China has moved aggressively to make its takeover of Hong Kong permanent, forcing the city’s government to slash its spending plan in anticipation of the ultimate transfer of power from Beijing in 2025.
The power transfer goes against the desire of many in Hong Kong to remain autonomous as a special administrative region of China, as citizens voted to do in an unofficial referendum that ran from Nov. 15 to Dec. 3. In return, Beijing pledged in 1997 to transfer significant powers over such things as the Hong Kong National Party to the city’s legislature.
When the Dalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibet, arrived in the city for talks with officials in late 2012, he was met by protesters eager to denounce Beijing for cutting ties with the Dalai Lama.
But the next time a senior Chinese official visits, the trip might be not so safe.
The People’s Daily, the most authoritative newspaper of the Communist Party, published an editorial warning other countries against interference in the country’s internal affairs, as well as warning of the dangers of civil wars and the influx of Islamist extremist groups into areas ruled by authoritarian regimes.
“It’s especially dangerous when the leaders of other countries presume that they can interfere in China’s internal affairs, at the same time they tell China that those countries are entitled to draw up their own rules about noninterference in foreign affairs,” said the editorial that was published Monday.
The broadside came after Secretary of State John Kerry criticized what he called the lack of a “meaningful political process” in China’s Xinjiang region, where Muslim Turkic Muslims are in the minority.
China’s reaction was to issue a terse statement saying that foreign officials seeking to interfere “in China’s internal affairs” would do nothing but upset Sino-foreign relations and “severely harm China’s national security.”
Within days, the Chinese government warned Taiwan’s president against advocating self-determination for the country after Taiwanese officials hosted a seminar in Beijing to discuss Taiwan’s autonomy. That was as it should be, the Chinese said.
That self-determination is something Taiwan’s democracy cannot provide.
In Hong Kong, the mood has been decidedly more belligerent.
For starters, Hong Kong Premier Leung Chun-ying has downplayed the electoral results of the referendum, which were nonbinding. During a news conference last week, he reportedly told journalists, “This is not a successful petition, it is useless,” and “It is just throwing rocks at the wall with regard to making peace, a bridge of peace.”
Hong Kong police officers have started pulling several politicians who participated in the referendum out of airplanes and assaulting them.
Amid the political violence and rising concern, Australia reportedly is cutting funding for the University of Hong Kong, following an international outcry over the decision.
In order to cut its budget, Hong Kong’s government eliminated 14 staff positions and will sacrifice $660,000 in grants for new and more advanced research projects at the university, said Martin Lee, founder of the legal group Democratic Party of Hong Kong.
The University of Hong Kong says it has no concerns.
“We are aware of reports that the Office of the Legislative Council will reduce funding to University of Hong Kong. We are confident that the University of Hong Kong will continue to receive this level of support,” a spokesman said Monday.
In the future, the future is of uncertain.
China’s Dalian city recently renamed its city as Xinjiang to play down its ties to China, and other cities, like Shantou, Guangdong province, called themselves in Xiamen.
Recently, some of Hong Kong’s chief executives declared themselves undecisive on whether they would continue to support Beijing when that decision was up in the air.
“They’ve even created a new office, called the legislative council, in anticipation of this transfer,” said Andrew Suk, deputy director of the Hong Kong office of Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog.
A review of the democratic rules for Hong Kong’s elections in 2017 should help decide how Hong Kong deals with Beijing’s presence, said Johnny Lai, a program manager at Hong Kong’s University of New South Wales who is researching how cities govern themselves.
“It’s really about being transparent and there’s a lot of work to be done,” he said.