Hong Kong troubles

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Hong Kong troubles

Thursday, 15 August 2019 | Pioneer

Hong Kong troubles

One reason why China has not been able to chide India on Article 370 is because it is facing a crisis in Hong Kong

Diplomats will tell you that China bristles at any perceived ‘interference’ in its ‘internal affairs’ and for years the fear of hitback has meant that it has been able to get away with gross human rights violations without even a slap on the wrist. Whether it is brutality against the Tibetan population with crackdowns in Lhasa, the long-standing assault on  members of the Falun Gong sect or even the current repression against the Uighur community in northern Xinjiang, none has elicited a  unified condemnation. Ever since 1989, when China was roundly lambasted for the military crackdown in Tiananmen Square, where hundreds are estimated to have died, it has not taken kindly to being warned about its actions. Meanwhile in the 30 years following the military action in Beijing, it has become such a global economic powerhouse that it punishes those nations that criticise it with a breath of dragon fire to their existing trade deals.

The problem with Hong Kong though is a bit more complicated. The territory, which China got from the UK in 1997, is still nominally autonomous. So when it made an attempt to subjugate it by seeking to extradite criminals from Hong Kong to the mainland, which has its own laws, this predictably outraged several locals, who have grown to love their special status and the far more liberal justice system. Coming on the back of intense protests last year, popularly called the ‘Umbrella Movement’, to other proposals made by Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, a governor appointed by Beijing, these protests were destined to be intense. But nobody could imagine just how widespread they would be or how they would be a culmination of long-held oppression. Thanks to the fact that Hong Kong still has a lot of expatriate workers and a free Press, China has not been able to crack down on the protesters without the world knowing. The impact has been devastating with Hong Kong Airport, one of the region’s biggest hubs, shut down after protesters effectively barricaded it and the central business district. There have even been reports of violence, mainly by the police and some unknown ‘thugs’ whom many suspect are Chinese agents. China has not been happy to see the protests beamed on live television across the world and while itching to press the trigger finger realises it cannot. It has reacted angrily to suggestions by countries, particularly Hong Kong’s former rulers, the UK, to calm the situation. But for India, this also allows China to be more pragmatic when it comes to our position on Kashmir.

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