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Hope for Hong Kong? Depends who you ask

And what exactly does the protest slogan, “Restore Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” mean?

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office gave a press conference where he warned Hong Kong protesters that if they play with fire, they will be incinerated.

Yesterday, as protesters continue to seethe, Zhāng Xiǎomíng 张晓明, the top official at the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, and the central government’s most senior representative in Hong Kong, and more than 550 people held a meeting in Shenzhen to discuss the situation. From Xinhua:

[Zhang] said the central authorities will never sit by if the situation in Hong Kong worsens to a turmoil that the SAR government can not control.

“According to the Basic Law (of the HKSAR), the central authorities have ample methods as well as sufficient strength to promptly settle any possible turmoil should it occur,” he said.

As many people in Hong Kong have pointed out, the ordinance amendment issues have changed in their essence, and now bear the features of a “color revolution,” Zhang said.

This does not leave much room for optimism, nor does this statement from reliably pro-Beijing South China Morning Post columnist Alex Lo: “My guess is that Hong Kong police have been given unconditional support and carte blanche to suppress unrest and protests without the fear of subsequent punishment.”

But here is a Hong Konger who still sees hope: Cheah Cheng Hye (謝清海 Xiè Qīnghǎi). As an enormously successful fund manager, he is certainly part of the city’s elite, but this is not the kind of argument you hear often from that quarter: In the South China Morning Post, Cheah writes that the turmoil in the city “gives Hong Kong its best chance for badly needed political and economic reforms since 1997.”

A solution would allow Hong Kong people to rule Hong Kong, through a system of one man, one vote, and direct elections for the position of chief executive. Such a change would vastly strengthen stability and the government’s legitimacy, making it easier to push aside vested interests standing in the way of urgently needed social and economic reforms.

This provides a way out of the crisis, which is social, economic and political in nature. As a reminder, Beijing is not opposed to universal suffrage in Hong Kong…

We should explore anew how much further we can go with Hong Kong democracy before we reach the limits imposed by “one country, two systems”. From Beijing’s perspective, two red lines must not be crossed: a declaration of independence and the use of Hong Kong as a base for subversion on the mainland.

Finally, veteran Hong Kong commentator Lee Yee (李怡 Lǐ Yí) offers an explanation of the protest slogan “Restore Hong Kong, revolution of our times” (光復香港, 時代革命 guāngfù xiānggǎng shídài gémìng), in translation on China Heritage:

Revolution does not have to be about replacing a dynasty or overturning a political regime; nor is it necessarily about violence and bloodshed.

‘Revolution of Our Times’ in Hong Kong is about a fundamental change in the political direction of the city, one that is presently being imposed by the Beijing and Hong Kong Communist authorities; their direction is moving against the long-agreed One Country, Two Systems political arrangements in the territory.

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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