The divide between Hong Kong locals and their mainland counterparts is sometimes larger than their physical distance, with Hong Kongers calling mainland tourists “locusts”, and mainlanders calling Hong Kongers “unappreciative sour grades who cannot get over their loss of advantage over mainland.” Despite the mutual hostility, however, quest for democracy may be the one thing that binds the two camps.
This past Sunday, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress issued restrictive guidelines for the election of Hong Kong’s next chief executive in 2017. Instead of giving in to calls for universal suffrage by Hong Kong activists (Occupy Central), China pushed a plan by which nominees must be vetted and approved by more than half of a committee who has largely been under the control of Beijing.
At this point, no one is sure about how things will unfold in the near further as one leader of the Occupy Central activists declared de facto defeat. But the announcement, and the events that follow, will surely have an impact that reaches beyond Hong Kong into mainland.
The struggles of Hong Kong activists didn’t receive nearly as much media attention as it did outside of China’s great wall of censorship, but mainland netizens are just as opinionated. Surprisingly, many side with the activists.
On Tuesday, He Bing, associate dean of the law school at China University of Political Science and Law, voiced his opposition to free and open election in Hong Kong.
He argued that the “one country, two systems” policy has already granted that Hong Kong is exempt from national policies, doesn’t need to pay taxes to the central government or follow the jurisdiction of China’s supreme court. Free election independent of Beijing on top of everything above would make Hong Kong a confederation state, rather than a special administrative region. In the end, He concluded: “If other provinces follow suit, China will collapse.”
The comment stirred up heated debate among Chinese netizens, most of which, surprisingly, voiced their support for Hong Kong’s fight for democracy.
And He Bing, a popular and vocal liberal scholar known for his sharp criticism of government corruption and the lack of rule of law in China, was almost instantly labeled a “5 mao,” a term that can be used to generally describe those who blindly support the Chinese government.
“Is He out of his mind? Is his account hacked? Why did he say something like this? Who is behind his comment?” Many netizens thought that a once liberal scholar has reduced to the pawn of the government. They sarcastically pointed out that it’s absurd for a mainlander who himself doesn’t have much political freedom, or any freedom at all for that matter, to laugh at Hong Kong’s fight for true democracy.
“Hong Kong is the only region within China that has the guts to fight for democracy. I support Hong Kong because people there have the courage to take to the streets for a ballot. “ One netizen commented.
“Of course we are one country. That’s why Hong Kong people should be deprived of freedom of speech, freedom of publication and freedom of assembly, too! And we should enforce the one child policy and patriotism education in Hong Kong as well. Before long, Hong Kong people will just be as happy as we are.”Another netizen sarcastically commented.
These mainland netizens may not speak with Hong Kong’s interest in their minds, but the quest for more political freedom is universal.