A tremor of pride swept through Hong Kong, an attempt to resist absorption into Mainland China. International rankings continue to give Hong Kong first place in terms of transparency, easy of conducting business, collective prosperity, and the number of millionaires. Despite pressure from Beijing, the ex-colony has managed to maintain its relative independence at the heart of the events that framed China’s return to power: one country, two systems. Trials against corruption—notable due to their insufficiency—cover the front pages of newspapers despite the accused’s coat of arms. The judiciary still remains impartial, and even public opinion doesn’t seem resigned to the silent assimilation into China. Just like 1989, even this year thousands of people, many of who were not born at the time, reunited in Victoria Park to remember the repression caused by tanks and the armed soldiers at Tiananmen Square, and celebrate the memory of compatriots that became their victims. The even was analyzed to understand Hong Kong’s political climate, divided between its evident diversity from Beijing and the fateful date in 2047 when its reentry into China will be complete and there will no longer be any official differences between the two. This year, participation was the highest on record. Dressed in black with candles in their hands, young students, representatives of the middle class, refugees from Beijing, intellectuals, and professors walked with courage and dignity.
For the first time the protest took on a worrisome shape for China. Many protestors hoped for an unprecedented movement to lighten the pressure from Beijing. Its communication formula has been tested and fortunate: Occupy Central, named after Hong Kong’s financial district, and analogous to what happened on Wall Street. In any case, the protest was not against international finance as much as poised to steal a balanced electoral reform which could lead to the first democratic elections and universal suffrage in 2017. Until now, voting in Hong Kong has been biased and Beijing has essentially imposed the chief executive using articulated institutional moves. The expiration date in three years could bestow an official chosen by the citizens on the Hong Kong government, possibly a representative of the democratic movement. Obviously, China would not be happy about this contradiction to its political system, and it’s giving off anxious signs to prevent the movement from acquiring favorable public opinion even though it has only just been announced. Bellicose declarations can be heard from Zhou Nan, a politician from Beijing who marked Hong Kong’s history: he was vice foreign minister, ambassador to the United Nations, and chief negotiator for the United Kingdom while director of the Hong Kong news agency, Xinhua, a symbolic function that didn’t conceal his key role in the negotiations. Following tradition, Zhou did not skimp on frankness: “Occupy Central is illegal.” “We will not permit Hong Kong to become a base to subvert the socialist regime in China with the guise of democracy.” The conclusion seems even more drastic, considering the fact that the Chinese army in Hong Kong remained discretely in their barracks: “our military garrisons have other functions, beyond that of symbolically affirming our sovereignty.” After 25 years, Beijing’s threats return. It’s still too early to imagine dramatic scenarios, but the fear of repression certainly fueled the protest’s fire, contradicting the lethargic climate of resignation circulating in Hong Kong.