A few days ago, the Umbrella Revolution protests were forced out of the Hong Kong financial district. If you hadn’t heard the news when it first started months ago, it was because China was making a tweak to the Hong Kong electoral process, which effectively resulted in the “mainland” government being able to have a final say on who could stand for election in Hong Kong. It’s not exactly that China could tell Hong Kong how to run their governance, but you can guess that having controlling powers on candidacy stacks policy heavily in favour of mainland interests (if you recognise that Hong Kong has interests separate to those of the mainland).
What was the result of the protests? Did China revoke it’s “tweak”? Nope.
About a month ago, my prediction on this issue was that the protests would have to get hella more violent, or to have some serious economic consequences, before China would budge. Neither scenario eventuated, and China has not budged.
What has happened though is that protesters have managed to turn a lot of the local support against them, and, either naturally or through media twists, the point that Hong Kong democracy was going to be affected became a side issue to many residents.
A family friend of [CM]’s runs a shop in the area where the protests were taking place.
“I have been paying rent for two months, and have not had a single customer. The protests are blocking all my business.” A week before the protesters were cleared away, she had refinanced her home to keep her business afloat, and was in grave danger of losing everything if things continued.
Most people who live in Hong Kong know enough about China and the way it works to know that Hong Kong, really, belongs to China now, and nothing is going to change that in China’s mind. Shop owners know that the mainland government don’t give a shit about business at the ground level in the streets of HK. When a shop goes out of business– another will open up in it’s place. Taxes will still be due. And the Circle of Life will Continue. That’s been the way HK has worked for centuries, and that level of turnover makes no lasting difference.
So will the complaints go up to Central Government? Maybe a few did.
But mostly, even liberal and foreign media began reporting that the sentiment on the ground was that the local businesses were fed up of the protesters. And more than that– locals were fed up of the increased traffic jams in a region that, even without a protest going on, is one of the most heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffice areas in the world.
The protestors had made their point about democracy, and it was a good one– but they’d provided no “out” for China. They’d given no better alternative. China would not budge until it was good for China.
Scholars at the head of the movement were on the “right track” in my opinion– some of them suggested that the only way HK would get China to change it’s mind was if people started refusing to pay taxes to the Central government. Now there is something that will hit China hard! But, predictably, the idea didn’t get much steam, because nobody wanted to risk the wrath of the mainland.
China is still dealing with independence issues with Taiwan and TIbet– it will not show weakness by loosening it’s grip on Hong Kong, which remains a financial mediation ground between the East and the West.
In the aftermath of the main protests (which continue in a more scattered form still, but not in the central financial district), arrests have been made. It’s quite likely that anyone whose details were discovered were put on Mainland blacklists, which will have severe consequences for them in the future.