Hongkongers took to the streets again on June 16 after millions of people protested on June 9. But this time, even more protesters joined in, roughly 2 million, according to the organizers’ estimate.
Under normal circumstances, it is very difficult to mobilize people to express opinions on a certain topic. On one hand, the opinions of the public are inconsistent; on the other hand, most people are indifferent. Even in the mature Western democracies with high political participation rate, the voter turnout rate has not been high, much less protesting on the streets.
However, Hong Kong seems to be an exception. In 1989, after the Tiananmen Square massacre, 1.5 million people in Hong Kong gathered to protest. In 2003, half a million people took to the streets to protest against the 23rd Article of the Basic Law. In the 30 years after the June 4th Movement, Hong Kong is the only place in the world where mass rallies and vigils are held each year to commemorate the victims.
In the eyes of many people, Hong Kong is a place where people only care about money but not politics. Before the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, I thought that Hong Kong would soon become “one system,” just like Tibet. Looking back now, the wrong prediction at that time did not take into account several factors unique to Hong Kong. First, the CCP still needs Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” as an example to rein in Taiwan. Second, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) elites need Hong Kong as an independent international financial center to guarantee their interests. Third, Hongkongers have a unique courage and sense of determination to pursue democracy and defend freedom.
This time, Hong Kong’s two large-scale demonstrations showed the world the quality of its people—such examples include the young people cleaning up the streets after the protests, a huge crowd giving way for an ambulance to pass through. Some praised these actions and give credit to British colonial rule. It is a fact that Hongkongers accept modern civilization, but it is certainly not the only reason. The performance of this protest parade is very rare even in mature democratic countries. Hong Kong is an immigrant city, and most of its population comes from the tide of refugees from mainland China after the end of World War II to the early 1980s. Especially from 1945 to 1950, the population surged nearly four-fold in just five years. In any country, any region, and any community, a sudden influx of new immigrants that exceeds the number of native residents will completely change the local culture and customs. In other words, the probability of Hong Kong becoming more like mainland China is higher than new immigrants assimilating to Hongkongers. So, what are the other reasons that make Hong Kong people today so different from mainland Chinese?
Thanks to Chinese Army general Xu Yan’s speech, which was circulated on the Internet, I finally figured out at least some of the answers. In his speech, Xu divided the people of Hong Kong into three one-third groups—the natives who were educated by Hong Kong and Britain; those who fled mainland China around 1949 and 1950; and the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution. Xu believes that the latter two groups of people and their descendants hate the CCP the most, thus the Hongkongers are the worst, and even worse than the Taiwanese.
Xu was speaking from his own observations. He and other leaders of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong garrison participated in a demographic study after the handover in 1997. This should be the internal figures and conclusions of the CCP.
From the point of view of numbers alone, it can also be confirmed from the demographic changes in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s population in 1945 was 600,000. By 1950, it had soared to 2.2 million, which was exactly the first wave of mainland Chinese leaving China. The number of people escaping from the mainland from 1950 to 1980 should be 2.5 million—the new mainland immigrants discussed in this article mainly refer to those people.
Who are the first wave of escapees that Xu Yan spoke of? Some people say that they were businessmen that fled the mainland to Hong Kong. In fact, it is not necessarily true. The entrepreneurs mainly fled on the eve of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in October, and the “sweeping out” that remained in the mainland was three years later during the “Three Great Remoldings,” which referred to ideological reform. From 1949 to 1950, the tide of escaping to Hong Kong can only be the targets of the two major political campaigns, namely, land reform and suppressing counter-revolutionaries. In other words, the political campaigns targeted landowners and counter-revolutionaries.
China had long been an agricultural society. For a thousand years, the government ruled the county level, and the rural areas below the county level were governed by an upper class group who looked after the affairs of the countryside. The wealthy landowners were the carriers of the traditional culture. They mediated the neighbor disputes, handled charity, and organized post-disaster reconstruction. Because of this, they are also the primary targets of the CCP’s agrarian revolution (land reform).
As for another campaign, the goal of the Suppressing Counter-Revolutionaries, which began in 1950, was to eliminate the
Kuomintang’s people who were left behind and stayed in the mainland, that is, the military and government personnel of the Republic of China. Most of these two groups of people were eliminated by the CCP, and those who survived, including their children, continued to be threatened, criticized or killed during later political campaigns. The fathers of Jin Yong (Louis Cha
Leung-yung GBM OBE, Hong Kong’s most famous writer) and Liang Yusheng (Chen Wentong, another famous writer) were killed by the CCP at that time.
In other words, the people eliminated during the campaigns of Land Reform and Suppressing of Counter-Revolutionaries were the elites of the traditional and modern society of China. When millions of elites were wiped out, Chinese society was basically ruled by the ruffians, who were the main force of the CCP revolution. Thanks to Hong Kong, a small number of these elites escaped and found refuge in the city. Actually, people who followed the Kuomintang to Taiwan and the those who escaped to Hong Kong were basically the same type of people. The difference was that the latter had witnessed or experienced the CCP’s brutal persecution and had a deeper understanding of the nature of the CCP as a whole.
The third group is actually divided into two parts—three years of famine and the Cultural Revolution. The three-year famine was dominated by hungry refugees, while the Cultural Revolution included economic and political refugees. From the perspective of social class, this group is different from the first group of refugees. Many people from this group were originally at the bottom of society. However, they have their own characteristics. Unlike most farmers during the Great Famine, who were forced to stay at home and starved to death by local CCP officials with guns, those people would rather be shot or drowned upon escaping rather than stay home and starve to death.
Those two groups of the Hong Kong people have something in common. They all resisted the persecution of the CCP and were not influenced by the CCP culture. Or even those who were influenced by the CCP culture instinctively tried to resist it. They brought Chinese traditional culture to Hong Kong and immediately accepted the freedom and the rule of law of Western civilization in Hong Kong. This also proves that Chinese traditional culture is compatible with Western modern universal values, and there is no fundamental conflict. What is incompatible with the world is the Party culture or communist ideologies of the CCP.
By Heng He
From The Epoch Times