Clin­ton could end very long wait for women

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Hong Kong has re­garded China with ap­pre­hen­sion since its 1997 handover, but Bei­jing’s lat­est in­ter­ven­tion has shaken faith in the city’s cher­ished rule of law, and its sta­tus as a place to do busi­ness in Asia. Its move to block two pro-in­de­pen­dence law­mak­ers from tak­ing of­fice has ig­nited con­cerns that have sim­mered since the mas­sive “Um­brella Rev­o­lu­tion” pro-democ­racy protests of 2014 failed to win po­lit­i­cal re­forms.

The dis­pute flared af­ter the young law­mak­ers - whose calls for a split are seen as trea­sonous - de­lib­er­ately mis­read their oaths of of­fice, in­sert­ing ex­ple­tives and drap­ing them­selves with “Hong Kong is not China” flags. It was not the first time Bei­jing has waded into the af­fairs of the semi-au­ton­o­mous city, but it made clearer the lines in the sand of China’s tol­er­ance for free­doms not seen on the main­land. The dis­ap­pear­ance last year of five book­sell­ers known for pub­lish­ing sala­cious ti­tles about Chinese po­lit­i­cal lead­ers earned in­ter­na­tional condemnation and re­alised many res­i­dents’ worst fears when they resur­faced in de­ten­tion on the main­land. But Mon­day’s move has struck a stun­ning blow to the city’s iden­tity as a rules-based busi­ness hub - its ma­jor draw over main­land ri­vals like Shang­hai - and to those who fear the way of life they hold dear is grad­u­ally dis­ap­pear­ing. The rul­ing to stop Yau Wai-ching and Bag­gio Le­ung from tak­ing of­fice pre­empted a judge­ment from Hong Kong’s High Court over whether they should be dis­qual­i­fied. Al­though China has given “in­ter­pre­ta­tions” of Hong Kong’s con­sti­tu­tion be­fore, this was the first time it has stepped in ahead of a court judge­ment, im­pos­ing its own rules in an ap­par­ent ef­fort to avoid any un­pre­dictabil­ity. “Hong Kong peo­ple feel that in­ter­fer­ences of this kind have an ad­verse im­pact on the core val­ues and life­style that we cher­ish,” said po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Joseph Cheng. While only a mi­nor­ity of Hong Kong res­i­dents sup­port in­de­pen­dence, and the law­maker duo have alien­ated some sup­port­ers with their re­bel­lious be­hav­ior, many are deeply wor­ried about where Hong Kong is headed. Liza Wong, a the­atre worker in her 30s who joined ral­lies against Bei­jing’s in­ter­ven­tion, said she feared the city’s “econ­omy and con­fi­dence” could evap­o­rate. “Lots of in­vestors are in the city be­cause of its sys­tem, but if this goes on then ev­ery­one will be afraid,” she told AFP.

Week­end clashes be­tween pro­test­ers and po­lice out­side China’s li­ai­son of­fice in Hong Kong, rem­i­nis­cent of 2014’s demon­stra­tions, could be a taste of things to come as young ac­tivists be­come in­creas­ingly frus­trated.

Slip­pery Slope

Hong Kong was handed back by colo­nial ruler Bri­tain to China in 1997 un­der a handover agree­ment safe­guard­ing its free­doms and way of life for 50 years, and se­cur­ing its semi-au­ton­o­mous sta­tus. But there are grow­ing con­cerns that those lib­er­ties are now un­der se­ri­ous threat. Uni­lat­eral de­ci­sions by China chip away at Hong Kong’s semi-au­ton­o­mous sta­tus, says gov­er­nance ac­tivist David Webb. That could af­fect its rep­u­ta­tion as a trusted gate­way to China. Webb said it was un­likely that the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee (NPCSC), China’s top leg­isla­tive body which in­ter­vened in the oath dis­pute, would step into a court case in­volv­ing pri­vate busi­ness af­fairs.

“But the more of­ten they in­ter­vene, the more likely it be­comes,” he told AFP. “In the mean­time, by in­ter­fer­ing with the wishes of the peo­ple in elect­ing their leg­is­la­ture and by pre­empt­ing the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the courts on mat­ters within (Hong Kong’s) au­ton­omy, the NPCSC is un­der­min­ing the leg­isla­tive and ju­di­cial pro­cesses, and that does in­di­rectly af­fect busi­ness con­fi­dence.”

How­ever, oth­ers said Bei­jing’s de­ci­sion would steady the ship. The city’s stock ex­change rose on Mon­day de­spite the in­ter­ven­tion. “The un­sta­ble sit­u­a­tion is com­ing from within Hong Kong, in par­tic­u­lar the two young leg­is­la­tors,” said Ter­ence Chong, eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor at the Chinese Univer­sity of Hong Kong. “So what China did is to make Hong Kong more sta­ble.” Pro-democ­racy law­mak­ers ar­gue the city is in­stead on a slip­pery slope to more re­stric­tions and in­ter­ven­tions. The le­gal com­mu­nity, which shares those con­cerns, held a silent march through the city yes­ter­day in protest. “Peo­ple are get­ting used to it, this is the scary part,” said Michelle Ng, a 27-year-old univer­sity re­searcher. “We need to let them know that this is not the right thing to do.” — AFP

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