Gwynne Dyer. File photo

Opinion: Hong Kong’s protesters made matters worse for themselves

One Hong Kong lawmaker, Claudia Mo, said it was “the death-knell of Hong Kong’s democracy fight.”

But she was part of it: one of the 15 remaining pro-democracy members of the Legislative Council who resigned last week in protest of the expulsion of four other democratically elected members of the pseudo-parliament.

Wu Chi-wai, speaking for the 15 who resigned, tweeted that “One country, two systems in Hong Kong has come to an end.”

That is true, and it is regrettable, but it’s hard to see how a mass resignation that eliminates all pro-democracy legislators from the Legislative Council helps the cause.

Bad tactics in a good cause has been the hallmark of the Hong Kong democratic movement’s behaviour throughout the past 18 months.

It mobilized a very effective non-violent protest campaign when the Communist government in Beijing introduced a law in June 2019 that directly challenged the deal signed by China and the former colonial power, the United Kingdom, in 1997.

When London handed the colony back to China in 1997, it got a guarantee that Hong Kong could keep its free institutions, including freedom of speech and of the press, impartial courts, and a separate, partly democratic government for 50 years.

“One country, two systems” was the slogan.

Beijing’s new law would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be transferred to mainland courts for certain security offences, so the protesters spilled out into the streets to protect the status quo.

Within three months, Chief Executive Carrie Lam withdrew the legislation.

The Hong Kong government is not an entirely free agent and Lam initially went along with Beijing’s demand. By withdrawing, it she was signalling that Beijing was willing to drop the matter for now. But the protesters snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The sensible thing to do was to accept the concession and go home. Beijing’s demand might come back again in five years, but enjoy the time you have won.

The Communist regime will never let you have any more than this, and the mainland population outnumbers you 200-to-one.

Instead of going home happy, the protesters stayed out in the streets and raised the stakes, demanding fully free elections and more autonomy for Hong Kong.

They also broke the prime rule and allowed their protests to become violent.

So Xi Jinping’s Communist regime in Beijing struck back hard against what it saw as a serious challenge to its authority.

A new law was imposed on Hong Kong, contrary to the 1997 agreement, that effectively subordinates the city’s legal system to Beijing’s whims.

It was the end of Hong Kong’s legal autonomy, and to rub it in, four pro-democracy legislators were expelled from the Legislative Council.

In a final quixotic gesture last week, all the remaining democrats in the Legislative Council quit too. It’s a prelude to a far larger abandonment.

Hong Kong’s relative freedom was always conditional and ultimately doomed (2047 at the latest), but this blundering collapse was premature and far from inevitable.

Only two substantive questions now remain. What happens to Taiwan, and where will all the Hong Kongers who want to leave go?

One-third of Hong Kong’s seven million people were born on the mainland: some of them moved to the city for the money, but most were undoubtedly getting away from the Communists.

Another third will be the children or grandchildren of those refugees (the city’s population was only 600,000 in 1945), and will probably share their opinions. A lot will leave.

An estimated 600,000 Hong Kong residents already hold full foreign passports, half Canadians and most of the rest Australian, British or American. They acquired them as an insurance policy, and this is the contingency they were insuring against.

Another three million people hold British National passports or can easily acquire them, and London promises that they can all move to the U.K. if they wish.

The central-range estimate of the British Home Office is that between 258,000 and 322,000 will come within five years, but it could be many more.

That’s unless Beijing stops them from leaving, but if it closes the gates like that, it would be the definitive end of Hong Kong as a great international trading city.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Most Read