Zhang Lijia
Zhang Lijia

Some blamed heavy media censorship for the lack of interest at mainland China for the recent protests in Hong Kong. Author Zhang Lijia discovered mainlanders are genuinely not interested in Hong Kong. Her analysis at her weblog. Why the mainland and Hong Kong are drifting apart.

Zhang Lijia:

Even among the more sophisticated crowds who do take an interest in the Occupy movement, sympathy is thin on the ground. A friend in her 30s who works for a feature programme on CCTV said they were told not to report on the movement. She and her colleagues have been discussing it, however. The consensus is that the protesters are ungrateful.

To start with, Hong Kong is nothing without the mainland, she pointed out. It wouldn’t survive a day if the mainland didn’t supply it with water and vegetables. Secondly, since 1997, Hong Kong has belonged to China following the handover by the British. And, finally, Hongkongers enjoy more prosperity and political rights today than they did under colonial rule. So what’s the fuss about? And the troublemakers are only a handful of the total Hong Kong population, my friend added.

Of course, there are those on the mainland who support the movement. According to Western media, at least a dozen mainlanders who dared to voice their support openly have been arrested, some at Songzhuang, an art colony in Beijing, and others in a Guangzhou park. Most sympathisers have made their stand known subtly, by writing on WeChat or discussing with friends. I received plenty of WeChat notes from my feminist group and from an art salon in Beijing. Still, I would say supporters only number a handful.

In recent years, Hong Kong residents’ resentment towards the Beijing authorities has been growing as the latter tries to exert their influence on electoral freedom, media and politics. The rift between the two sides has been further deepened by squabbles over the ill-behaved, massive number of mainland tourists.

The protesters in Hong Kong are demanding not only universal suffrage but also their own political identity.

Interestingly, as Hongkongers experience a political awakening, mainlanders are becoming less interested in politics, as the government desires. Since 1989, it has deliberately channelled people’s energy into making money while showing them how futile it is to get involved in politics.

Naturally, Beijing authorities worry about the contagious effects of the Hong Kong protests. But they needn’t worry too much, in my view. A few days ago, in a commentary published in The Guardian, dissident writer Ma Jian ended in an uplifting tone, talking about “the unstoppable river of democracy”. “The river will flow again, despite efforts to block it, and will one day, perhaps this year or many years from now, surge across the border all the way to Tiananmen Square.”

I don’t think it will be this year; the Lo Wu border divides more than the physical territory.

More at Zhang Lijia´s weblog (earlier published at the South China Morning Post).

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers´request form.

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