Hong Kong ‘on the brink of collapse’

Brutality: Two people are in a critical condition following this week’s violence. © Getty

Does it matter? The streets of Hong Kong are a battlefield between riot police and pro-democracy activists. And the fate of this small tax haven could have implications across the world.

It’s a sparkling, futuristic hub for the world’s wealthy, buzzing with music, food and life. Its eight million are residents stacked on top of each other in towering skyscrapers.

But now, after five months of protests, Hong Kong’s police spokesman says that the city “is on the brink of collapse”.

The protesters are fighting Beijing’s encroachment on their democratic freedoms. Violence exploded again, this week, after police shot an activist in the torso.

Does it matter what happens in Hong Kong?

For the protesters out on the streets, the stakes are terrifyingly high.

“They know that if Xi Jinping merely nods his head, they’re going to be crushed,” wrote Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal yesterday. “Yet day after day, they keep showing up.”

The fighting in Hong Kong represents a much larger clash between two global models: Western democracy and Chinese authoritarianism. And the outcome could determine the world’s direction for the next century.

Almost every non-Western country in the world is in debt to China. Seven countries, including Niger, Kyrgyzstan and Cambodia, owe more than 25% of their GDP to Beijing. What will happen when the debt collector comes knocking?

Fire and freedom

The whole world must watch the protests closely. What happens in Hong Kong will determine not only the futures of Taiwan and Tibet — to which China lays claim — but any country falling under Beijing’s influence.

But others argue that Hong Kong is small fry when set against a far more significant problem for China’s continuing rise: the country’s economy. When the next global recession comes — and economists think it is coming soon — China’s strategy of relentless expansion will no longer be possible.

You Decide

  1. Should everyone care about what is happening in Hong Kong?

Activities

  1. What is “freedom”? Write your own definition.

Some People Say...

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Confucius (551-479 BC), Chinese philosopher

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
On 4 June, one million Hong Kong citizens marched against a proposed extradition treaty, which would allow suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China to face trial. The bill was withdrawn in September, but the anger towards Beijing’s growing influence in Hong Kong has not quietened.
What do we not know?
What will happen to Hong Kong when its special status ends in 2047. It seems clear that Beijing intends to bring Hong Kong under its authoritarian rule.

Word Watch

Encroachment
Intruding into a person’s territory or rights.
Shot
On Monday, a protester was shot in the chest from close range by a police officer.
Xi Jinping
President of China.
Authoritarianism
When strict obedience is enforced at the expense of personal freedom.
GDP
Gross Domestic Product. A common way of calculating the wealth of a nation.
Coming soon
In late September, the UN warned that a global recession is a serious threat in 2020.

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