Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Hong Kong Model

Whenever the subject of One Country, Two Systems comes up, I sometimes hear the argument that since China has not substantively diluted Hong Kong's freedoms, Taiwan should accept the same deal from China. Now this is simply wrong because completely different sets of historial circumstances govern Hong Kong and Taiwan's contemporary political realities. Under the British, the people of Hong Kong did not have basic political rights. So Chinese rule has not diminished political freedoms in Hong Kong because there weren't any in the first place. But China has not kept its promises either. Hong Kong was promised an independent legal system, and that promise has been abrogated. And in the Basic Law, China committed itself to future political freedoms such as free elections. Those commitments have been deferred indefintely.

But Taiwan has a full set of political freedoms in place on the ground right now. China would have to be trusted to respect those freedoms, which given China's track record in Hong Kong vis a vis the Hong Kong legal system there is little reason to believe that it would.

Still, it's nice to have a concrete example on hand of what kind of place Hong Kong is turning into. Here's a great Traveller's Tale from FEER about how Yahoo! Hong Kong ratted out a Chinese journalist and got him sent to jail for ten years. The bigger issue in the case is of course how major multinational high tech companies like Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and now Yahoo! are cravenly cooperating with China's police state to enforce its reign of terror, but the Yahoo! Hong Kong case is notable because it shows how what you say in Hong Kong privately can be held against you in China.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Ah, back in the tech bubble years which happened to be good for Taiwan do you remember how "the internet changes everything"? There were all sorts of promoters saying how information wants to be free, and the new communication system would bring down barriers. Now we're here where the co's that survived the shake out are running hard to catch up with the dictators' demands.