Tensions between China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan continue to rise. While China claims control of both, its restrictive policies are being met with more and more frustration.
In June, five Hong Kong booksellers who had been detained for selling material that poked fun at Chinese leaders like President Xi Jinping were finally accounted for. Though China now seems to view these detentions as a mistake not to be repeated, the situation still resulted in many protests amongst Hong Kong citizens.
“The bookseller case is an unprecedented affront on Hong Kong’s freedom, and it deepens existing fears about the erosion of its autonomy,” said Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch.
And while China may see their actions in this case as a mistake, experts suggest this isn’t the last we’ll see of these sorts of reactions. “Long term, I see no reason to think Beijing won’t continue such human seizures as it gains more control over Hong Kong and has more to lose from popular resistance within it,” said Sean King, Vice President of New York business advisory firm Park Strategies.
Hong Kong has been under Chinese rule since 1997, when Britain handed it over. Locals were used to a more Western approach to personal freedoms, making the transition a difficult one. While Hong Kong wants its autonomy, China hopes to make it a positive example for Taiwain, over which China also claims dominion. Unlike Hong Kong, however, Taiwan has officially ruled itself for 70 years, and they have no intention of giving up that self-rule.
Still, no one can deny that China is an economic powerhouse. There may be advantages to capitulation—enough that public apologies to the country are frequent and nearly ritualized in order to maintain economic peace, if nothing else.
“Mainland China’s potential riches mean acts and businesses will self-censor and pull punches in a way they wouldn’t anywhere else,” said King.
There’s certainly plenty of evidence of this. Japanese actress and model Kiko Mizuhara formally apologized on video after Chinese internet users found evidence that she allegedly had anti-China sentiments. In Taiwan, 16-year-old pop star Chou Tzu-yu apologized to China for displaying a Taiwanese flag in a video. Even Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has been known to make apologies—in this case due to product warranty issues.
Whether or not Hong Kong or Taiwan will ever truly see autonomy from China remains to be seen. In the meantime, none of those involved are likely to let the issue go quietly.