- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2003

The people of Hong Hong want freedom. On Sunday, local elections were held in the special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) — and the pro-Beijing party took a beating. A record 1 million voters showed up at the polls. The opposition Democratic Party, which opposes the domineering rule by the Communist mainland, won a record 92 seats. The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), won only 62, a loss of 21 seats. Hong Kongers simply are not happy being part of the PRC.

Momentum for democracy is building. On July 1, more than 500,000 Hong Kongers hit the streets to protest a government plan to institute new, strict anti-sedition laws, which were encouraged by mainland Communist leaders. Now that the populist genie is out of the bottle, the question is how Beijing’s puppet government will respond to the people’s desire for freedom and self-government.

The mood in Hong Kong is euphoric. Many locals believe that the government will have to acquiesce to the clearly expressed will of the majority. If hard- line statements by Beijing’s Hong Kong apologists are any indication of Communist sentiments, a darker view of the situation may be in order. For example, Shiu Sin-por, who is head of the pro-Beijing One Country-Two Systems Research Institute, told the South China Morning Post that Sunday’s anti-Communist vote would “make Beijing think twice or three times before they have more elections.”

After Britain handed its former colony over to the Communists in 1997, Beijing gave the name “One Country-Two Systems” to the arrangement whereby Hong Kong would become part of the PRC, but supposedly would be allowed to retain some of its political freedoms and liberal economy. The British, however, did not demand any strict guarantees to bolster the accord, and so both the region’s political and economic freedoms have been increasingly endangered ever since.

The only people less popular than public officials in the SAR are the business barons. For the most part, Hong Kongers feel that local business leaders oppose democratic movements in efforts to win Beijing’s favor for their enterprises. The quid pro quo is that Hong Kong tycoons must tow the party line. In one previously unreported example last month, Chinese President Hu Jintao told Hong Kong business leaders visiting Beijing that they should only support media outlets that support Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa, who is very unpopular. As a result, large-circulation pro-democracy publications such as Apple Daily newspaper and Next Magazine have lost all their ads from mainland Chinese businesses and are boycotted by many local ones.

Hong Kong’s free market made it rich. It is questionable whether it can continue to prosper if businesses are punished for supporting greater democracy. While celebrating Sunday’s election results, it is wise to remember that the regime has not hesitated to send tanks to quell democratic demonstrations in Beijing or troops to crush secessionists in Tibet.

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