Bryce Swerhun, a researcher at the City University of Hong Kong is the guest on this week's program.
Bryce says that the views of most Hong Kong residents are similar to those of many people around the world. "Initially people were just surprised. No one predicted that the referendum would lead to this; people feel that this is an unnecessary complication, a sort of a forced event…. The political culture of Hong Kong tends to be fairly conservative. Not so much in a sense of ideology, but more in a sense of predictability and reliability. The way the government is structured here very much represents business interests. You don't tend to have this kind of shock, be it the result of a referendum, or electoral shocks or other situations. So, when something like this happens in another society, it is rather shocking that the government and an economy such as the UK can be subject to this sort of level of political uprising."
As far as the ongoing relationship between Hong Kong and Britain go, Bryce comments: "The UK is still seen as a very desirable place to send your children to school and university. The UK's legal system is still very highly regarded. UK judges are quite often brought to Hong Kong as friends of the court to hear appeals. You find also that many solicitors and barristers in Hong Kong are often educated in the UK and will often be registered in England and Wales as well, so that they can represent [Hong Kong] clients there….I think that it would be reading into it too much, and extending the logic too far to think that Hongkongers see Brexit as a way to get closer to the UK. I don't see any movement towards that…"
Host John Harrison points out that one of the arguments used by the pro-Brexiteers was that Britain would in fact get closer to her ex-colonies after she leaves the EU. Bryce comments: "For many years, some Commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia have proposed various ideas for a closer unification for greater engagement with the Commonwealth, but to no real avail in the UK. The UK never really expressed an interest in deepening its own ties with the Commonwealth as an institution. It has really only been around this Brexit debate that the UK has said well hey, we have these great historic ties that we can start to leverage, so I think that attempts for greater integration are falling on deaf ears now…"
As regards China, Bryce says: "I think that China looks at this and thinks that it is an example of what happens when you allow mob rule. You can call it democracy, but this is what it gives you — chaos, uncertainty, it threatens long term investment strategies, it hinders the government's ability to deceiver for the people. I would say that politically this is advantageous for Beijing to be able to say that this is the consequence of a direct democratic approach…."
A discussion ensues as regarding UK-Hong Kong Trade. Bryce comments: "Hong Kong and London are two of the world's largest financial centers. There is an opportunity here for Hong Kong to attract some of those head offices, especially of those companies that have locations in Hong Kong as it is. The two largest trading centers for the Chinese currency (RMB) are London and Hong Kong. Depending on the final Brexit deal, London may become more isolated in terms of being a financial center, then Hong Kong could then take a lot of the RMB business away from London…"
At the moment, Brexit looks like a mess from Hong Kong, and appears to be being used to show how democracy can go wrong by Beijing.
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