The year was the due date. It is coming ahead of schedule. Legislators, publishers and journalists say freedom of expression is being restricted. Mainland tycoons and state-owned enterprises are snapping up Hong Kong assets, including its leading English-language newspaper and choice real estate. New public-infrastructure projects, including a multibillion-dollar bridge spanning the Pearl River Delta and a high-speed rail link to the mainland, promise to physically tie the city to southern China as never before.
Infrastructure projects such as a bridge spanning the Pearl River Delta will tie Hong Kong to southern China as never before. Nearly half its seats are reserved for constituencies that represent largely pro-Beijing and business interests.
Allowing Hong Kongers to push for independence would set a troubling precedent and possibly inspire more calls for autonomy or political reform elsewhere.
It could embolden Mr. Xi wants to dominate. That is a leap from , when student-led protesters occupied central Hong Kong and demanded democracy but not an outright break with China. Several candidates calling for more self-determination, including a year-old college student who helped lead the protests, won seats in the Sept.
It remains a bastion of freedom compared with the mainland, with street protests, open access to the internet and some newspapers that can be critical of mainland policies. Hong Kong was hardly a model of democracy under British rule, and China has provided benefits. In , its GDP was In , it was just 2. If Hong Kong became independent, how feasible would that be?
In one vignette, mainland officials stage an assassination attempt to spur passage of a national-security law in Hong Kong. Banned in the mainland, the movie won best film at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
Hong Kong has been a bone of contention as far back as the s, when an insubordinate British captain took possession of the island in the First Opium War. In the s, London and Beijing negotiated a handover deal that gave China control of foreign affairs and defense.
Hong Kong kept the right to maintain its own judiciary, manage its currency and set social policies for another 50 years. It offered preferential treatment on the mainland for Hong Kong businesses, encouraged Chinese companies to invest in the territory and allowed millions of Chinese to travel there, creating a boom for Hong Kong hotels and shops.
China made Hong Kong the key international center of trading for its currency, the yuan. In many ways, the strategy backfired. Some middle-class Hong Kong residents complained about overcrowding from mainlanders and worried that locals were being squeezed by higher real-estate prices. Faced with mounting opposition, Beijing decided that doling out economic favors had run its course and that it had to get more visibly involved in Hong Kong, Chinese political scholars say.
So they have to take stronger measures. During the mass street protests of , Shenzhen became a command center, run by security and political officials from Beijing. Ding estimates that China likely has more than , people in Hong Kong who help it monitor the city. Hong Kongers are sensitive about encroachment by mainland law enforcement. They turned up later in detention in mainland China. In a June press conference after his release, one of the booksellers, Lam Wing-kee, alleged that he was abducted at a Shenzhen border crossing and held by a special task force of the central Chinese government for eight months, without charges.
Previous statements that Mr. Lam and four similarly detained colleagues had made from China were scripted and made under duress, he said. Lee has said he visited the mainland of his own free will to aid in an investigation. That has contributed to a steady erosion of press freedom, the association said.
At the time of the handover, the top 10 listed companies by market capitalization were almost all old-line British colonial firms such as HSBC or conglomerates owned by local tycoons.
In one instance, an arm of China Minmetals Corp. Write to Ned Levin at ned.