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✨Good morning! Today is Sunday, July 7, 2019, and this is “The Long Shot,” where we do a deep dive into a trending topic that you just can’t quite figure out.
Anyone born pre-1990s likely remembers a time when Hong Kong and China were separate countries, divided by more than just a strip of water. (We can cut millennials a break for maybe not knowing this one.)
But that wasn’t always the case.
Torn apart by the Opium Wars between China and Great Britain from 1839 to 1860 (drugs are bad for you, kids), Britain, who already had control of Hong Kong Island, negotiated a 99-year land deal in 1898 with China that gave them control over (and profit from) Hong Kong, after which Hong Kong would be handed back to China.
That handover date was 1997.
A STORY OF TWO FRENEMIES
The 1997 reunion wasn’t exactly a lovefest, mainly because China and Hong Kong have been operating under a policy known as “one country, two systems.”
This 50-year experiment lets Hong Kong govern itself and maintain many independent systems — in theory. (We’ve all been to the holiday dinners where Grandma tries to tell you how to live your life.)
To make a long story short, Chinese mainlanders and Hong Kong residents look at themselves much the same way Canadians and Americans do: We’re similar, but we definitely belong to two different countries (with all the stereotypes to boot).
A bunch of “incidents” and clashes, including racism, fuelled the “us versus them” ideology for those who live in Hong Kong; between 2008 and 2014, interviews conducted by the University of Hong Kong found that self-identification as “Chinese” plummeted amongst interviewees; 2014 also marked the emergence of “localist” parties in Hong Kong that hope to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy beyond 2047, when the “one country, two systems” policy is supposed to run out.
In other words, it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
You’ll know a bit about China’s proposed extradition bill if you’ve been reading the Daily Bullet.
The key takeaway is that to the people of Hong Kong, the extradition bill signifies one of many ways in which China is trying to circumvent Hong Kong’s unique political and legal freedoms.
It has also raised concerns around Hong Kong’s economic standing; does Beijing (China’s capital city) still need Hong Kong’s businesses and investors to the point of backing off if tensions reach a tipping point?
Back in 1997, Hong Kong represented roughly 20% of mainland China’s economy, whereas it now sits at a measly 3%.
On the flip side, China’s less-than-savoury reputation on the current global stage positions Hong Kong as critical to China’s success in international negotiations. (Maybe it’s the whole communism thing China’s got going on, but people seem to like Hong Kong more.)
SO WHERE DOES CANADA STAND?
Basically, the bill allows extradition requests to come from mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects in Hong Kong accused of crimes such as rape and murder.
But due to Hong Kong’s aggressive opposition, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has already temporarily suspended the bill and several commercial offenses have been removed, such as tax evasion, in an attempt to protect Hong Kong’s (somewhat precarious) economic position.
Many other countries have also expressed concerns regarding the proposed bill, with the U.S. referring to it as an example of “political coercion” and Canada and the U.K. releasing a joint statement expressing concerns regarding the effects it might have on Canadian and British citizens in Hong Kong.
The answer seems simple enough: don’t commit a crime. But when you’re up against a communist government, it’s anybody’s guess what might happen. One thing’s certain – the bill’s vague wording and potential for loopholes hasn’t quelled anyone’s anxiety.
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
Hong Kong’s more than vocal opposition to the bill and China’s interference has resulted in condemnation from mainland authorities decrying the pro-democratic protests and vandalizing of government buildings as “serious illegal acts that trample on the rule of law and endanger social order.”
China has also condemned any foreign commentary on the subject, likening anti-extradition support to supporting “violent criminals.” (Which is, perhaps, a bit of a stretch.)
There might be a silver lining: Hong Kong’s protests have ricocheted into Taiwan where President Tsai Ing-wen is campaigning for a second term on a pro-independence platform. (Surprise, surprise: China’s got a hand in their pot, too.)
The extradition bill, and Hong Kong’s opposition to it, might just be the lobbying boost Ing-wen needs to avoid political unification with China (thereby avoiding handing over even more power to a communist nation).
The downside(s)? Sunday’s violent protests might mean China puts Hong Kong in a chokehold. These predictions were echoed Tuesday in the official China Daily newspaper that said, “The only way for (Hong Kong) to sustain economic growth and maintain stability is for it to further integrate its own development into the nation’s overall.”
It’s predicted that the police response will grow more aggressive under direction from authorities operating under mainland directives, and that the protests will eventually die down in stamina. Mainlanders, meanwhile, have been kept mostly in the dark as to what’s going on in Hong Kong, but some are aware of the protests through Chinese media — though said media has been critical of the protestors, with one even writing, “Send in the tanks to wipe them out.”