Taking the opportunity of being in Shenzhen for a business trip, I decided to go to Hong Kong and visit my friends via the Beijing-Kowloon High-Speed Rail in early January. I was wondering about its current state after a few months of riots in the streets. Is the romantic metropolis, the bright oriental pearl still beautiful? Did it remain the same as the past? I was eager to know.
From Shenzhen Futian High-Speed Rail Station to Hong Kong West Kowloon Station, the ride was a short and speedy ten minutes. I barely had time to WeChat a few words to my friends saying that I boarded the train and to enjoy the outside scenery, had the train already alighted smoothly in Hong Kong. Following along the direction indicated by the arrows, without any line-up and delay, the border and immigration services process went quite quickly. Compared to the long queues when I entered into the Hong Kongese soil the previous times, there were a lot fewer people waiting in line this time. I sighed.
In the spring of 1998, my family and I visited Hong Kong for the first time. At that time, Hong Kong was still immersed in the joy and liveliness of just returning to the Motherland in 1997. The bustling streets, orderly traffic, and polite people ……it all impressed us and gave us a feeling of freshness and even sometimes, envy. Taking public transit like bus or metro was something quite exciting.
But this time around, that feeling was gone.
Hong Kong has four pillar industries: financial services, trade and logistics, tourism and professional supporting services. These four industries stimulate the development of other industries and are the driving force and vitality of Hong Kong’s economy. However, under the impact of the street protests fulled by the Hong Kong public’s sentiment towards the Amendment, 22 countries around the world issued tourist warnings for Hong Kong to warn its citizens to travel with caution. After the “6.12” Admiralty riots in 2019, Australia took the lead in calling on its citizens to pay attention to their safety when travelling to Hong Kong. Japan, Singapore, Canada and other countries quickly followed suit. After the “7.21” Yuen Long incident and the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region being damaged in the attack, more countries issued tourist advisory for Hong Kong. The number of inbound tourists to Hong Kong fell in response. As one of the four pillar industries of the Hong Kong economy, not only was tourism an important source of tax revenue for the Hong Kong government, it also created a large number of jobs for the locals. According to tourism and consumption data released by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the number of tourists visiting Hong Kong in June 2019 dropped sharply by 770,000. When I told my friend that I was going to visit Hong Kong, she immediately warned me: be very careful, it might be dangerous. What I actually wished to see was a bustling and vibrant Hong Kong just like before.
After I succinctly cleared customs, I walked out of the enclosed zone to find my friend. A police officer on duty pointed politely at the station exit, and among the sparse crowd, I saw my friend waving his hand to me. I followed him to the car. I got into the car from the left rear door, I quickly glanced at what would be a driver’s seat in front of me. An empty seat took me by surprise. Noticing that the driver was sitting on the right, suddenly it sank that I was actually in Hong Kong. All drivers drive on the right side of the car.
As the car drove out of the station, I looked out of the window and tried to capture everything of this vibrant city, but I saw empty streets and buildings that no longer caused me reverie and curiosity. Recalling the city of Shenzhen which I just left, although it was also winter, the city gave you a warm impression with its cars, pedestrians, flowers. This time, I gave a prolonged sigh towards the outside while the car continued its drive.
For many years, Hong Kong people’s relatively stable life is the result of the collective efforts of the people on both sides of the Hong Kong River. Compared to Shenzhen on the other side of the Shenzhen River and Macau close by, I do not believe that continued violence will lead Hong Kong to achieve its desired outcome.
Not long ago, the Chinese Central Government held a high-profile event in Macao to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the return of Macau to the Motherland, by doing so, it was signaling its preferential policies and development opportunities to Hong Kong’s neighbours Macau and Shenzhen. Hong Kong, do you see that? Do you hear that? Do you understand what is going on?
I first learned about Hong Kong in my high school history class. At the peak of the Qing Dynasty in China, European country Britain constantly imported tea, silk, and porcelain from China in order to enrich the lives of the upper class. In contrast, the self-sufficient Qing Dynasty closed its door to the outside world rarely imported from Britain. It is difficult for people in an agricultural system to imagine products that can eventually be made by machines. It is difficult to imagine what change and revolution the industrial civilization will bring to people’s lives.
In the 18th century, the demand for Chinese luxury goods (particularly silk, porcelain, and tea) created a trade imbalance between China and Britain. European silver flowed into China through the only port opened to foreign countries in Guangzhou. To counter this imbalance, the British East India Company began to grow opium in Bangladesh and allowed private British merchants to sell opium to Chinese smugglers for illegal sale in China. The influx of narcotics reversed the Chinese trade surplus, drained the economy of silver, and increased the numbers of opium addicts inside the country, greatly damaging the health of Chinese people bearing worrisome outcomes for Chinese officials.
After winning Malacca and Singapore as trading ports in 1820, Britain turned its sights to Hong Kong with good docking conditions. In fact, as early as 1810, the British East India Company surveyed the terrain and laid out maps at the Pearl River Estuary and Hong Kong, and British merchant ships docked directly in Hong Kong waters which were very good ports by nature. The English people loved it so much, they wanted to own it.
But that was China’s territory after all. Docking was illegal. Apart from Guangzhou, the Qing government was unwilling to open more ports. Therefore, Britain launched the first Opium War against China, forcing the Qing government to sign the unequal “Nanjing Treaty” and ceding Hong Kong to Britain. Since then, other unequal treaties had been adopted gradually British enlarged its colony from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, New Territory and surrounding areas.
