As part of the CPPR Talk Series, the Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS) organised an in-house talk on “Hong Kong Protests and its Implications”, delivered by Mr Muraleedharan Nair on October 10, 2019. Mr Nair has held various positions in the Government of India, including as the Indian Consul in China. His postings abroad include those in the Indian diplomatic missions in China (Shanghai & Guangzhou), Hong Kong and Singapore. He is also a Senior Fellow with CPPR.

In the talk, Mr Nair mainly focused on the implications of the protests for the economy and politics of China and Hong Kong. The recent protests were sparked by a highly controversial plan to allow extraditions of criminals to mainland China. This controversial extradition law, proposed by the Hong Kong government, intends to transfer fugitives and criminals upon request by the Chinese mainland, Taiwan or Macau, subject to the approval of the Hong Kong government.

Speaking on the current situation, he said that the protests are nothing new to Hong Kong as it has been witnessing them from the 1960s. Previously, the protests had been peaceful and disciplined whereas now they are mostly mobile; protesters assemble in large numbers and are well connected through the widespread use of social media sites like Telegram. Another interesting aspect that Mr Nair highlighted was that the current wave of protests is fundamentally different from the previous ones as it lacks an umbrella organisation or a leader and this has been a factor that contributed to violence and chaos.

However, he pointed out that any such protests require money to sustain the momentum. The protesters at various stages have shown inclinations towards the US and UK by waving their flags. A new national anthem was also released. He also mentioned about the presence of ‘triad’ (Hong Kong underworld), used by the mainland China to control Hong Kong.

While speaking on the financial situation, he argued that although the protests are held mostly in weekends, the business and economic activities have been affected. Sales are low and people are buying only essential items. The employee contracts have been suspended for two months. Financial institutions are not bringing money. The protesters have also damaged public property and infrastructure. The middle-aged people who led the protests initially are showing signs of fatigue. However, the youngsters are still going strong as the protests are a matter of life for them affecting their job prospects, college admissions, etc.

He further added that Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, has refused dialogue over the Universal Adult Franchise for Hong Kong that has now become a rallying cry of the protesters. Although Carrie Lam has agreed to withdraw the treaty for now, it has not been scrapped altogether; but she has agreed to drop charges against the protesters.

Mr Muraleedharan Nair concluded with saying that the Hong Kong issue affects the whole of China. Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet are also closely watching the developments in Hong Kong. In such a situation, Xi Jinping will not hesitate to use armed forces to protect the territorial integrity of China. CPPR Senior Research Associate Gazi Hassan delivered welcome and introductory remarks. P K Hormis Tharakan, Advisor CPPR, presented a memento as a token of appreciation to Mr Muraleedharan Nair.

Report prepared by Gazi Hassan (Senior Research Associate, CPPR) with inputs from Angela Cicily Joseph (Research Associate, CPPR)