Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Hong Kong flies flag as Beijing fumes

By Graham Cooke - posted Monday, 19 November 2012

The stage-managed installation of the new Chinese leadership has overshadowed what has become an increasing irritant for Beijing – the stubborn refusal of its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to toe the party line.

While the Mainland has become strident in its advocacy of China's Communist Party-dominated system of government, Hong Kongers have tended to march in the opposite direction, impatient with the partial democracy bequeathed to them when their city and its surrounds became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China at the end of British rule in 1997.

The long-simmering dispute reached boiling point with the Mainland's announcement earlier this year of a new addition to school curricula, called Moral and National Education. The aim, seemingly innocent enough, was to instill a greater awareness of Mainland Chinese culture, but many Hong Kong educators and leaders condemned it as a "brainwashing exercise".


As one commentator put it, "Even on a quick read, you will not miss the continuous theme of how the Chinese Government has brought to its people great progress and success through its selflessness and unity.

"Interestingly, it suggests that the systems of the West are socially destabilising and primarily do not serve the interests of its people. It describes how multi-party systems are disastrous for its people, and uses the United States' inability to pass its budgets at times due to bitter political rivalries, as an example of this.

"Also, it makes references to many significant events of recent history, including the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 and the building of the Three Gorges dams, but there is no mention of Tiananmen Square. To be honest, I cringed at much of the content."

Another was more forthright. "This is the same kind of ultra-nationalist rubbish that would have been preached in the classrooms of the Third Reich," he said.

Many Hong Kongers apparently agreed with these sentiments. In the face of furious street demonstrations the SAR's Government, in a time-honoured Chinese ploy, made a partial back-down, postponing the introduction of the new subject until 2016.

The idea is, of course, that in three years' time passions will have cooled and the reforms can be slipped in with a minimum of protest, a tactic that has been used to constantly postpone the introduction of greater democratic freedoms promised at the time of the 1997 handover. On this occasion, however, it appears to have had the opposite effect.


In a protest obviously timed to coincide with the announcement of the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing, 40,000 Hong Kong demonstrators took to the streets. Some of them waved British and Hong Kong flags from the colonial era, with demonstrators chanting "Down with the Communist Party". A prominent academic, Horace Chin Wan-kan, called for wider autonomy, saying that Hong Kong would be better off as an independent city state.

This has been too much for Beijing. One party official said it "broke his heart", while others were less sentimental. A delegate to one of the Government's advisory bodies, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Lew Mon-hung stated that Hong Kong's Basic Law describes it as "an inalienable part of China. That is so whether or not you like China".

Any other course, Lew warned, would be "theoretically ridiculous and practically dangerous".

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

3 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Graham Cooke has been a journalist for more than four decades, having lived in England, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, for a lengthy period covering the diplomatic round for The Canberra Times.

He has travelled to and reported on events in more than 20 countries, including an extended stay in the Middle East. Based in Canberra, where he obtains casual employment as a speech writer in the Australian Public Service, he continues to find occasional assignments overseas, supporting the coverage of international news organisations.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Graham Cooke

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Graham Cooke
Article Tools
Comment 3 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy