It's perfect timing for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's duty visit to Beijing, just days ahead of Macau's 20th handover anniversary and just as China and the US finally struck a much-anticipated, though only partial, phase-one trade deal.
This is significant because Hong Kong's future - and Lam's as well, in a sense - is being linked to the development of these two issues.
Firstly, Beijing has regularly reminded Hong Kong to take neighbouring Macau as a good reference, in particular for plugging national security loopholes. Only that Hong Kong can never be like Macau for reasons going beyond the fact that both cities are governed by the same, unique "one country, two systems" formula.
Also, Hong Kong, having enjoyed decades of special ties with the United States, and now rocked by more than half a year of massive social unrest with still no easy solution in sight, is likely to be haunted by the ups and downs of China-US relations.
Beijing has been understandably upset over the appearance of American flags at protests in the city, furious at local politicians going all the way to Washington to lobby support for the anti-government movement, and outraged that the US Congress has overwhelmingly passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act signed by President Donald Trump into law. But it had to swallow the hard truth that Hong Kong is under much wider international scrutiny than it would like.
However, just when the US-China trade war looked set to get even worse, both Beijing and Washington were pragmatic enough not to be over-distracted by too much negativity.
Former Chinese commerce minister Chen Deming, while attending this paper's China Conference in New York last week, confirmed that Beijing did not want the trade talks to be affected by Hong Kong, but added that no agreement would change the new normal of bumpy bilateral relations, at least for the foreseeable future.
So Lam's scheduled meeting with President Xi Jinping on Monday is not a moment for relief on her part; instead, she must be fully aware that the profound impact of the havoc created by her now-withdrawn extradition bill will not dissipate easily. The Pandora's box of Hong Kong becoming a sticking point in the already complicated China-US relationship has been opened.
Any mishandling of sensitive issues in Hong Kong would make international headlines and only bring more trouble. That itself makes Hong Kong very different from Macau, which has enjoyed a relatively peaceful 20 years after returning to China, but with a much smaller scale of political and economic impacts internationally.
The surprising lack of an outcry over the former Portuguese enclave's denial of entry to two senior leaders of the Hong Kong American Chamber of Commerce was telling enough. One can imagine the political storm it would have triggered, had it happened in Hong Kong.
During my recent business trip to New York, what struck me was the unprecedented interest in the latest news from Hong Kong among many of my American friends. Addressing their curiosity and concern over when and how the turmoil in Hong Kong could end, my honest reply, which many agreed with, was that the direction of China-US relations would be a key factor.
Xi is set to visit Macau in a few days to endorse its next leadership line-up under new Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng.
Beijing may still be supporting the embattled Lam for now, but many want to see some changes in Hong Kong's government, even though she has to hang on for obvious reasons.
The complex situation this city finds itself in requires some real leadership that can take Hong Kong out of troubled waters. Beijing should better acknowledge such sentiment among Hongkongers.
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