For more than 100 years, China has never forgotten that Hong Kong is part of Chinese territory.
Recently, I was reading “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China”, written by former Harvard professor and scholar, Ezra F. Vogel. As the Chief designer of reform and opening to the outside world, Deng Xiaoping creatively put forward the concept of “one country, two systems”. The return of Hong Kong and Macau in 1997 and 1999 was the concrete realization of this idea. Looking back at the history of the humiliation in the late Qing Dynasty, it was believed that if a country is weak, chances to defend your homeland are also weak. Only a strong country has the ability and courage to take back the land robbed by others.
The tearing apart of Hong Kongese society and the loss of international image caused by the anti-revision riots that started in Hong Kong last spring saddens me. In the process, Hong Kong police officers grieve and have tears but their dedication to their duties and to strictly enforce the law deserve our praise.
Police in any country have the obligation to protect the safety of the people, maintain public order, and help the people. I remember there was a story in “Sept Days” newspaper: An old lady in Canada wanted to visit the newspaper’s office in a snowing day and got lost, she approached two policemen on duty for help. The police officers invited her inside the police car and drove her. Since the snow was very heavy, they even shovelled her a way from snow to allow her getting to the destination. This is one relatable example of help and acting on your duty.
As we all know, police have absolute rights in handling emergencies and on duty. From the reports issued by the media, we can see that the Hong Kong police suffered a lot of grievances. For example, some buildings prohibited the police force from using toilets; there were reports of discrediting police and disrupting police and citizen relations. Hong Kong police have adopted a very restrained attitude, professional law enforcement, due diligence, and strive to maintain social stability and protect the normal life of citizens.
Despite being physically away from Hong Kong, international citizens have also seen the activities of Hong Kong citizens who uphold justice during the riots:
On July 20, 2019, more than 300,000 people in Hong Kong participated in the “Guard Hong Kong” large-scale rally, which caused strong repercussions in Hong Kong society. People from all walks of life generally believe that the “Guard Hong Kong” action reflected the mainstream public opinion and the greatest aspirations of Hong Kong society.
On the evening of August 3 to 5, 2019, the National flag of the People’s Republic of China on the flagpole of Tsim Sha Tsui Pier in Hong Kong was ripped off twice by the protesters and thrown into the sea. In order to protect the national flag, many other Hong Kong people came to Tsim Sha Tsui Pier spontaneously and raised the flag they brought from home. They said that the flag is a symbol of national dignity and cannot be violated by anyone.
On August 10, 2019, peaceful Hong Kong citizens organized a patriotic, loving Hong Kong and police support campaign. More than 50 Hong Kong tourism practitioners spontaneously went to Tsim Sha Tsui to protect Hong Kong, calling on Hong Kong to restore peace as soon as possible. At the same time, the citizens also went to dozens of police stations in various districts of Hong Kong to send flowers, fruits, greeting cards, thank you letters and other gifts to the police, and thanked them for their hard law enforcement for two consecutive months. The mission was to protect Hong Kong and its people.
There were also Hong Kong citizens in the Hong Kong Airport Express who have organized voluntary acts of love to apologize to people around the world. While sending chocolates and cards to foreign tourists, they said “Sorry” in fluent Mandarin, English, Japanese, and Cantonese, hoping to use actions to save Hong Kong from the recent vicious incidents and bring back the good old days!
Compared to the use of armed police, forklifts, and tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, armored vehicles to clear the “occupation of Wall Street” and “yellow vest” demonstrators in France, the Hong Kong police have always adhered to self-discipline and restraint during the operation to fight back only by pepper spray, baton, tear gas, etc., strictly in accordance with the “General Police Regulations” which state, “unless there is an absolute need and there is no other way to complete legal tasks, no force shall be used.”
However, the protesters in Hong Kong used iron rods, umbrella tips, corrosive liquids, and toxic chemical powder to attack the police frequently, and even smeared the police for “abuse of power to suppress peaceful demonstrations.” The families of nearly 1,000 police officers lived in anxiety because of harassment and intimidation. Opposition demonstrators are trying to use the “chilling effect” to disintegrate the morale of the police force and crackdown on the rule of law and the faith of justice maintained by the Hong Kong police, thereby realizing their attempt to paralyze the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government and seize the right to govern.
Since last June, the Hong Kong Police Force has been subjected to insults, slander and personal attacks by thugs, but they have not flinched, feared or complained. Their professionalism, persistence, loyalty and steadfastness are admired around the world. In order to maintain the stability of Hong Kong society and the safety of people’s lives and property, the Hong Kong police are commendable in confronting rioters.
If any country is to be strong, it is necessary to perfect laws internally and fairness and justice to the outside world! A complete legal system is the cornerstone of people’s livelihood and prosperity. Anyone can enjoy full freedom only within the legal framework and in compliance with the law, rather than depriving others of their freedom to work, study and live. As we know Hong Kong has returned to China in 1997. Any affairs involving Hong Kong are China’s internal affairs.
Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China’s territory. One country, two systems is the policy formulated when China regained Hong Kong 22 years ago. A prosperous and stable Hong Kong has extraordinary significance not only for Hong Kong itself, for China, but also for global economic development.
As a Chinese-Canadian, I hope to see a prosperous and peaceful Hong Kong and Mainland China. I hope the bilateral relations between the two sides are positive and strong so that its citizens can enjoy a happy life.