THE People’s Republic of China is slowly, but surely, casting its shadow on Hong Kong. Its residents will have to come to grips to the reality that by 2047, the territory’s political and judicial systems may be reintegrated with that of China. When Britain transferred sovereignty to mainland China on July 1, 1997, the Joint Declaration guaranteed the Basic Law for 50 years, but what comes after, is subject to speculation.
Since the “Umbrella Revolution” from Sept. 26 to Dec. 15, 2014, there has been an independence movement seeking an end to the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and aimed towards the establishment of a separate state of Hong Kong. Neither armed nor with a charismatic leader, the movement was perceived by leaders of both Hong Kong and China as nothing but a ragtag army of pipe dreamers.
The proposed extradition legislation that allows mainland China courts to try Hong Kong people accused of certain crimes sparked protests. This brought Hong Kong to a standstill as nearly two million people crammed main streets and subway stations to display their dismay on what they perceived as a move towards China’s iron grip at their doorsteps with the acquiescence of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam. She has since apologized for failing to read the public sentiment on the bill, promising not revive the extradition law.
There must be relief among the peoples of Hong Kong, with their victory against the bill, but still they fell short as their demand for Lam to resign fell on deaf ears, as she is determined to remain in power until her term expires in 2022.
Granting that the independence movement will find viable leaders to challenge those currently manning the Executive Council, it is doubtful that China will allow them to pursue their objective of sovereignty. Hong Kong is a commercial crown jewel that China needs in its pursuit towards becoming the world’s largest economy by 2032 or earlier. It can’t let it go. At the same, it doesn’t want to destabilize the territory, which remains to be one of the world’s leading international financial centers and is home to one of the largest ports in the world.
China will set the tone of politics in Hong Kong as 2047 draws nearer and that goes with the judicial system. But it will have to draw a balance that the transition will not affect the business climate in the territory. It is a challenge to the powers-that-be in Beijing, as it is to the 7.5 million that call Hong Kong their home.