than a dispute over a law. It’s become an existential threat. Bruce and the other protesters are holding their breath.

    China’s Communist rulers must choose between two mortal dangers - the collapse of economic stability and prosperity, or the acceptance that protests can limit the Party’s absolute power.

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  • The Economist
    The Economist  1 months ago +77

    Join us today at 1pm GMT for a live Q&A with Robert Guest, The Economist’s foreign editor, and Anna Bucks, this film's producer who will be answering your questions about the Hong Kong protests. Here's the link to see it: https://econ.st/31O1rpu

  • Cardina Cheung
    Cardina Cheung  an hour ago

    This is more than just that God damn bill,is the whole package about China ,Hong Kongers just can't stand China.

  • panchito fadera
    panchito fadera  8 hours ago

    1:44 "There's even a boundary between Hong kong and China..." British occupied Hongkong island and rented Kowloon, New Territories and Lantau islands from China.. Hong Kong consists of Hong kong , Kowloon, New Terrritories and Lantau, islands. (Wikipedia)

  • TheWedabest
    TheWedabest  10 hours ago

    What are they going to do when 2047 comes? They are just kicking the can down the road.

  • RetardskillMe
    RetardskillMe  12 hours ago

    8:21 lol choose between 2 mortal dangers? collapse of an economy that only contributes 3% of the nation's GDP? hahahahaha, western media..

  • Jon Doe
    Jon Doe  16 hours ago +2

    Nobody likes China. Ever see those tourists? They're like a disease. Consume and destroy.

  • Jon Doe
    Jon Doe  16 hours ago

    Taiwan already raped the CCP. Hong Kong's weapon is their money. No more money laundering for China.

  • Fenzz
    Fenzz  16 hours ago

    What can the US do? We are helpless. Any aid would provoke China. We need the international community to condemn China. We need some kind of resistance. China is politically primed to dominate Southeast Asia and the Indian ocean. I feel so helpless and afraid.

  • 吴晨琛-我是Verna是我

    Hong Kong is the last hope for all Chinese to see any type of freedom, the 1.4 billion people in the mainland has been brain washed and enslaved for 70 years, Hong Kong must stay strong, the world will destroy communism and the evil dictatorship it stands for.

  • bino babino
    bino babino  yesterday

    You have to look at main china's situation , first south China Singapore ,Thailand, Vietnam, recently Taiwan,and now hong Kong. That's a great loss for a country . and remember Mongolia is also it's own country . But I hope that hong Kong we'll be able to over come and complete this task and be a free state.

  • Toh kian hoe
    Toh kian hoe  yesterday

    It's a shame to all Chinese in this planet. Young Hong Kong people may not have studied history. Failure in education system. Chinese in this planet must be united .

  • JustCallMeDodo!
    JustCallMeDodo!  yesterday +14

    The British caused this fricking mess

  • 七海
    七海  yesterday

    The 50 years promised by 1984 Sino British Joint Declaration have never been kept! Now is Hong Kong a police state alike place! People’s requests are ignored, handled only by great violence from the police! August 31st police attacked defenseless citizens brutally, with possible killings, until now the cctv from the station has been kept hidden from the public! Hong Kong people are under terror attack everyday now!

  • Michael Mai
    Michael Mai  yesterday

    Hong Kong is like a straw tied to a crab. The crab is worth more. When weigh it, the straw is worth it.
    香港是就像綁在螃蟹上的稻草, 螃蟹越值錢, 稱重的時候稻草也算值錢.

  • moosak100
    moosak100  yesterday +4

    The moment the protesters started vandalising train stations and being violent towards random Chinese people then the cause has been lost, the moral high ground has been lost. Time to start locking up some of these protesters because democracy is no longer the cause it has fallen into anarchy. Show me a Peaceful protest all i see is violence and vandalism and petrol bombs and random assaults.
    You want democracy well democracy is based on the rule of law. You assault someone then you go to jail for years, no excuses. This whole thing is going to end in tears. I suspect the chinese will just let in millions of mainland chinese and flood Hong Kong with mainlanders.

  • Isal Fatur
    Isal Fatur  yesterday +1

    To fellow Hongkongers, I assure you; freedom is the most valuable asset a human can have in their life. You mainlanders might not realize it now. However, when you live in a prosperous life but you cannot speak what you want, choose what you want, or even marry the person you love most. You will understand that nothing is more valuable than freedom.

  • D P
    D P  yesterday


  • Jesse Rains
    Jesse Rains  2 days ago

    He's sending the Army we will be right behind you taking your ass out don't touch HongKong fucking China fuks God speed and bless everyone of you much love From your viking brotherhood we stand by you best believe

  • Jesse Rains
    Jesse Rains  2 days ago

    Caucasians stands with our Asian counterparts keep up a good fight brother and sister

  • Jesse Rains
    Jesse Rains  2 days ago

    Get them Hong Kongeands we support the struggle because China will fuck you so stand strong and show your slong