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Yesterday, as it happens, I read an article in Le Monde Diplomatique for July 2007 about Hong Kong. (A l'avant-garde du libéralisme par Anne-Laure Delatte, in French).

Her article mostly deals with economic and social matters, but she points out the issue of the "functional constituencies", the consequence of which is that the parliament is not elected by universal suffrage. She sees this as an inheritance from the British that suits the Chinese government while not bothering most inhabitants of HK :


Héritage des négociations de rétrocession entre Britanniques et Chinois, ce système se comprend mieux si l'on se souvient que Hongkong est aussi une ville chinoise : le conservatisme économique va de pair avec un conservatisme politique favorable au régime de Pékin. Pour ce dernier, le risque de prolifération idéologique est trop élevé pour laisser une démocratie à suffrage universel se développer sur un territoire chinois, même autonome. Aussi, tout comme sur le continent, la prospérité économique est un élément-clé d'un statu quo politique fondé sur un postulat : le régime ne sera pas remis en cause par la population aussi longtemps que l'économie restera florissante.

Legacy of the retrocession negotiations between British and Chinese, this system can better be understood if one recalls that China is also a Chinese city : economic conservatism goes hand in hand with political conservatism favourable to the Pekin regime. For the latter, the risk of ideological proliferation is too high to let a universal-suffrage democracy grow on Chinese territory, even autonomous. So, as on the continent, economic prosperity is a key element in a political status quo based on a postulate : the regime won't be questioned by the population as long as the economy is flourishing.

My own feeling is that there is no doubt about the responsibility of British imperialism for the lack of democracy in HK; but neither do I have too many illusions about the Chinese leadership's will for democracy anywhere it holds power.

Isn't there a parallel between this and, more broadly, the profits Western capital is making in China while keeping quiet about human rights and democracy?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 09:54:38 AM EST

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