All eyes are on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which, many argued, will have profound implications for world economy, China’s economy, and most importantly, for China’s overall democratic progress, however it may end. But will it?
The protests’ economic effect is hard to assess right now, but there seems to be enough hints to conclude whether the “Umbrella Revolution” is a big enough threat for Beijing to fear, and whether it is likely to light the fuse to blast democracy quests into the rest of China.
One often missing but key analysis is how China’s 1.3 billion mainlanders think about Hong Kong and what’s happening there right now. Sentiment among mainlanders is directly related to whether they will echo Hong Kong’s cry, and how much they will support their government if Beijing decides to play tough.
Below is a rough translation of a viral analysis of situations in Hong Kong that has been widely shared on both Wechat, China’s most popular messaging tool, and Weibo, China’s leading social media platform. The article, titled “Who Owns Hong Kong”, is a good read into how mainlanders are making sense of Hong Kong’s unrest.
What has the mother country done for Hong Kong?
The article further listed what Hong Kong has done to China, including rallies for independence, preference of colonial rule, and discrimination over mainlanders, etc. As sad as it may seem, the article does represent how many Chinese mainlanders think about protesters in Hong Kong – a groups of spoiled and unappreciative whiners who complain too much while already enjoying many privileges.
Certainly, there is a considerable number of people who fully support the protesters in Hong Kong. But most Chinese couldn’t care less about Hong Kong and whether people there enjoy true democracy. To them, it never felt like “one country, two systems,” but rather “two countries, two systems.” Chinese citizens need to apply for a special permit (like a visa) before visiting Hong Kong that only lasts a short period of time. Even foreigners enjoy a longer period of visa-free stay in Hong Kong than Chinese.
Others who do care are more likely to side with the Chinese government than with Hong Kong protesters. To say that the people from mainland and Hong Kong dislike each other is an understatement. The whole “locust” campaign was not nice at all, and not surprisingly mainlanders are pissed. The result is little sympathy with Hong Kong protesters. What’s worse, many actually think that Beijing should take a hardline approach, as many of them suggested: “So much with “one country, two systems.’ Simply make it one country and take away Hong Kong’s many special treatments!”
The only thing that everybody agrees with is: “One country, two systems” did not and will not work.