Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Where is the balanced perspective in HK?

By Tom Plate (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-10 08:03

In any real world political system, including even an established and vigorous democracy, much less a developing one, a fair-minded person could have well concluded about Beijing that someone up there was trying to meet the agitated people down by the big harbor at least at some halfway point. After all, China holds absolute sovereignty over Hong Kong, which is not an independent country. And under Chinese rule, Hong Kong has had more local elective democracy than permitted by London during its many decades of colonial rule. So where is the balanced perspective?

What's more, in some London circles it looked as if serious sulking (or craven political posturing) was still going on. Who lost Hong Kong? In July, from London, nothing less than the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Richard Ottaway, announced an inquiry into whether the 1984 Sino-British agreement, which stipulated explicitly that the territory would have a significant degree of autonomy, was being dishonored by Beijing.

At this, a furious China cried foul. The British, after all, had lorded over their ill-gotten gain from the Opium Wars without offering elections. Again, where is the honest balanced perspective? Beijing surely has a point in arguing that outside interference in the internal political affairs of a sovereign state is rather not cricket. Imagine the reaction in the West if some blowhard Chinese legislator were to opine on the impending referendum on independence for Scotland by expressing sympathy for the separatists!

And so the democracy purists in Hong Kong were obviously jarred by the clear-headed statement from the British Foreign Office late last week which said Beijing's proposal on the 2017 CE election process made acceptable sense, while also noting the obvious - that not everyone in Hong Kong would applaud lustily. But the foreign office statement was a most welcome turning down of the volume.

It's rare that one side or the other get everything as desired in the difficult world of politics. In fact, extremism and vapid posturing of any kind need to be avoided whenever possible in this crazy world of ours where cultures, religions and political systems are crammed ever closer together.

What also must be accepted is that China's rise deserves to be treated by the West with dignity and whenever possible with understanding and even support. Any other course of action will almost surely lead to a most unnecessary conflict of unimaginable dimension. We should be able to do much better than that. We had better.

The author is distinguished scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, and author of the just published In the Middle of China's Future. Distributed by Pacific Perspectives Media Center, Beverly Hills, California.


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