Hong Kong risks catastrophe in China-US proxy battle, Global Times chief warns

02-Sep-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 7:20 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong risks “catastrophic” consequences if it does not stop itself from becoming a battleground between China and the United States, according to Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a nationalistic newspaper in the People’s Daily stable.

In Hong Kong on a fact-finding trip as the city enters its 13th week of unprecedented social unrest, Hu said he was still hopeful of a “soft landing”, or peaceful end to the turmoil triggered by the now-shelved extradition bill.

He said that while the unrest was mainly the result of domestic factors, “aiding and abetting” by the United States and other Western countries made de-escalation difficult.

“The unrest was caused by Hong Kong’s own internal problems. But its nature started to change over time. As with any mass movement, it is emotional in nature and is sustained largely by emotional forces,” he said.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, says Hong Kong’s future is ultimately in its own hands.(AFP)

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, says Hong Kong’s future is ultimately in its own hands.(AFP)

“The US and other Western countries have been very vocal in their support and they show no intention of toning it down. The protesters feel encouraged and motivated, they will not reflect on their actions but carry on.”

Hu said the West’s response to Hong Kong contrasted with reaction to the Catalan separatist protests in Spain.

“Western countries were very quiet over the Catalan separatist protests. The Spanish government was able to take swift and stern action and adopt a very tough stance. You can see how the attitude is different here.”

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Hu said that while Beijing needed to make it clear to Washington that the unrest in Hong Kong would harm America’s own interests, ultimately the solution was in the hands of the Hong Kong public.

“It will be a challenge to the collective wisdom of Hong Kong. Hong Kong people, no matter how emotional [about the protests], must come to understand where their interests are,” he said.

“Hong Kong should take the advantages offered by ‘one country, two systems’ and enjoy the best of both worlds. If it becomes a battleground of the two worlds, it will not end well.”

Hu, who has a huge following on the mainland and reflects the thinking of some of the ruling elite, also lashed out at Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the founder and owner of tabloid Apple Daily.

Lai, who flew to Washington last month to meet US Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, described the anti-government protests in Hong Kong as a struggle of the “new cold war”, adding that he was “prepared to die for the battle”.

“The [new] cold war is actually a rivalry of competing values,” Lai was quoted by CNN saying. “We in Hong Kong are fighting for the shared values of the US against China. We are fighting their war in the enemy camp.”

Hu said Lai’s comments were “hysteria” and “fanatic”.

“If Hong Kong is ruined, those people in the US will not shed a tear. Hong Kong people will pay the price and China will be hurt. We care about Hong Kong the most because our interests are intertwined,” he said.

“Regardless of whether you identify with Western culture and values, the Hong Kong public needs to think hard about where your interests are.”

Hu said the unrest was caused by deep-seated social and economic problems – particularly housing – as well as public “misconceptions” about China.

“People wrongly believe that China wants Hong Kong to be more like a mainland city. In fact, we truly want Hong Kong to retain its uniqueness because that works best in China’s interests.”

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Hu said China did not need another Shanghai or Shenzhen and it would be politically difficult to govern a westernised city like Hong Kong with the mainland system.

“We want Hong Kong people to govern Hong Kong because it would be costly for us to do it ourselves. The uniqueness of Hong Kong is valuable to China. Some people are talking about turning Hong Kong into another mainland city. That is absurd. We have so many cities and what’s the point to have another one?”

He said the key preservation of Hong Kong’s unique lifestyle was for the city to align its interests with the country.

“If you, like Lai suggests, choose to become a pawn of the US and a battleground between the two [superpowers], how will that serve your own interests and get you what you want? Hong Kong people need to think about that.”




Category: Hong Kong

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