Cont'd from previous post due to character limit
All in the Basic Law
Ma is the author of an exhaustive, extensively annotated book, Hong Kong Basic Law: Principles and Controversies, published by the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation.
Maria Tam, a member both of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee and of China’s National People’s Congress, praises the book’s analysis of the ultra-sensitive interpretation of the Basic Law, saying “the common law system has remained unaffected, its judicial independence remaining the best in Asia”, with Hong Kong firmly placed – so far at least – as “the third most preferred avenue for international arbitration.”
In the book, Ma extensively analyzes the finer points of the China containment policy. But he also adds culture to the mix, for instance examining the work of Liang Shuming (1893-1988) on the philosophical compatibility of traditional Chinese Confucianism with the technology of the West. Liang argued that China’s choice, in stark terms, was between wholesale Westernization or complete rejection of the West.
But Ma really hits a nerve when he examines Hong Kong’s unique role – and positioning – as a vector of the China containment policy, facilitated by a prevailing anti-communist sentiment and the absence of a national security law.
This is something that cannot be understood without examining the successive waves of emigration to Hong Kong. The first took place during the Communist-Nationalist civil war (1927-1950) and the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945); the second, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1977).
Ma significantly quotes a 1982 poll claiming that 95% of respondents were in favor of maintaining British rule. Everyone who followed the 1997 Hong Kong handover remembers the widespread fear of Chinese tanks rolling into Kowloon at midnight.
In sum, Ma argues that, for Washington, what matters is to “make China’s island of Hong Kong as difficult to govern for Beijing as possible.”
Integrate or perish
Anyone who takes time to carefully study the complexities of the Basic Law can see how Hong Kong is an indivisible part of China. Hundreds of millions of Mainland Chinese now have seen what the black bloc brand of “democracy” – vandalizing public and private property – has done to ruin Hong Kong.
Arguably, in the long run, and after an inevitable cleanup operation, the whole drama may only strengthen Hong Kong’s integration with China. Add to it that China, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan have separately asked Hong Kong authorities for a detailed list of black bloc rioters.
In my conversations these past few days with informed Hong Kongers – mature businessmen and businesswomen who understand the Basic Law and relations with China – two themes have been recurrent.
One is the weakness of Carrie Lam’s government, with suggestions that the outside non-well-wishers knew her understaffed and overstretched police force would not be up to the task of maintaining security across town. At the same time, many remarked how the response from Washington and London to the Emergency Regulations approval of the anti-mask law was – surprisingly – restrained.
The other theme is decolonization. My interlocutors argued that China did not “control” Hong Kong; if it did, riots would never have happened. Add to it that Lam may have been instructed to do nothing, lest she would mess up an incandescent situation even more.
Now it’s a completely new ball game. Beijing, even discreetly, will insist on a purge of anyone in the civil service who would be identified as anti-China. If Lam just continues to insist on her beloved “dialogue,” she may be replaced by a hands-on CEO such as CY Leung or Regina Ip.
Amid so much gloom, there may be a silver lining. And that concerns the Greater Bay Area project. My interlocutors tend to believe that after the storm ends and after carefully studying the situation for some months, Beijing will soon come up with a new plan to tighten Hong Kong’s integration to the mainland’s economy even more.
The first step was to tell Hong Kong’s tycoons to get their act together and be more socially responsible. The second will be to convince Hong Kong’s businesses to reinvent themselves for good and profit as part of the Greater Bay Area and the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative.
Hong Kong will thrive only if plugged, not unplugged. That may be the ultimate – profitable – argument against any form of foreign sabotage.