Comment | By Wong Chun Wai

Fragrant Harbour still raising a stink

CHINA’s introduction of security laws is likely to sound the death knell for Hong Kong, at least that’s the general impression.

However, in a case of shooting itself in the foot, the island’s rioters – dubbed pro-democracy protesters – killed its economy through their protests in March last year.

Their year-long rampage has led to the former Commonwealth territory’s worst economic results, which consequently tipped it into recession.

The Covid-19 pandemic was the last nail in the coffin and the fresh protests, which began a few days ago, will be the final rites for the ailing island.

So, let’s not kid ourselves into believing that the introduction of laws to stop secession, sedition and terrorism is the tolling of the bells for Asia’s World City.

These laws are, in fact, long overdue, because the HK government had tried to enforce its own security measures.

No government, be it in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia or Canada, would tolerate year-long protests, where forms of violence have included people being bashed, Molotov cocktails employed and shop fronts on main streets desecrated.

Try doing that every weekend at Oxford Street in London and Fifth Avenue in New York, and see if their policemen will just sit back and applaud these actions in the name of democracy.

And if cops even gently patted these protesters to stop, it would constitute police brutality.

It’s not just China tourists who have stayed away from HK, but holidaymakers from many parts of the world, too, especially those from nearby South-East Asia.

No one wants to be inconvenienced by road closures, especially those leading to the airport, or subway stations near protest areas. After all, HK is such a tiny place.

These protesters, encouraged by the West, have driven tourists away and decimated businesses. It’s common knowledge that rentals there are sky high and when operating hours are shortened, it simply means less revenue for business owners.

On the contrary, these new security laws will bring stability and hopefully end this situation once and for all, especially the secessionist and terrorist behaviours.

Why should the US or UK worry, or even care, about what’s unfolding in China, which is often described as the Far East? Yes, HK is that far from them.

If democracy is the focus here, let’s talk about several Arab ally nations that have blatantly violated democracy. The point is, the West seems to turn a blind eye to this because these nations are on their team.

It’s mind-boggling that security agencies (like our Special Branch) are forbidden by law to operate in Hong Kong. With the introduction of the law, intelligence gathering on the island will be more effective.

We have seen how a man was torched, a policeman slashed in the neck, an elderly cleaner killed, police stations fire-bombed, subway stations and streets vandalised, and campuses trashed.

On Sunday, a lawyer who heads the Law Society, was beaten up by a mob clad in black at Causeway Bay.

Unbelievably, these violent acts have been carried out in the name of democracy.

Not all HK citizens share the view that it’s the protesters who are often beaten up, and it’s acceptable having the names of policemen and their families exposed on social media.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has long been stationed in Hong Kong but has confined itself to its garrisons. So, we have a situation where China’s army can’t be used in its own territory because of the potential hysterics that could ensue should armed personnel be summoned to the island’s streets.

So, as the mayhem continues, the police can only politely hold banners to warn protesters to disperse before water cannons and tear gas are used.

No doubt that HK is still important to China since it still has extensive capital controls and often intervenes in its financial markets and banking system, because after all, the island is one of the most open economies in the world and one of the biggest markets for equity and debt financing.

Under the one country, two systems formula agreed as part of Britain’s handover of the territory to China, HK is guaranteed liberties.

These freedoms give HK a special status internationally, allowing it to negotiate trade and investment agreements independent of Beijing. For instance, it doesn’t have to pay the tariffs imposed by the US on Chinese imports.

But the size of HK’s economy is now only equivalent to 2.7% of mainland China’s, down from 18.4% in 1997.

Even with the introduction of these security laws, the elections of HK’s legislative council are not going to disappear.

WhatsApp and Twitter won’t be replaced by WeChat, and freedom of speech will continue to exist.

What most people don’t want is the continuous violent street demonstrations.

HK has degenerated into a state of anarchy with marauding gangsters. Realistically, no government, in any part of the world, will allow such actions to prolong.

The destruction of public property, police stations and shops with home-made bombs are nothing more than acts of terrorism.

The future of HK lies with China. The young can’t change that. Waving the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack won’t help one bit, and certainly won’t earn them the passports of these countries.

HK is part of the planned Greater Bay Development Area, including Guangdong and Macau, and the people of the island should take a more positive and realistic outlook on their future.