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Beijing and the Hong Kong democracy protest; what’s next?

dlaminiWhile the world eagerly waits to see the conclusion of the Hong Kong demonstrations engineered by pro-democracy protesters; it is important for Beijing to avoid what happened 25 years ago in the Tiananmen Square massacre. The Tiananmen protest became a spectacle of the international community when Chinese troops violently confronted the pro-democracy protesters which led to an unknown number of people dead with some estimates in the thousand. This was unfortunate and it shouldn't be the fate of the Hong Kong protest.

Hong Kong, a former British colony was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and since then the concept of 'one country, two systems' has been used to govern the relationship between Mainland China and Hong Kong. The 'one country, two systems is a political arrangement that has given Hong Kong a raft of liberties unknown in Mainland China which includes full direct democratic elections. Although the system has its flaws, it seems it has been working well for Beijing-Hong Hong relationship. Now that the pro-democracy protesters argue that Beijing's action threatens Hong Kong democratic future, the current protest might crumble down the 'one country, two systems' governance.

The pro-democracy protest which had affected the Asian economic hub began in the wake of China's proposal to control the selection process of candidates to contest the 2017 election for the position of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Chief Executive. Additionally, the protesters are also calling for the resignation of the current city's leader Leung Chun-Ying, a pro-Beijing politician, who continues to state that the government is unwilling to compromise on China's restrictions.

The formal talks between the Hong Kong government and the leaders of the pro-democracy protesters held on the 21st of October fell short to resolve the political standoff; however continuation of the talks is still very much important to pave way for agreeably solution.

Looking at the current nature of things, it would be plausible for one to argue that the fate of the Hong Kong demonstrations, if not handled cautiously, might resemble the Tiananmen protest.The Hong Kong protesters are vowing to continue occupying different streets of the city's embattled government despite the police's effort to tear them down. This was also the scenario with the Tiananmen protest when thousands of riot police responded with force against the thousands of Chinese student protesters, only to see them return.

Considering the estimated age group of the Hong Kong protesters which is between the ages of 15 to 25 years old, even if Beijing can succeed with its proposed control of the 2017 elections, the fact is that these are the people who are set to shape the future of Hong Kong. These are the people Beijing will have to deal with for the next decades. As a result, growing discontent towards Beijing's involvement in Hong Kong's political administration will continue to be inevitable if demands are not heeded. Although the notion of the Hong Kong protest turning into revolution is still far-fetched because of its current nature, which is so far a peaceful demonstration, it cannot be taken off the table. If the pro-Beijing government in a way resorts to use violence and force against the protesters it won't achieve anything but give birth for more protests to come.

Consequently, Beijing together with the Hong Kong government, needs to make an effort to avoid more clashes between the police and protesters, and the Hong Kong people who are against the protest, which might lead up to a violent ending. However, this would only be possible if Beijing come to realise that it would not ignore the voices of the pro-democracy forever amongst its peripheries.

Mr. Kenny Dlamini holds a BA Hons in Political & International Studies from Rhodes University and is a research assistant at the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the IGD

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