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A purely analytical perception...

Hong Kong



Continued from page 3


The people who saw relatively little change since the Chinese takeover became restive and although Chinese bureaucrats urged calm, the people were not particularly assuaged. The new Solicitor General, Daniel R. Fung, naturally indicated that, "I would not accept that there has been an erosion in the legal system." Other voices did not agree, Martin Lee offered a contrary view when he said, "The fairest conclusion one can draw is that the government has no respect for the rule of law, if today you can treat Xinhua more favorably than others, does that mean that tomorrow you can treat me less favorably?" Although this represents only a small leak in the dike, many fear that putting a finger in to stop the leak won’t do any long term good to the Colony.

This was only the beginning, on March 30th, 1998, the Hong Kong Government announced that they were introducing new legislation that would exempt the government from many current laws. As more information leaked out it seems that not only would the Hong Kong Government be exempt from much legislation but also so would Chinese State bodies. "this...signals the beginning of the substitution of Hong Kong’s "rule of law" with Beijing’s rule of man. The potential from abuse and corruption in these circumstances is enormous and indeed invited, " stated Martin Lee, head of the Hong Kong Democratic Party. Those who thought the former colony would be left to its own devices are rapidly learning that this is not exactly what the Mainland had in mind.


But the Chinese were not quite done tinkering with the system. In 1995 when the last Hong Kong vote was held under British Rule, there were 2.7 million eligible voters out of a population of just under 7 million. In first election under Chinese rule, that number had dropped to about 140,000 and the way in which the election was handled created more of an air of resignation than apathy when only a small fraction of that number bothered to go to the polls. Totally disenfranchising and frustrating the population was the bizarre method of voting which divides the country for electoral purposes into three distinct groups, the popular vote will elect 33% of those running, 17% will be chosen by committee having no bearing on how any votes are cast and 50% will be elected by corporations. Pro-democracy politician, Emily Lau indicated that the vote was , "It was a farce. Only a very small number of people had the right to vote. So it was not really an election. It was just a process to entrench power in the people already with a lot of vested interest and vast majority of Hong Kong people have no say whatsoever."

Emily Lau did not finish just by knocking the Chinese election system, she and another activist thought it would be a good idea to stick it to the Chinese and they had a flower-presentation ceremony at the historic clock tower landmark. They and their supporters laid chrysanthemums in front a hastily constructed mausoleum in honor of all that had died in Tiananmen Square. Emily, ever the orator stated, "They have not died in vain. We will continue to struggle for a democratic Hong Kong and a democratic China." We have some fears about Emily disappearing sometime soon if she keeps taunting the Chinese. As she herself has stated, it has happened before.


So far, the Chinese who were going to let well enough alone seem to have taken away civil rights and the right to vote, pretty good for the short time these fellas have been around. God only knows what the next move will be. As the rights of Hong Kong Citizens are stripped, one at a time, more people seeing the handwriting on the wall are buying one way tickets out of town. "Among the most controversial actions were restrictions the return of children from Mainland China, repealing of labor laws passed under British rule, restricting direct election and placing some China entities above the law." (3)

Well, the election was held with An announced, huge turnout, the people thrown out by Mainland bureaucrats were elected, promising to halt the erosion of the Hong Kong Citizen’s rights. While many view this as a startling victory for democracy in the former colony, we view it as a prelude to disaster. The next move will be a legislative war over who is really running things and the Colony will lose. This will ultimately lead to repressive tactics by Chinese in order to maintain control. Although we applaud the courage of the dissidents and we feel that they have only begun a long travel over a short road and the best that can be garnered will be some sort of compromise.

And worse yet, the economy that had started to become unraveled and the people who under strong economic conditions could have put up with some government hanky panky under good conditions were not in the mood based on what was going on economically. Retail sales dropped 18 percent in February 1998 alone and unemployment soared to a fifteen year high. The smog, which killed tourism last year, is expected to do even worse this year with the bottom dropping out of tourism with arrivals down over 20 percent in May. The budget is in chaos because the Government was forced to suspend land sales because of the collapse of the real estate market which is down 50 percent in just a few months and which contributed a substantial amount of the collections.

Due to the fact that so much property is financed through the Hong Kong banking system, fears have already been debated about its ultimate demise. If anyone had any doubts as to the seriousness in which these events were perceived, they only had to listen to China’s designated hitter to understand the facts. Tung Chee-hwa expressed his concern when he said, "Property prices have dropped heavily and if this situation continues it would certainly jeopardize the financial and banking system."

The real estate collapse also means that instead of a surplus of HK $10 billion which had been projected just a short time ago, the actual numbers will come in at a deficit of around HK $21.4 billion. All in all, things are not looking up for the colony, When the data was all in, the first quarter of 1998 showed a contraction of 2 percent and government estimates looked for more of the same to come. Government head, Tung Chee-hwa stated the obvious, "We fully understand that our economic situation now is very critical."



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