Hong Kong, September 30 – A puppet government is destined to fail. This is the picture Alberto Forchielli paints of Occupy Hong Kong. Forchielli is a founding and managing partner of Mandarin Capital Partners. The students protesting in Central and other areas in Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region don’t have any hope for success. “While Tian An Men was an event that took everyone by surprise, a tiny fraction of the Chinese population is protesting, who are also unpopular among Mainland Chinese, Forchielli explains. “It’s been obvious for years that something would happen.”
In a press release [from September 29th], the island’s government stated that it was worried about possible damages to Hong Kong’s image caused by the continuation of the protests. Do you think this is the case?
Hong Kong’s government is composed of marionettes. They are not used to a minimal level of dissent. They’re a façade, a varnish; their primary job is to shine Beijing’s shoes. It’s clear that in the face of the smallest protests they can’t overcome their nerves. They’re simply used to obedience.
Some of the financial world’s representatives have showed signs of impatience toward the prolonging of the protests. What damage are these protests really causing to the island’s economy?
The financial world is divided into two blocks: there’s the emotional world of many institutional and private savers that lets itself be swept away by emotion because the story is a leading headline; it breaks the monotony of Isis and the incomprehensible events in Libya. The movement has gotten a lot of press and has impressed on a certain contingent higher than finance, subject to the “herd mentality.” Then, there’s the finance belonging to international professionals that have been in Hong Kong for ages, they know the dynamics well, and they knew this would happen. They knew that it would come to this, and they think it will pass because there are no alternatives. In the end, 80,000 students with umbrellas is nothing. We’ve seen worse in Italy during the Years of Lead.
CY Leung has said that Beijing will not change its mind about universal suffrage. Do you think Occupy Hong Kong has hopes?
What do you think will occur in the coming days?
I don’t think Beijing is in a position to change its mind because it needs to worry about the 1.4 billion other Chinese that have no sympathy for Hongkongers: this is Beijing’s primary concern. It can’t leave a small, autonomous city on the country’s periphery: it makes no sense. Beijing needs to look at the situation’s general equilibrium. The protests could continue, but they’d be inconsequential. Tian An Men was a direct challenge to the regime. In reality, here we have a handful of kids. Yes, others prepared the Hong Kong police: nothing happens by chance. But those that wanted to emigrate had more than 20, even 30 years to do it. There are more than 300,000 Hong Kong citizens that live there with Canadian passports. The older generations surely don’t support the movement, even if a sense of profound antipathy for their Mainland brothers prevails: everyone knows that their wellbeing depends on them. Without China’s contribution, it would blow away in a second. In a Confucian world, pragmatism always wins over idealism.
What long-terms effects will the movement have?
This example drastically distances the peaceful unification with Taiwan. Taipei will never accept the “one country, two systems” policy. I’d say that this idea is definitively dead. Second, considering the media attention, the idea of Chinese soft power has also crashed and burned. The world will never believe in Chinese soft power. Confucius and Bruce Lee will never beat Hollywood and Disneyland.
Alberto Forchielli interviewed by Eugenio Buzzetti – First published in Italian by AGI China 24