Hong Kong: How to oppose a totalitarian regime

Published 20.08.2019 23:18
Updated 21.08.2019 00:04

For the last two months people in Hong Kong have been holding massive protests. Despite police brutality and the excessive use of force, the protesters have not stepped back and recently, over 1.5 million demonstrators took to the streets in the pouring rain, challenging the local government's threatening declarations. No police force was used to contain the march and no incidents occurred, which was a good point about it.

The central government in China, however, is not at all pleased with the turn of events and has made it known clearly. The local government in Hong Kong, which was taken unprepared by the events, does not know what to do, alternating between an aggressive stance and a more understanding attitude. The whole problem occurred when the local authorities decided to transfer indicted people from Hong Kong to continental China. That was a spark which ignited accumulated discontent since 1997, when Hong Kong joined the People's Republic of China, after a century of British rule. The idea was to integrate Hong Kong – a purely capitalistic, highly sophisticated financial place in the Far East Asia – into an economy dominated by a single party. The slogan "one country, two regimes" was said at that time to depict relative autonomy for Hong Kong.

After having lived in a representative democracy for decades, the population of Hong Kong is not open to seeing the transfer of its sovereignty to mainland China, where one-party rule is strong, even after the demise of the socialist system. Communism has disappeared, totally, but the Communist Party still monopolizes power. To do so, the Communist Party uses the only efficient method it knows to keep power. It crushes, with an iron fist, all possible opposition. People disappear, without the possibility of tracing their whereabouts. China is not the only country in the world to have such totalitarian governance, but over time it has become the powerhouse of world production and it is alarming to see that the "modernization" of the Chinese economy has not been followed by any transparency.

This kind of regime, where a kleptocratic elite rule through intimidation and a relative distribution of wealth, looks extremely stable and strong, until the day it crumbles. The very intimidating image of the USSR, as the alternative superpower to the U.S., had created bias in all the analyses regarding its internal functioning and capacity to deliver. In 1985, just four years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and six years before the demise of the Soviet system, a secret CIA report evaluated the growth of the Soviet economy as "very strong and satisfactory."

In that sense, Chinese authorities are extremely worried about the possible "example" that could be set forth by the demands in Hong Kong. It is quite interesting to see that the Chinese population does not have any sympathy for the popular protests in Hong Kong, whom they see as "assisted by the government."

What is perhaps more alarming for the Chinese government is that the demands of Hong Kong could inspire other minorities in China. Since the foundation of the modern Chinese Republic in 1912 by Sun Yat-Sen, the dismembering of China remains the nightmare for the ruling elite.

That is also shared by all populations and countries who have been creating a "nation-state" belatedly. The first Chinese flag, back then, was a compilation of five colors representing China, Manchuria, Mongolia, Sinkiang and Tibet. Therefore, from the very beginning, the "national union" remains sacrosanct and anything that could hamper this immovable principle is seen as a major threat.

A Russian columnist, Peter Javurek, wrote in Pravda that the kind of "gradual integration" foreseen for Hong Kong should also be implemented for the cases of Taiwan and Macao. That sounds very surrealistic, asking Taipei to join the People's Republic within the "one country, two regimes" system sounds like a very bad joke.

Still, where Javurek has a point is the fact that such kind of peaceful coexistence can be implemented, if and only one side does not try to overcome the other and impose its own regime. That will not happen, unfortunately, as there is no precedent in history demonstrating a working confederation of states, or different regimes, some being democratic and the others totally undemocratic.

That brings us to one of the major contradictions of our time. There is globalization, in the sense that economies, services, transportation and information are definitely less compartmentalized and more and more interpenetrated.

However, the differences between regimes and governance types acquire more importance, in the sense that cooperation between partners of different regimes holds more and more unpredictability.

While people are manifesting their discontent in Hong Kong, similar kinds of uprisings have happened in Moscow, where Pravda analysts are digressing about China. The transitional period we live in offers fewer and fewer possibilities to remain objective, as long as similar shortcomings in democratic functioning happen on our doorstep.

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