Does Hong Kong need a deadline to end its protest crisis?

South China Morning Post 發布於 2019年08月25日13:08 • Tammy Tam
  • Beijing is giving up a self-imposed deadline, but opting for the ‘let the bullets fly’ approach
  • Can ‘one country, two systems’ be salvaged with painful self-examination of Hong Kong’s problems?
Beijing is not yet ready to settle Hong Kong’s political crisis, even as the street violence escalates. Photo: Sam Tsang

It's getting clearer that Beijing is no longer eager to settle Hong Kong's unprecedented political crisis before October 1.

There were assumptions earlier that Beijing would be too embarrassed to allow the massive protests to ruin its grand, 70th-anniversary celebrations for China's national day, but that no longer seems to be the case.

Practically speaking, there is no sign whatsoever that the social unrest is going to end any time soon.

After another troubled weekend, a massive rally is expected this coming Saturday, which marks the fifth anniversary of Beijing's stringent decision on Hong Kong's electoral arrangement that triggered the Occupy movement of 2014.

As Beijing ponders its next move, Carrie Lam's plan to open discussions with stakeholders has been rejected by protesters. Photo: Sam Tsang

Meanwhile protesters have poured cold water on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's idea of setting up a dialogue platform with different stakeholders, with citywide class boycotts in the pipeline as the new school term is approaching.

Two pro-Beijing heavyweights, Tam Yiu-chung and Elsie Leung Oi-sie, last week claimed they had not heard of any October 1 "deadline", anyway.

In another development, the city's turmoil is not even on the official agenda of the ongoing bimonthly meeting of the country's top legislative body, the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

That contradicts earlier suspicion that it would be seeking possible legal means, such as enacting certain national laws in Hong Kong, to end the crisis soon.

But while there is no visible light at the end of the tunnel, and Lam and her administration keep scratching their heads to find a feasible way out, Beijing is not folding its arms and doing nothing.

One significant move it made was to unveil the ambitious plan to turn Shenzhen into the country's "pilot demonstration zone of socialism with Chinese characteristics".

Never mind the ambiguities of this kind of typical mainland jargon. The key message is, by the middle of this century " which will just be three years after the theoretical 2047 "deadline" for Beijing's 50-year promise in allowing Hong Kong to continue with its "one country, two systems" governing formula " Shenzhen will have become a "global benchmark" as a cosmopolis.

This new role for Shenzhen has been planned for a long time and is not to replace Hong Kong, as some have suggested, given the timing of the announcement.

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Coincidence or not, the two cities share one similarity " both are test grounds for certain major new policies.

For Hong Kong it was the unique governing formula allowing capitalism to be practised in a socialist country.

Shenzhen, previously a special economic zone (SEZ) designated by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping 40 years ago, is now on this brand new mission to become a model "world city" by further comprehensive reforms expanding to legal, economic, financial and many other related fronts.

In theory, an experiment can succeed or fail. Of the four cities picked by Deng as SEZs when China first opened its doors in 1979 " Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou in Guangdong, plus the coastal city of Xiamen facing the Taiwan Strait " only Shenzhen is regarded as "successful" in terms of its exemplary impacts.

Shenzhen is on track to become a 'world city' with a raft of new legal, economic and financial reforms. Photo: Martin Chan

Hong Kong, honestly speaking, with its continuous mayhem, has failed to be a convincing showcase to self-ruled Taiwan in Beijing's reunification efforts.

What has gone wrong with the implementation of one country, two systems? Lessons have to be drawn.

Beijing could be in the mood for a "let the bullets fly" approach for a while " a well-known political analogy derived from the name of a popular 2010 Chinese action movie produced by famous actor-turned-director Jiang Wen " meaning it will allow time for the hidden, entangled factors in such a crisis to come to the fore.

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The exposure of the many symptoms of the illness afflicting Hong Kong can be unbearable, and will definitely require more time to remedy than the original October 1 timescale provides.

But, along with the tension of pressure from Beijing, it is very much needed in looking for efficient solutions to ensure the success of the historic experiment of one country, two systems.

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