An Inside Look into the Hong Kong Protests & Uprising (w/ Joseph Cheng)
SUNIL BERI: Hi, we're sitting here today with Professor Joseph Cheng in Hong Kong, formerly a university professor of political science at City University Hong Kong, and also a member of Civic Party, which is a pro-democratic party. What we're going to do today is basically talk about the protests in Hong Kong, the genesis of these protests, and probably step back a bit and look at the roots and the causes of what has led to the current state of affairs, how we are progressing in the timeline to these protests-- the important dates-- and how these protests could develop going forward, and what the viewers of Real Vision can take away from this. So that's basically with that. Maybe I can ask Joseph too if you could start a little bit about the genesis of these protests and how far should people think? JOSEPH CHENG: Well, the socioeconomic conditions of a vast majority of Hong Kong people actually have been deteriorating. And this is especially so among the younger generation. People definitely are angry, dissatisfied, and they are also unhappy with the be-grant of the government. Hong Kong enjoyed the per capita GDP of $48,000 last year. But behind this superficial prosperity, the gap between the rich and poor is very substantial. The Gini coefficient measured 0.539 in the last by-census in 2016. A vast majority of Hong Kong people actually feel that their real incomes have been falling since 1997. For the young people especially, they certainly feel that there has been a decline in upward social mobility opportunities, limited job prospects for them, and they also feel almost hopeless in acquiring their own accommodation. SUNIL BERI: So let me go back a bit and talk about the Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient is a measure of the inequality that happened. So although it happened in 2016, it probably hasn't changed or gone down and probably has worsened. Is that a fair assumption? JOSEPH CHENG: Probably so, given the fact that the property prices have been going up. And this certainly means that the gap between the rich and the poor-- that is those who have property and those who do not have property-- has been widening. You see, the previous two administrations-- the Donald Tsang administration-- obviously neglected the supply of land, resulting in this crisis in housing conditions today. But the CY Leung administration-- Carrie Lam's predecessor-- as well as the present administration, they have all said that they would make housing a top priority in their policy programs. But so far, they have not been able to deliver. And this has resulted in a lot of accusations on the part of the people that the government and the big businesses have been colluding. And in the recent one or two years, people are now accusing the Carrie Lam administration of betraying Hong Kong, namely that the administration has been too eager to toe the Beijing line, too eager to please the big businesses, and have not stood up for the interests of ordinary Hong Kong people. SUNIL BERI: So let me go back and throw some numbers at you. So there is about 1.75 billion of the workforce that does not pay any taxes. The top 21 tycoons basically have more reserves than the accumulated reserves of Hong Kong. And then at the bottom, you have basically the top decile of the income earners earning 44 times of the bottom decile of income earners. The minimum wage adjusted for inflation is about $3.50 or it's around about that number. Your savings rate is 26%, but does that reflect the true nature? JOSEPH CHENG: Yes, you look at the young graduates-- young university graduates-- who now form the backbone of the protesters in the recent weeks, in the past 10 years and more, their starting median salary has been around 11,000, 12,000 Hong Kong dollars-- about $1,500. But this is not the real issue. The real issue is that as they see it, it is extremely difficult for their salaries to break the, say, 30,000 Hong Kong dollars monthly point, despite the fact that they may gradually have been working for 10, 20 years and even more. And this also means that they cannot hope to have their own accommodation. SUNIL BERI: So let me go back to the income. So what does 11,000 or 12,000 Hong Kong dollars you are able to do in terms of rent? JOSEPH CHENG: Not much. So most of the young people actually are now staying with their parents, eat with their parents. And this will reduce their basic expenditure and they still have a bit of money to spend. Otherwise, if they have to be independent completely, they try to rent a partitioned room right around 80 square feet. That would cost 7,000, 8,000 Hong Kong dollars-- more than one half of their monthly salary. SUNIL BERI: Right. So the median income that is spent on Hong Kong's rent average or median rent according to government figures is about 69%. And for the benefit of the viewers, the subdivided room is basically a 300-square-foot or an 800-square-foot flat that is subdivided into smaller rooms, where they just simply have a room to sleep and work, but not much other than that. Is that the correct definition? JOSEPH CHENG: Exactly. SUNIL BERI: And is that something that is within the Hong Kong Island or Kowloon Island or you're talking about the outlying islands? JOSEPH CHENG: Well, I basically apply this to Hong Kong. And Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, that is the most central urban areas. If you move further outside to the suburbs to new territories, you may pay less-- maybe 25%, 30% less in terms of rents, but then you have to spend more on transport and you have to spend more time. Have to understand that Hong Kong people normally work quite long hours-- at least 10, 11 hours a day. SUNIL BERI: So they could spend another 45 minutes to 1 and 1/2 hours getting back home. JOSEPH CHENG: Each trip. SUNIL BERI: Each trip. On