August 24th 2019


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Biological and transgender worldviews are mutually exclusive

CANBERRA OBSERVED Can you have too much of a renewables thing?

FREEDOM OF SPEECH Professor Augusto Zimmermann addresses NCC WA on freedoms

NSW ABORTION BILL Clear and present danger to women's health

RURAL AFFAIRS Land-clearing laws render productive land useless and worthless

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Why an indigenous referendum is misconceived

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY The post-liberal way: Make good use of the time in the wilderness

ASIAN AFFAIRS Hong Kong defies its obtrusive overlord

SPECIAL FILM REVIEW Danger Close: Australia's fiercest battle of the Vietnam War

HUMOUR Rage against the baked bean

MUSIC Riff wrap: The thing that makes it go 'pop'

CLASSIC CINEMA Dr Strangelove: Helpless fear turned to laughter

BOOK REVIEW The epic awfulness of Mao and his 'isms'

BOOK REVIEW From slave to son of the Church

LETTERS

POETRY

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ASIAN AFFAIRS
Hong Kong defies its obtrusive overlord


by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, August 24, 2019

 

The name of Hong Kong in Mandarin Chinese is Xiang Gang, which means “Fragrant Harbour”.

Hong Kong was a British Crown Colony for most of its existence. Talk of democracy was not encouraged. The colony was dominated by the hongs, trading companies such as Swire and Jardine Matheson. Jardine’s emblem is a Scottish thistle. Swire controls Hong Kong’s de facto flag carrier airline, Cathay Pacific. The pilots are often Australians and, in the old days, the cabin crew came from all over Asia. These days, they are mostly from Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation was the de facto central bank. The bank issues its own currency. The Standard Chartered Bank also issues its own currency, but its notes are less common. Coins are minted by the government.

The only real competition for the British banks is the Bank of China. At one stage, there was a competition between the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and the Bank of China to see which could build the tallest headquarters. It was a matter of “face”.

Hong Kong is about business, and as long as British companies were making money, London would leave the Crown Colony alone. The head of the administration was the governor. Until Chris Patten was appointed as the last Governor of Hong Kong, it was a case of “let sleeping dogs lie”.

The most important thing about Hong Kong is the rule of law. The judiciary is impartial and its rulings could be – and are – enforced. Hong Kong law is based on British Admiralty Law.

It is therefore understandable that the people of Hong Kong have turned out in their millions to oppose extradition to China, where there is no law – only what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) says it is. On the mainland, there is also lavish use of the death penalty and the gruesome fact that the victims will have their organs harvested, often while they are still alive.

When Hong Kong returned to China on July 1, 1997, it was guaranteed a high degree of self-direction for 50 years. Under Deng Xiaoping’s “one country, two systems” formula, Hong Kong would be a Special Administrative Region (SAR) within China. Macao would be governed under a similar formula.

The most important legacy of the British administration was the rule of law. Barristers such as Martin Lee QC led the campaign to hold on to the key elements of Hong Kong’s unique society. Lydia Dunn, Baroness Dunn, was the first Hong Kong woman and the first ethnic Chinese to be elevated to the hereditary peerage. She was also prominent among local people who sought to retain the best elements of British rule.

The return of Hong Kong to China was inevitable. The British retained troops in Hong Kong, including Ghurkhas, but they could not hope to repel a full-scale attack by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The Hong Kong Police were strict. China’s “Ambassador” to Hong Kong was the Hong Kong director of the Xinhua news agency; a very poorly disguised secret.

Some observers argued at the time that Britain was not obliged to surrender the whole colony to the Chinese as Hong Kong Island (1842) and the Kowloon Peninsula (1860) were ceded to Britain “in perpetuity”. The New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898 for 99 years. Legendary Australian newspaperman Richard Hughes said Hong Kong was a case of “borrowed place, borrowed time”; Hong Kong could not survive without the New Territories.

The British did their best to leave Hong Kong graciously but they were playing a losing hand. Governor Chris Patten was given credit for his attempt to shore up civil society, but he was 100 years too late. Hong Kong had the world’s most advanced laissez faire economy. The legal system was “best of breed”, which meant that contracts could be enforced.

Hong Kong people speak Cantonese, the Chinese dialect spoken in southern China’s Guangdong Province. Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is the capital of Guangdong.

Cantonese is mainly spoken in Guangdong Province, but many Westerners believe Cantonese is spoken all over China, because it is the lingua franca of the world’s Chinatowns. Until recently, most Chinese immigrants have been from South China. The CCP is doing its best to stamp out Cantonese, and other regional languages.

Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan are all in a similar situation. All have a strong regional identity and historically have been isolated from Beijing. They all have regional languages, which the CCP is doing its best to obliterate. The Cantonese and the Taiwanese are Han Chinese, but they are subgroups within the Han Chinese ethic group, which is 1.4 billion strong. The Uyghurs and Tibetans are distinct ethnic groups.

China’s President Xi Jinping will ensure that Hong Kong does not get away from the Motherland, even if such an escape were possible. The people of Hong Kong are a defined ethnic group. Many businesspeople escaped from communism after the CCP took over mainland China, including the wealthy elite, many of whom are from Shanghai.

The people of Hong Kong continue to defy President Xi. The freedoms of the people of Hong Kong are guaranteed by treaty, but who will enforce it, if not the people of Hong Kong, at their peril?

For the people of Xinjiang, there is no escape from the CCP’s cultural genocide. Hong Kong is one of the most literate and wealthy societies on Earth. They have been brought up in a society that values individual liberty. If Beijing does not back off, the people of Hong Kong will continue to flood the streets.




























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