APRIL 2011, NUMBER TWENTY ONE
Beijing gradually is chipping away at Hong Kong’s political autonomy, leaving it less leeway than expect back in 1997 when China regained sovereignty and perhaps less than the Chinese government originally intended, writes Frank Ching, a Hong Kong-based author and analyst of Chinese politics. He traces this pattern back to 2003, when some 500,000 Hong Kong residents protested against pending legislation that threatened to curb their civic freedoms—and which shook the Beijing leadership.
Political space may be shrinking but the Hong Kong financial market continues to grow, and in many ways has surpassed its rivals in New York and London, according to William H. Overholt, Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Together those centers now comprise the three sectors of a truly internationalized financial market, with Hong Kong emerging clearly as the dominant center for Asia. Some of this success, he notes, is due to active support from the Chinese government which finds Hong Kong playing an important role in China’s expanding financial industry.
There are no easy solutions for the serious environmental problems of Hong Kong, but some specific—and quite feasible—policy changes could alleviate many of them and improve public health, writes Christine Loh, chief executive of Civic Exchange, a Hong Kong policy research institute. But to date the government has refused to implement them. She puts much of blame on a lack of effective leadership at the top.
As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong has the right to engage in “external relations” but not “diplomatic relations”, though defining the difference can be difficult, writes Simon Shen, associate professor and external relations coordinator at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. However, he argues that Beijing could make better use of Hong Kong’s overseas connections to advance its broader foreign policy goals while leaving Hong Kong free to pursue its own international objectives.
The killing of eight Hong Kong tourists in Manila last year remains a contentious issue between the Chinese and Hong Kong governments on one side and The Philippines government on the other, writes Amy Lai, a law student at Boston College who has written for several legal journals. In theory, the International Court of Justice, or World Court, could assume jurisdiction and settle the dispute about responsibility and compensation. But after examining the court’s potential, she concludes that an attempt might produce more aggravation than resolution. She concludes that relying on old-fashioned diplomacy would be a better course of action.
The first months of 2011 brought continued economic growth but little political comfort to the Hong Kong government, according to Robert Keatley, editor of the Hong Kong Journal. Complaints from all political quarters claimed that the administration had run out of energy and ideas for resolving serious social problems. He writes that many critics allege that it has slipped into a caretaker mode, marking time until new leaders assume office next year. This dissatisfaction took its most obvious form after a new budget was unveiled in February; an angry public reaction forced the financial secretary to make unprecedented revisions—which failed to convince those who claim the government has no strategy.