Tea Leaf Nation

‘Hong Kong, What Does the Motherland Really Owe You?’

A viral Chinese article argues that Hong Kong should be grateful to the mainland -- or else.

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

 

While Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement protests, now stretching into their 12th day, have transfixed much of the Western world, many mainland Chinese have merely yawned — or sneered — at the Hong Kong youth demanding true universal suffrage in the former British colony. Images of umbrellas, protest street art, and yellow ribbons symbolizing solidarity with the movement have proliferated on social media sites popular in much of the world but blocked in China, such as Twitter, Facebook, and now Instagram. But many mainland Chinese have been enjoying a different kind of viral content — angry anti-Hong Kong essays.

One such article, called "Hong Kong, What Does the Motherland Really Owe You?" has been re-posted (and sometimes re-titled) on many different Chinese websites, with just a single posting of it on WeChat, a popular mobile chat platform, already garnering over 100,000 views. (Authorship is unclear; while some sites have attributed the piece to conservative lawyer Wu Danhong, others have listed no author at all.) The piece argues that Hong Kong should be grateful the mainland has given it "special priority," and has been slow to return the favor.

The tone is strident, but Min Jiang, an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who grew up in mainland China, told Foreign Policy the article "appeals to a sense of national pride" that’s genuine. Mainland Chinese are "proud of their identity," she added, and also of the fact that certain parts of China have overtaken Hong Kong. Once far and away the richest city in China, Hong Kong now has a GDP that’s still high per capita, but overall well below that of Beijing or Shanghai. But mainlanders rarely witness the struggles of Hong Kong’s poorer residents, such as extreme overcrowding, said Jiang, and this piece "exploits differences" between Hong Kong and the mainland without showing what it’s like to walk in "Hong Kong people’s shoes."

FP translates selected portions of the piece below, abridging for brevity.

 ***

First see what China has done for Hong Kong:

  • In finance, no taxes. As part of China, Hong Kong has never had to pay a single cent of tax to the central government. Hong Kongers are free to spend the money they earn in any way they wish, supporting Hong Kong’s own development. In the mainland, no matter how poor some regions are they never cause the kind of trouble that Hong Kong has.
  • In development, special protections. In order to preserve Hong Kong’s special position in the international economy, as well as its traditional superiority, the central government has repeatedly suppressed other Chinese cities. Out of fear of harming Hong Kong, the government has hesitated and delayed the launch of such projects as Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone and deep-water port.
  • In travel, complete popular support. The central government has always strongly encouraged mainlanders to visit Hong Kong, and Hong Kong tourist packages have always been extremely popular. In addition, the main objective of many tourists is to go shopping, thus helping develop Hong Kong’s economy.
  • Giving special priority to the people’s livelihood. Hong Kong is a small mountainous region with little agriculture, relying upon the mainland to provide its food and water. Every day, the mainland sends the freshest and best quality meat, vegetables, eggs, and dairy products to Hong Kong, while guaranteeing the provision of water, electricity, and natural gas.

Now see how Hong Kong has treated China:

  • Calling out the slogan "I’d rather be an English dog than a Chinese." In Hong Kong, there will always be some people with an inborn slave mentality, who want to serve as English running dogs and even wish to return to the era of colonialism.
  • Instigating the "Occupy Central" movement. Some people in Hong Kong are attempting through long-term occupation of Central to achieve Western-style universal suffrage, also initiating an illegal "public referendum."
  • Breaking into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) barracks in Hong Kong. Recently, members of a "Hong Kong independence" organization broke into PLA headquarters there, creating a disturbance and calling out the slogan "PLA, withdraw from Hong Kong."
  • Some media organizations view opposition to the party as their mission. Some Hong Kong newspapers and magazine are full of essays satirizing the party and the central government, attacking national leaders, and sowing discord between Hong Kong and the mainland. These media organizations have willingly become a public opinion stronghold of anti-China Western influence.
  • Not agreeing to Hong Kong’s Basic Law Article 23. Article 23 proposes to prohibit any act of treason, separatism, sedition, subversion of the central government, or theft of state secrets. These are normal propositions for normal countries regarding their sovereign territory, but years-long public opposition by some people in Hong Kong has resulted in delays to the regulation’s completion.

We should really teach Hong Kong a lesson. Just like Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-Shing said, Hong Kong is like a naughty child who has been "spoilt" by the central government. If this child is given milk as soon as it starts crying, that’s how it gets spoiled. This is the situation that Hong Kong is in now. Previously, as soon as people in Hong Kong went out to the streets to protest, the central government made comforting concessions. This has given some Hong Kongers the illusion that if they simply make some noise, they will succeed.

  • Hong Kong’s sovereignty belongs to the People’s Republic of China. That is to say, Hong Kong is China’s, Hong Kong is not Hong Kong’s.
  • The idea of Hong Kongers governing Hong Kong was Deng Xiaoping’s original idea. This idea expresses a great deal of trust and compassion. When Britain ruled Hong Kong, Hong Kongers certainly didn’t have any right to governance, but rather were treated as second-class citizens. For the motherland to have taken Hong Kong back and granted Hong Kongers the right to self-governance, what a grand gift this is! Some in Hong Kong believe this to be their due — but they are wrong.
  • Some Hong Kongers do not understand that the core of "one country, two systems" is "one country." In the case of separatism, unrest, or foreign intervention, "two systems" can be canceled. Hong Kong’s right to self-government didn’t fall straight down from heaven, it’s not Hong Kong’s inherent right — it is granted by the central government. If necessary, the central government can rescind that right and directly administer Hong Kong.
  • Some Hong Kongers do not understand that under "one country, two systems," you must love your country. The mainland has treated Hong Kong with goodwill and generosity, and mainland media mostly gives Hong Kong positive publicity. But Hong Kong has developed a negative ethos of criticizing the party, mainlanders, and the motherland. Hong Kong absolutely cannot continue in this manner; it cannot become an anti-party bastion and a hotbed for foreign forces. If some people continue to make this kind of racket, there will be a price to pay.

This piece has been updated.

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a journalist covering China from Washington. She was previously an assistant editor and contributing reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @BethanyAllenEbr

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