each way. OK. So we covered about the cost of living, which is obviously very high. And everybody knows that, but I think it gives a different perspective-- what it actually buys you. So you're basically buying an 80 square feet, which I think is smaller than the prison cell. JOSEPH CHENG: Depends on the prison, or which country you go to. SUNIL BERI: Hong Kong. JOSEPH CHENG: Yeah. SUNIL BERI: So that basically solves the one issue, or makes people aware what the housing issue is. Let's go back and talk about the second issue you said-- about the career advancement, and what type of jobs they can get, and what type of businesses they can go into. JOSEPH CHENG: Most people can still get jobs. Even at the very worst, people with a degree or subdegree can still work as an agent, as a sales person, or at a very minimum, they can offer private tuition to younger children. So that means that they have no difficulty earning the basic pocket money. But you have to be aware that there is no unemployment benefits in Hong Kong. And unfortunately, most of the young people, after their tertiary education, still have high hopes on the basis of the traditional Confucian values. They still expect to be able to do something. And they still hope to have a respectable career ahead. And you may say, therefore, that their expectations are higher than their counterparts, say, in Europe. SUNIL BERI: So 26%, or roughly around that number of Hong Kong's GDP comes from property, or property related things. And I think about 40% is from services. Could you highlight how that affects the career prospects? And what type of industries are not there that will give the younger generation the opportunities? JOSEPH CHENG: Most young people can get jobs in the tertiary sector, which provides more than 90% of Hong Kong's GDP. And they normally work in small businesses. Those who are most fortunate of course can still get very respectable, very well-paid jobs in the financial sector, in the major multinationals, and so on. But this doesn't apply to ordinary young people. So they work in small businesses. They get $11- $12,000 in the beginning, and gradually move up to about $20,000 or so. Very difficult to break the $30,000 Hong Kong dollars [indiscernible]. And this at the same time is a bit frustrating in that they still have to stay with their parents. They have no plan, or they cannot afford no plan to acquire their own accommodation. They normally will save up, and go for a holiday with their girlfriends, and boyfriends, and so on. SUNIL BERI: So staying with the career opportunities, what about the technology sector, which is proposed by the government? And what about the government sector as a source of employment? How will that work? One is on the cutting edge of technology, the new age, new businesses, and the other one is more stable. What are the opportunities there? JOSEPH CHENG: Civil service jobs are considered very stable, reliable, with career development paths, and therefore very much sought after by ordinary people and young people. However, because the government is not expanding, because of the population trends, because we have a rather mature economy- - so it is more and more difficult for people to get tenured jobs within the civil service. It is considered rather fortunate if you can become an executive officer and so on. And you may have to work on a contract basis at least for free for two contracts at three years each before you can be considered for a tenured position. And one's expectations have gone down. So now you may have quite a number of university graduates taking up clerical positions within the civil service, front line policemen positions in the disciplinary forces, and so on, instead of aiming at officers in the civil service, or police inspectors in the disciplinary forces, and so on. SUNIL BERI: So you touched on the last point, about the demographics, so I want to talk to you about that. As we all know that you have falling expectations, and career paths, real incomes especially for young the generation falling. And you also have an aging population, which is a problem. Right now, I think it's about 44 years average age of Hong Kong. And then you have, it goes up to 48 in 2026. And I think at that time, about to 2030 I'm not mistaken, there's 30% of the population is at least 60 plus. So what has aging population done so far to the incomes and the poverty? JOSEPH CHENG: On this point, Hong Kong is similar to various places in East Asia. Aging population means more demand on Social Security for services for the elderly, for housing and so on. But it also means that it also exposes the fact that the government is making limited provisions for the elderly. And in fact, those elderly people with no income now constitutes the bulk of the population living below the poverty line. On the streets, you may see old ladies collecting waste paper and so on to add to their very limited incomes. And this is a very sad scene for a prosperous city like Hong Kong, for an international financial center. So the frustration on the part of the young people, the difficult situation of the aging people actually are calling for reorientation of the government with regard to the Social Security policy. The administration usually follows the so-called laissez-faire philosophy established by the British administration. And the central government in Beijing respects this traditional philosophy. The government in Beijing, as well as the establishment in Hong Kong, do not want to spend too much on Social Security, on social services, despite the fact that we have a surplus budget almost every year. The idea is to respect the interests of the investors because their money can leave Hong Kong very easily, very rapidly, given the fact that we are an international financial center. So from Beijing's point of view, from the Hong Kong government's point of