Escalation in Hong Kong: how will China react?
The protests in Hong Kong have further escalated after activists who had barricaded themselves inside a university used incendiary devices to fend off police surrounding the building. Early on Tuesday morning several hundred left the building, many of whom were arrested. Commentators debate what strategy Beijing will adopt in the long term.
China doesn't want to jeopardise New Silk Road
China has refrained from intervening because it wants to adhere to Deng Xiaoping's "one country, two systems" principle, editor-in-chief Maurizio Molinari explains in La Stampa:
“If the violence continued to escalate and the Red Army were deployed in Hong Kong to 'restore sovereignty', it would weaken Deng's heritage and with it the foundations on which his successors have made China one of the most powerful protagonists of globalisation. .. It could even jeopardise the 'New Silk Road' project with which Xi wants to link the Far East with Europe and create a huge land and sea infrastructure that will ensure that the motherland has the resources it needs for its national growth.”
Xi's life's work under threat
The situation in Hong Kong throws a spanner in the works of Beijing's expansionist plans, the Financial Times points out:
“The current revolt raises questions not just about Mr Xi's handling of Hong Kong, but about his entire project. The president's mantra is 'the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people' and central to that is the restoration of national territorial integrity. After Hong Kong, the next step is meant to be Taiwan. The Chinese government has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan if the self-governing island were ever to declare formal independence. However, if Beijing cannot control the streets of Hong Kong, the idea that mainland China could successfully conquer Taiwan seems incredible.”
Radical demonstrators playing into Beijing's hands
The Chinese government is trying to lay the groundwork for far tougher measures against the protesters, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung suspects:
“For years the Chinese leadership has been trying to get Hong Kong under its thumb. It wanted to make 'treason' a punishable offence and tried to bring the young into line through patriotic education. But so far all this has failed in the face of popular resistance. ... So the leadership may now be banking on support for drastic measures increasing and criticism from abroad fading if the situation becomes desperate enough. ... The events in Hong Kong fit seamlessly into the rulership narrative of the Communist Party, which presents itself as the guarantor of stability and prosperity.”
Struggle for freedom deserves support
Despite the increasingly tense situation in Hong Kong there is still cause for hope, La Croix believes:
“Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, history comes to our aid in affirming that the future is not written in stone and that there are hopeful signs. In recent years the people of Hong Kong have shown how much they value individual liberties and the rule of law. They have shown that these aspirations are not a Western whim but a universal objective that can also flourish within Chinese civilisation. To that extent they need the support of civil society in Europe. Their commitment to these values must be supported through patient exchange networks. Because part of our own freedom hangs in the balance in Hong Kong.”