To Save the Rich, China Ruins Hong Kong

Nisid Hajari | 29 August 2014 | Bloomberg

The cost of defending the plutocrats is high. A Chinese government white paper released in June appeared to raise doubts about the continued independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary and the city’s commitment to the rule of law, which have been pillars of its success. Raids this week on high-profile opposition supporter Jimmy Lai were hardly more reassuring. While democracy activists may not be able to shut down the central business district, as they’ve threatened, even low-level protests will draw weeks of unwanted international attention. Moderate Hong Kong parliamentarians say they won’t support Beijing’s proposals; as a result, they may fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the local legislature.

Sooner or later, Chinese leaders are going to have to get more comfortable with the idea of autonomy in outlying regions. In Xinjiang, which has been battered by a series of vicious terrorist attacks, the suppression of moderate voices has only enhanced the appeal of extremist groups. Hong Kong should have been an ideal test case for greater openness — a stable, ethnically Chinese enclave that is, yes, more interested in making money than in making trouble. So far Beijing is failing.

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