On Wednesday and Thursday China will celebrate the China National Day — a commemoration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
That means no one goes to work.
And that means everyone in Hong Kong and can join the protesters in the streets who are calling for a reversal of China’s decision to select all the candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 chief executive elections.
“We cherish the core values of Hong Kong,” said Edward Chin, a former hedge fund manager and one of a group of finance vets within the so-called Occupy Central protest movement. “Freedom of speech, freedom of press and also the rule of law.”
The world started paying attention to unrest in Hong Kong this weekend, when images of protesters holding umbrellas to block police pepper spray showers flooded the media.
More bodies on the ground means more potential for escalation, though many of Occupy Central’s own protesters, including Chin, don’t know exactly what that might mean. One option, says George Chen, a 2014 Yale World Fellow and author of the book, ‘This is Hong Kong I Know‘, is copying protests in Taiwan.
In March of this year thousands of Taiwanese protesters occupied the country’s legislature for the ‘Sunflower Movement.’ They were protesting a trade agreement between Beijing and Taipei that they believed would give China too much influence over Taiwan’s affairs.
“Certainly there are some talks about upgrading the [Hong Kong] action to occupy more physical buildings, ” said Chen. If students were to occupy government buildings that would be a very dangerous situation because it would give police a reason to use force.”
Chen isn’t alone in that belief either.
“The Hong Kong leadership has made clear that they’re not going to accede to the protesters demands,” Geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer told Business Insider in an email. “They want to avoid a broad show of force … but if they can’t get the demonstrations to disperse through threats and some strategic arrests, we’re likely to see violence.”
The only factor here, says Chen, that could check government violence protesters is the market. Hong Kong is still a global financial center. If China sees that in jeopardy, it may pull back. The country’s economy is already slowing down — a slew of bad numbers reaching across industries from the gambling to housing to industrial production, confirm that.
China is not in the best position to handle a Hong Kong out of commission.
“If you pay attention to the timeline of the whole developments so far,” Chen said, “Hong Kong police stopped using tear gas after the market opened on Monday…. If you want to stop using tear gas why do you need to wait until market’s open? I think this means market means more than people to the Hong Kong government.”
At a certain point, though, not even saving the market will hold China back from clamping down on Hong Kong. Xi has made no secret about his regime’s desire to tighten its grip on power all over the country. A massive anti-corruption drive has taken down high-level figures, and the office of the President has more powers under Xi than it did under his predecessors.
“Xi is pretty much like Putin,” Edward Chin told Business Insider. His China is more like a totalitarian regime. That is a red flag to people in finance, I see the shadow of Chairman Mao.”