Rear Window | SARs through the Looking-Glass

Severo Portela

First… we have to apologize for the Lewis Carrol copycat when it would be better to submit to the always fresh cliché of the tale of two cities, or any other alternative involving twins or doubles.

Today, two decades after inception, we believe that the uncharted paths both SARs are travelling lead to different destinations, regardless of whether they chose to follow, or were made to follow them. Ultimately they lead to diverse fates.

Despite the unprecedented preparations and exceptional security restrictions Beijing demanded be in place, President Xi Jinping’s presence at the MSAR´s 20th anniversary can be considered the equivalent of Deng Xiaoping´s Southern Tour. Then and now, apparently, China is about to reset the strategy to avoid what it views as chaos or luan.

More than merely illuminating the high marks of the “good pupil” MSAR in that mandatory task named the “One country, Two systems,” China was looking across the PRD to a SAR unrelenting in its will to protest for autonomy and democratic development. Despite a declining GGR, marginally in part as a direct consequence of the situation in Hong Kong, Macau, on its way to overtake Qatar as GDP global number one, is to be an example for Hong Kong, or as Bloomberg wrote, a “glimmering showcase for the virtues of obeying Beijing.”

Although some of the “prizes” that the well-behaved Macau earned may seem exuberant, to say the least, it is well known that Beijing would not spare a cent to prove a point, be it the secondary stock-exchange, financial tools to play with in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), reinforcing the Portuguese platform, or the space industry; all this, and keeping the affluent (to say the least) casino business.

Hong Kong may look to Macau, and vice-versa, to assess how to fill the basket of goods, but the question hanging over the future of both SARs, now 20, is what comes after the first two decades of construction. If we follow the intuitive pro-democracy legislator Sulu Sou, we have to fear a closure, an epilogue, a fracture, in the process of the implementation of the one country, two systems principle. Since that implementation has been greeted as success, Sulu Sou is warning about the interpretation of “success” as the task being done, with nothing more to be done. The following question is what next after construction? Deconstruction? The new motto is already in motion: integration into the GBA.

Well-behaved Macau would not denounce the fact that the democratic development that birthed the Basic Law is at a deafening standstill, or that the judiciary matrix looks likely to bend to outside winds. “Macau people have a very limited voice,” Sulu Sou dixit.

The difficulty in squaring the circle or going back to basics is much more challenging in Hong Kong. China – here Carrie Lam simplifies – does not want to intone the same language. Now and for good… everything is a matter of social issues. Not even that clumsy idea of expanding the electoral college, born on the notion that Hong Kong people would be pleased with some suffragism, is seen otherwise. When the second wave of 2 million came, Lam kept her cool, thinking suffragism would go the way of the suffragettes: some action and they would go home. So now there are no political issues nor electoral issues. Just social issues. If we repeat and repeat there are only social issues… maybe no one in Hong Kong will forget that there is a Basic Law.

Finally, one note about the Common Law and the impossibility of coexisting with a francophone continental system under the same roof, like in distant Cameroon. Hong Kong SAR would be a solution to that imbroglio. And one more about Macau and Hong Kong looking to each other across de Delta: which one has the concave and which the convex mirror?

Categories Opinion