“Revolution in the Tropics?”
When Hong Kong changed ownership an pasted to China from British rule, most of its residents were worried of the consequences of changing their democratic culture. Being aware of the Chinese mentality, not so friendly towards the institutions of a modern representative democracy, they presented numerous demands, one of which was democratic reforms. So great was the pressure places, that Beijing accepted the institution of elections, which although they were promised to be held in 2012, kept postponing them for 2017. The Chinese strategic logic is known: since they could not understand the political sensitivities of the Hong Kong residents (which deep down they disagree with) they are buying time through postponements and delays of the agreements. At the same time the Hong Kong economic ties with mainland China are increasing. This way through a strategy of economic dependence they believe that they can interfere and control democratic reforms. That’s why although they accepted to allow elections to take place, but the candidates must be approved by Beijing which will check their “patriotism”. This type of compressed politics that was enforced in Tibet produced very disheartening results, does not appear to be as prominent in the case of Hong Kong. Its citizens are facing serious problems after their British chapter of their lives: expensive housing, reduced construction activity, ever growing distance between the high and middle class, shortage of personnel in schools, hospitals, and every type of societal problems. For the ever increasing dissatisfaction, Hong Kong residents, keep as responsible the “mainlanders” as they refer to Chinese, who by their abundant use of their wealth are set to destroying everything. It cannot be seeing as coincidence that Hong Kong newspapers often blame them through phrases such as «tourists obstetrique», meaning the multitude of mainland women who travel to Hong Kong to give birth and thus obtain residents’ visa. In their cartoons they depict a huge circle (symbolizing China) to menacing the port city. On the other side, a Chinese academic named the Hong Kong residents “bastards”-“traitors” that served like dogs the British occupation.
Such a dispute that hides internal economic and cultural differences cannot but lead to dynamic reactions: besides the constant insults every year on June 4th, Hong Kong residents by the tenth of thousands light candles in Victoria Park, to keep alive the memory of Tiananmen Square insurrection.
The epitome presented itself in the last days where thousands of protestors holding umbrellas moved into the city center and in addition to protesting slogans against the Chinese authorities they captured it. Such a situation, not in line with communist mentality, brought in violent confrontations with the police. However the protestors not only they do not badge, their numbers are exponentially increasing on a daily basis. One of the symbolisms they are using is super market carts filled with bottled water, sodas, biscuits, spaghetti etc.. It is a way of showing that they intent to stay there. Also they use umbrellas of any size in black or yellow colors. The umbrella besides its usage for rain or sunshine it’s also effective in tear gas, or pepper spray used by the police. A peaceful but determined to last resistance that will not be subdued easily or quickly. What are the Chinese authorities options against this increasingly “uncontrollable” situation?
Use of force will result in international upraise. They do not want that. So what remains is use the time factor and let it faint. Without appearing to back down, definitely will be accepting some small adjustments hoping that in time the “umbrella movement” will weaken. The only certain thing is the virus of democracy has already affected and continuous to spread in Hong Kong’s middle class. From the moment that the opposition achieved a name and a character, it will gain the characteristics of rebellion. It’s been treated as the beginning of a history. And that fact is a puzzle for Beijing, which appears not to have decided how to deal with this situation. How to break this anti Chinese front that every passing day grows and becomes more dangerous.
University Professor, artist, poet
Advisor to the Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, on culture