Even as the world is busy grappling with the novel coronavirus, trouble continues to brew in Hong Kong for China.
Last year, a bill introduced by China to extradite criminals from the territory of Hong Kong to mainland China sparked a wave of protests. The bill was eventually withdrawn but the protests continued, and turned into a bigger pro-democracy, anti-China movement.
Now China is set to introduce a new law to deal with the situation. Reportedly, the law would make criminal inter alia any act of supporting Hong Kong’s break-away from China, undermining the authority of Chinese government, and the interference of foreign powers.
Critics have raised concerns that Hong Kongers’ rights will be adversely affected; people will be punished for criticising China as they are in the mainland; and activists like Joshua Wong who have been lobbying foreign governments to help their cause would be booked.
Thousands of protesters were again on the streets on Sunday (24 May) to oppose the law, chanting slogans for “liberation” of Hong Kong from the China. Within an hour of the start of the march, the police fired tear gas at the crowds.
China has also sent demarches to India and several other countries explaining the reason for the new draft legislation, seeking support and understanding.
China has also said that “upholding national security” in Hong Kong is “purely China’s internal affair and no foreign country may interfere in this matter”.
As a post-colonial nation, India can empathise with China.
In a previous article, we had discussed the challenges faced by the post-colonial nations in territorial integration, the colonial legacy of ambiguities at the border and foreign intervention in the garb of ‘democracy’ and ‘dissent’.
We had also compared India’s more successful dealing with the insurgency in north-eastern India with China’s in Hong Kong.
Many believe, possibly remembering the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, that the Hong Kongers stand no chance against the strongest autocracy the modern world has known.
But there are reasons why the Hong Kong protests can become a nightmare for China — the biggest of which is the apparent reversal of the ideals of the decolonisation movement.
The Hong Kong protests displayed broad-based and widespread usage of colonial symbols including the British flag, displaying a sense of nostalgia, or what China calls, “fantasising the faded glory of British colonialism".
That the people in one of the richest, most developed regions in the world are saying ‘Make Hong Kong Great Britain Again’ decades after independence is arguably the worst embarrassment possible for China.
But why are the Hong Kongers eulogising the British rule?
Basically, the ideology of communism imposed by the Chinese in the Hong Kong was as foreign as the colonial ideology imposed by the British. China, for Hong Kongers, it seems, is just another colonial power, one which is worse as compared to a democratic and multicultural Britain.
In bulldozing the communist ideology on Hong Kongers, disregarding the complicated needs of formerly colonised people, China has potentially dug a grave for itself.
It is interesting how both in India and China, the leadership’s fascination with communism after independence undermined the task of nation-building, albeit in very different ways.
The Hong Kong challenge is made more severe by the fact that China is simultaneously facing a vengeful United States, a distrustful world, and slowing economic growth.
Given this, India has the opportunity to revive its relationship with China based on a principle hitherto neglected — reciprocity.
Delhi’s lopsided support to ‘One-China’
Possibly due to its leadership’s idolisation of communism, India for long neglected the basic principle of reciprocity in its relationship with China.
India was one of the first countries in the world to recognise the Maoist regime. Even after the 1962 war, India was willing to support the entry of communist China in United Nations as “a matter of principle”.
India has consistently upheld “One China” policy. It was one of the first countries to recognise Tibet as a part of China. On the other hand, China has undermined India’s integrity in every way possible.
India is mostly focused on its border disputes with China. Interestingly, as Tenzin Tsundue points out, India never had any borders with China; it was only after the occupation of Tibet that China appeared over the Himalayas.
Tsundue reveals how India’s support to ‘One China’ is lopsided:
Today, India is a democracy and only has to deal with the Kashmir issue. But China is facing resistance movements in Tibet, Xinjiang and Southern Mongolia. Hong Kong and Taiwan too remains a concern for Beijing.
This makes Delhi’s One-China policy lopsided in terms of diplomacy. China expects India to remain silent on 60 per cent of contested area under China’s territorial control, and also Hong Kong and Taiwan, while China has to stand with India only on Kashmir.
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