Holding Out in Hong Kong

Ian Buruma | 6 December 1997 | ChinaFile

Chinese values do not adequately explain the peculiar alliance between mainland Communists and the local tycoons, who still want Hong Kong to be run as a profitable colony, albeit under a different master. Opportunism is part of it, to be sure. Most Hong Kong tycoons have been cultivating guanxi with the Communist patrons for years. …Tycoons and Marxist commissars are bound by more than opportunism, however. They share a deep conviction that everything can be reduced to economics, and that liberal politics is a hindrance, at best. As the distinguished lawyer Gladys Li put it to me: “China’s view of Hong Kong is business, business, business.”

The formula for the future status of Hong Kong, “One Country, Two Systems,” has a history of deceit. The phrase was first used in public by Deng Xiaoping in 1984. But the concept is very close to the one applied to the Autonomous Region of Tibet in 1951. Tibet was to be kept separate from China, to allow “feudal” Tibet to catch up with communism. Hong Kong must remain separate from China for fifty years to allow Communist China to catch up with…capitalism? In both cases, the “existing political system” would (will) not be altered. We know what happened in Tibet. We don’t yet know what will happen in Hong Kong. But one issue involving deliberate deceit has yet to be openly discussed: the role of the Chinese Communist Party. What will the New China News Agency be doing in Hong Kong after June 30? Surely not just reporting the news. Will senior people in the Hong Kong government declare their membership in the Communist Party? Which system would they be serving? Who will be accountable to whom?

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