The Hong Kong I remember
I use to travel to Hong Kong in the 1980s, when I was a student in China and still recall those memorable days. It was one of the most prosperous places in this part of the world. Being a free port, Hong Kong was the hub of commercial activities; transit trade was a routine matter. For the light industry, especially the electronics industry, Hong King was the ideal place, as it requires a little space to set it up. The small and medium-sized industries were flourishing, while import and export business was a major contributor to the economy.
My visits to Hong Kong were always comfortable and I did enjoy each one of my trips in the 1980s. People of Hong Kong were friendly and polite. The people were focused on their job, business and how to create wealth. They were not interested in politics and were much more interested in making money. Money making was their favorite hobby and hard work was their motto. They were honest in dealings and fair in business. Due to lack of space, Hong Kong was even back then one of the most densely populated places in Asia, so people were much more accommodative and tolerant of each other. They enjoyed Western culture but keeping their Asian traditions alive too. Overall it was a moderate, well-cultured society.
I have also been to Hong Kong after its return during my diplomatic assignment in China. I noticed that prosperity was intact, law and order were well managed, business activities were running smoothly. It seemed the people were quite satisfied. Of course, I noticed improved infrastructure, more cleanliness, etc. But overall the society was calm as usual. I do not remember any incident of unhappiness, dissatisfaction or rebellious thoughts. My last visit was in 2013 or 2014, but I did not detect any trouble.
Therefore, the current unrest in Hong Kong is beyond my understanding. It is not uncommon to see a small group of people protesting against policies. We see this frequently in Pakistan. There are always discussions between protesters and officials, and after meeting the few demands of protesters, the government always disperses them and the issues are settled without any ill-feelings from either side. It never happens that all demands of the protesters are genuine and must be met.
In the case of Hong Kong, even after the government agreed to meet the protesters’ original demands, the demonstrators instead of calming things down began raising more demands. It is very easy for a government of any country to use force and disperse the protesters, and it has been happening in many parts of the world. But the Chinese government has maintained restrain and patience and has not used force. On the other hand, it is against the temperament of Hong Kong people to prolong such protests for so long. They are damaging the Hong Kong economy, routine life and disturbing the peace-loving residents.
How have protests gone on for so long and how they have been sustained for such a long period of time? The reader knows the answer.
I believe China has already surpassed that threshold where any country can coerce China. Such exercise is futile and ineffective. China possesses the capacity to handle its domestic issues rationally and calmly.
The author is a sinologist, and non-resident fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization).
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.