China, Hong Kong, & Indians

Hong Kong has been having protests over China’s forced intervention in the governance of the territory.  Hong Kongers treasure their autonomy and they will not accept Chinese government’s direct rule.

China, Hong Kong, & Indians
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram

Hong Kong has been having protests over China’s forced intervention in the governance of the territory.  Hong Kongers treasure their autonomy and they will not accept Chinese government’s direct rule.

I visited Hong Kong several times pre and post-control by China, including as an exchange post-graduate student in the mid 1980s. I was in Hong Kong just before the territory fell under the control of China in 1997 discussing Britain giving up control over the territory.  I understand the Honk Long people mentality and political and economic ideology.  They did not show much concern about falling under Chinese rule although they did say they wanted to retain democracy, freedom and autonomy from China. They don’t want to be controlled (the way China administers the mainland) and they love the free enterprise system. China will have a most difficult time controlling them – altering their political and economic independence.

I vividly recall surveying people about their views of Hong Kong falling under the control of China’s rule. Chinese Hong Kongers rejected and resent their treatment as “second class status” under British rule with the British enjoying perks and privileges as colonial masters. They are a self-respecting, proud people who don’t want to be ruled by non-Chinese – not much different say from Africans or Indians in Guyana or Trinidad who don’t wish to be ruled by a government dominated by the other race. Hong Kongers’ of Chinese descent were/are fiercely ethno-nationalistic.  They were overwhelmingly against continued British control of their lives. They did not mind being controlled (guided) by Beijing providing their democracy and freedom were not curtailed. They preferred to be ruled or governed (but not controlled) by China rather than Britain. They said they were controlled by Britain for too long (hundred plus years) and wanted autonomy. “Let us try the Chinese”, many stated, after being dominated by the Whites for too long. But trying the Chinese did not equate with control by Beijing or implementing the Chinese system of governance  in which they have no political freedoms. They want the right to vote and a free press.

Unlike the Chinese Hong Kongers, Whites, Indians, and other ethnic groups in Hong Kong expressed concern about being controlled by China.  The minorities preferred continued control by London expressing concern about their security, welfare, and large amounts of wealth. (As an aside, Indians have been in Hong Kong since 1840s as servants of and providing security to the British. The British used Indians to provide security during the opium trade and the Indians settled in the territory. But many Indians also came from India as traders, UK as investors, and Africa, primarily from Uganda under the dictator Idi Amin, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, etc.) enriching the British territory  with their entrepreneurial and technical acumen.  Hong Kong served as a sanctuary for expelled Indians from Africa. Britain opened the territory to exiled Indians from Africa and they invested a lot of money in the territory. Hong Kong prospered with Indian investors while Uganda and other African countries, similar to Guyana, became severely impoverished after the expulsion of Indians. The Ugandan rulers later expressed regret that the Indians left and pleaded for their return including returning their property that was confiscated by the cannibalistic Idi Amin). In Hong Kong, Indians, Whites and other ethnic minorities prefer to avoid the politics of the territory and don’t want government interference in their business activities.  They want to continue to enrich the territory and themselves with their investment and wealth creation skills.

Since China assumed control of Hong Kong some 22 years ago, people have become somewhat disillusioned with Chinese control but still prefer Chinese rule over British rule. Actually, Hong Kongers prefer autonomy from China with many advocating independence. There have been persistent attempts at erosion of autonomy. But Hong Kongers have resisted such actions from Beijing. They are not giving up their freedom and democracy and China will find it hard to have  its way in restricting democratic rights. China agreed to retain the status quo for fifty years (till 2047). As a result of the way has tried to curb freedom, Chinese nationalism (for China) has declined since China assumed control (in 1997) but Hong Kong  nationalism (autonomy) for the territory has increased over that corresponding period.  Every time Beijing tried to restrict the peoples’ democracy, they take to the streets and China backed down. China will have to learn to accept an autonomous democratic Hong Kong till 2047.