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Self-Harm in Hong Kong

Summary:
For several months, Hong Kong has been seized by mass protests driven by fear that mainland China is eroding the liberty and autonomy promised under the “one country, two systems” principle. But Hong Kong's outrage at China's government is misplaced – and self-destructive. HONG KONG – Hong Kong has long been a beacon of inspiration for Asian cities. Highly competitive and connected, it has served as a bridge between East and West, earning it the moniker “Asia’s world city.” But this position is now under threat – and it is Hong Kong’s own fault. Their Faintest Hour Getty Images Facebook’s Libra Must

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For several months, Hong Kong has been seized by mass protests driven by fear that mainland China is eroding the liberty and autonomy promised under the “one country, two systems” principle. But Hong Kong's outrage at China's government is misplaced – and self-destructive.

HONG KONG – Hong Kong has long been a beacon of inspiration for Asian cities. Highly competitive and connected, it has served as a bridge between East and West, earning it the moniker “Asia’s world city.” But this position is now under threat – and it is Hong Kong’s own fault.

For several months, Hong Kong has been seized by protests that began with a proposed extradition law, aimed at simplifying the process for transferring suspected criminals to Taiwan, mainland China, and Macau. Protesters, as well as many outside observers, viewed the bill, since suspended indefinitely, as a covert effort by China’s central government to establish a legal tool for bringing its perceived enemies into its jurisdiction.

In that sense, the logic goes, the extradition bill would threaten Hong Kong’s liberty and autonomy under the “one country, two systems” principle underpinning the city’s relationship with mainland China since 1997, when Chinese sovereignty was restored in the former British colony. But the logic is wrong.

Extradition arrangements are commonplace; Hong Kong has them with 20 other countries. More important, the Chinese government knows that it is in its own interest to ensure that Hong Kong remains a peaceful and prosperous world city, merging Chinese and Western business practices, governance systems, and ideologies.

That is why China’s central government has granted Hong Kong so many concessions. The city’s residents pay the least tax among Chinese citizens, meaning that they contribute less than their fair share to national public goods in diplomacy, defense, and security. And, extradition law or not, they enjoy the most freedom and autonomy.

But Hong Kong’s advantages are now at risk, largely due to its own insecurities. As several commentators have pointed out, mainland China’s...

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