After weeks and weeks of political protests in Hong Kong, we sat down with Political Expert Dr Ian Cook to discuss the withdrawal of the extradition bill, what will happen next and what lessons can be learnt for the Australian Government.
We began with the question of why do you think Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s took so long to to withdraw the bill?
Dr Cook said the problem in delaying the decision for so long is the Hong Kong saw her as being dictated to by to Beijing.
“They saw her not responding to their basic wishes; to get the bill of the table, she wouldn’t do that and thats’s what stirred them up,”
And now the issue continues to grow even though the bill has been withdrawn, as there are extra demands from the Hong Kong people including fully elected democracy, an independent set up to address police brutality, withdrawal of the riot definition and for all those arrested during protests to be released.
By delaying the decision Ms Lam has allowed people to have these conversation about the bigger picture of what they want.
“The agenda has grown and they want more things. It’s going to become more difficult for the Hong Kong government to give them what they want now so the conflict is likely to go on,” Dr Cook explained.
In a statement, Ms Lam said the government will listen humbly, but Dr Cook commented so far we’re not seeing humble listening.
“I mean if Carrie Lam is trying to convince us that they’re listening humbly I suppose we’d like to see it… Thus far we’ve seen them being relatively unresponsive with peoples’ demands, unwilling to speak out against what the police were doing and ultimately unresponsive to what the people are asking for,”
Ms Lam also explained that Hong Kong has changed so much over the years; we posed the question does it seem like the Government is trying to keep it where it is now, whereas younger more progressive generations want to see it transformed?
Dr Cook agreed.
He thinks Hong Kong has two directions, with one towards the Chinese hold or to continue on a democratic path with greater capacity to elect their representatives, which is one of the things they’ve been asking for, for a very long time now.
In a written statement, the Hong Kong government said ‘We will bounce back – we always do…’
But has Hong Kong’s reputation in the world eye’s been tarnished after 14 weeks of politically charged tensions?
“I don’t think bouncing back is going to be that easy,”
“I think the acquired momentum from the pro democracy movement will make it very difficult to bounce back. Instead, they need to bounce forward into something new and different, something to get them through this issue, because there’s a real probability they’re going to get stuck in this place and the conflict will just go on and on,” Dr Cook said.
Could the Australian Government use what’s happened in Hong Kong as a lesson?
Dr Cook said we’ve got to be concerned more generally and look at Hong Kong as an example of where the world is going because of China’s growing power.
“We have a stake in Hong Kong if they lose democratic rights we’ve allowed a loss of democracy in the world and that’s not going to stop… The Chinese are looking to exert influence all around the world,”
“Hong Kong is just the beginning, not an end,” he said.
Recent reports from Reuters inferred Beijing has certain information regarding the requests being turned down.
This shows the reality of Carrie Lam’s situation, being caught between a really powerful Chinese government and her local environment.
Dr Cook commented on the fact she’s found herself in an impossible place that she was forced into, and after 14 weeks of those circumstances you’d want to quit.
“Certainly what Reuters has done has revealed the story behind the story that all of us knew existed; The Chinese government has been there playing a really significant role in this process,”
“So what Reuters has done by revealing that is basically showing the magicians tricks, and thats quite powerful in terms of changing peoples perceptions – showing this isn’t the Hong Kong government…this is China.”
The next election in Hong Kong is coming up in October, so how will all this influence the outcome and then whatever the result, will there be more kick backs from whichever side loses?
He said the effects of this on the election is going to be profound as while there are people pushing very hard for democratic processes and principles, there are also people who want to go the Chinese way and will push back.
“The election is going to produce the two hard sides of Hong Kong politics, and compromise between them is going to be a really hard thing to find,”
He continued: “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this. This next election is going to highlight the tensions and the pressures and in some ways give them a place where they’re going to emerge, so even if it’s quiet for the time being, the next election will be a moment where we’re going to go back to this place again,” Dr Cook concluded.