If someone has mentioned Hongkong recently, it’s because of the mass agitation and pro-democracy protests happening in Hongkong against an extradition bill with China. However, there’s lots more. Hongkong and China share a unique history and as of right now, their relationship status reads complicated.
You see, Hongkong is a semi-autonomous region of China. This means, unlike China, they enjoy certain privileges- like freedom of speech and press and even the right to vote. This autonomy was given to them before the British handed over Hongkong to China in 1997. In 2047, Hongkong is to lose this unique status and become fully integrated with China.
During the handover, Hongkong’s economy contributed to more than a quarter of China’s economy. Hongkong’s economy was $120 billion while China’s economy was $445. If Hongkong wasn’t a part of China in 1997, China would have a lot to lose. Hongkong was China’s shining star then but now it really isn’t as much. You see, after China’s grand industrial development plans of massive industrialization in the late 1900’s, China grew exponentially.
Look at this chart showing China’s extreme poverty rate reduction:
While China had this burgeoning economy with a rising middle class, Hongkong lost its “economic powerhouse” status in China. Gradually, Chinese cities like Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai etc became powerhouses themselves, thus reducing China’s economic dependence on Hongkong. Hongkong’s GDP was $426 billion in 2018 while Beijing’s GDP was $446 billion, which is almost the same. Over the years, as Hongkong lost its strong suit, China stopped respecting its integrity. We can see China’s growing intrusion in Hongkong with the Chinese army having its barracks in a central area of busy Hongkong. Hongkong, right now, doesn’t have any economic exclusivity factor it did which explains why China doesn’t really seem to care as much as it did. China doesn’t care if its citizens are protesting against them because there’s no incentive to appease them.
These numbers shows China’s changing relationship with Hongkong- from being an economic powerhouse to a region that gives China international scorn as a result of the ongoing protests. While the agitation fails to cease and the relationship seems to get more complicated, we can only imagine how it would be in 2047 when the autonomous power ends.
Sources and further readings: