Hong Kongers have taken to the streets of the city, furious that Beijing will no longer allow citizens to democratically elect their political leaders.
Beijing is just as furious. If attempts to block images of protests on social media, like Instagram and Weibo, are any indication, it will not tolerate dissent for long.
Behind closed doors, Beijing has been more direct.
In a meeting with Hong Kong leaders in August, Beijing’s liaison to the island, Zhang Xiaoming, told Hong Kong leaders that “The fact that you are allowed to stay alive, already shows the country’s inclusiveness.”
According to Reuters everyone in the room was shocked. It was a clear sign that Xi Jinping’s China — a China of political corruption drives and power consolidated in the office of the President — had a new vision for Hong Kong.
For the past 30 years, since rejoining China after being under British rule, Hong Kong has been able to elect its own leaders. That was the deal then-Chinese President Deng Xiaoping made with late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Hong Kong, along with Macau, would exist under a specific political identity — it would become a ‘special administrative region’ (SAR) until 2047. SAR’s don’t have to be socialist like the mainland, and they can maintain their own legal systems.
At least, that was the case until Xi Jingping became President of China.
Now Beijing is going back on that promise. In a white paper written this summer, mainland leaders said that Hong Kong’s constitutional autonomy was not “an inherent power.” Instead of allowing fully democratic elections, Beijing wants to select that candidates that can run in Hong Kong in 2017.
Autonomy is over. In other words, it’s time to conform to the mainland, or else.