Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Musings on Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and Implications for Greater China

Protests Inspire Creativity, and Ever More So in Hong Kong (courtesy BBC)
The recent upheaval with the Occupy Central movement, becoming more popular internationally by the name Umbrella Movement, has taken nearly everyone by surprise. This has happened because the silent majority decidedto stand up for what it believes in, sacrificing nearly everything that provided semblance to their lives in a mad, chaotic city state like Hong Kong (HK). Life is hard in Hong Kong, so the people standing up for greater democratic rights becomes even more appreciable in my personal opinion. There are a few trends that can be seen on the surface emerging from this movement so far, and a lot of them, far from being very pessimistic (as some Facebook posts being shared by HK-ers) are encouraging.

The people of Hong Kong have been exemplary in the discipline and peaceful nature that has been maintained so far during these protests. It is Gandhian in nature, thus making many neutral observers like me smile warmly. This is good, as we have often seen such protests, moving eastwards from the Gulf nations of West Asia and Northern Africa, boil down to violent clashes and brutal crackdowns. To this end, even the federal government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) should be commended from refraining to use the Army or any other paramilitary forces - instead it is CY Leung's city government that has egg on its face in the pepper spray fiasco.

All this is happening amongst a series of protests across Greater China region, where there have been protests against Big Brotherly treatment on issues as wide and varying from trade (Taiwan) to political reform (Hong Kong). While President Xi Jinping's government had to inherit much of these headaches, it is in his best interests - political and economic - to hammer these issues out rapidly. To use a corporation analogy for the government of PRC, there is an urgent need to assuage disgruntled shareholders before your capital stock takes a thrashing on the corporate governance issues on the stock market. The important shareholders exiting from your options altogether always spells bad news.

Another interesting development, despite all efforts to block coverage across the Mainland, is the interest of people in the unfolding of events in HK. People will not turn out on the streets in large numbers for demanding greater democratic rights, but a significant number of people (forming a critical mass of thought) are certainly inclined towards HK-ers. Many of them perceive the demands to be legitimate. That does not mean that Mainlanders want democracy right now - however, it does hint towards the rising expectations of political reforms within the next generation, and needs attention.

The interpretations of Basic Law in my opinion can still be read to make everyone happy. However, that is only possible if a window for reconciliation continues to remain open. People in HK are willing to show that they will walk the extra mile if given a chance. It is now for the PRC federal government to be gracious and walk the extra mile. Crossing the bridge has become essential and it should not be afraid to do so.

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