view, they tend to put investors' interests first. And that explains the accusation against government, big business collusion on the part of ordinary people. And ordinary people certainly believe that the government can certainly spend more. And Hong Kong people easily compares the public housing, or the general housing conditions in the territory with that in, say, Singapore, where people on public housing can still enjoy easily a public housing flat of 1,000 square feet for a family of four. And a flat of that size is considered a very luxurious flat in Hong Kong. SUNIL BERI: Yes. So in Hong Kong, everything above 700 square feet is considered the luxury sector. So coming back, so you have a population basically, the younger generation, who doesn't see upward mobility. And then, when they go past their working age population, of working age, they also see the older people. The older people living below poverty has gone up 75% in the last 10 years in the last consensus. And although that number is like 530, it is still challenging for a population of a city of 7.1 million. So if you are going to age properly, the population is going to age faster now than it has ever done. We are probably ahead of China in terms of the demographics time bomb. Is that a major problem? JOSEPH CHENG: That is a major problem in the sense that the elderly people in Hong Kong tend to have to rely on their own savings. Traditionally of course, Chinese families would like to rely on their younger members. But this is less and less so. In fact, in the past two or three decades, very often the middle class parents have to provide, have to help their younger members of the family despite the fact that they may be working on a full time basis. So this means that people have to save more. And the government has rejected the consideration of a universal pension system for the elderly because it does not want to assume the responsibility. And four or five years ago, there were some debates within the community-- and the government, when Carrie Lam was actually the Chief Secretary in charge of the policy. The government and Carrie Lam rejected any demand for universal pension system, which is quite disappointing for the population. So for Hong Kong people, when they hear that Carrie Lam administration wants to tackle important people's livelihood issues, they say, well, why shouldn't we talk about this universal pension system? Or some universal medical insurance policy? These are the major issues-- plus housing facing the Hong Kong population. And certainly the Hong Kong people do not feel, do not believe that the government has done enough. SUNIL BERI: All this has basically become a powder keg, if you like, for all the social issues. So the Chinese government took over Hong Kong, and maintain the one country, two systems policy, under which Hong Kong had a lot of autonomy, and probably still does. Talk to us about how that has developed under the various governments and leaders. And maybe talk about where the current state of affairs started. Is it in February, when it was first introduced? Or is it a little bit further back? JOSEPH CHENG: Certainly, there are deep seated issues. Today, as the Carrie Lam administration has indicated, the basic nature of the crisis has changed in the sense that people are no longer talking about the controversial piece of legislation which triggered the crisis. People in fact are asking, why is the government not supporting, not considering our basic interests? And they certainly compare Hong Kong with, say, Singapore, with Macau. And Hong Kong in fact has been falling behind Singapore and Macau. And this is quite disappointing to Hong Kong people. Very-- SUNIL BERI: You mean in terms of the political funding? Or economic? JOSEPH CHENG: I basically refer to the socioeconomic conditions. But you did raise the issue of various administrations. Now very simply put, when Chief Tung served as the first chief executive, he believed that he did not have to respond to the demands of the pro-democracy movement because the basic law political system has been designed in such a way that the establishment will have, will enjoy a safe majority in the legislative council. And this safe majority will support the administration. So there's no need to respond to the pro-democracy parties. And then the second chief executive, Donald Tsang, publicly talked about differential treatment of various parties, depending on their level of support for his administration. Meaning that he was quite ready to distance the administration from the pro-democracy camp. Then it was said that the third chief executive, C.Y. Leung, privately described his relationship with the pro-democracy camp as contradiction among enemies. And now certainly Carrie Lam has not been responding to what people are demanding. And it is exactly this neglect of the pro-democracy movement, which has been enjoying 55% of the votes in all direct elections to the legislature-- which is a major cause for the neglect of public opinion, for the arrogance of the administration that is perceived by the people. And people also see that various checks and balances mechanisms have been weakening. Given the fact that the government can, with the support of a safe majority in the legislature, can actually pass any bill any time. And in fact, even the rules of procedure of the legislature has been altered-- so much so that there is almost no more opportunities for filibustering and so on. And that explains this confidence on the part of the Carrie Lam administration in getting the controversial extradition bill passed before the crisis. SUNIL BERI: Let's step back. Before this, we had another set of protests in 2014, which lasted I think 12 or 13 weeks. Correct me if I'm wrong. JOSEPH CHENG: 79 days. SUNIL BERI: 79 days exactly. Sorry. And why did that start? And why did that end? Or did it take a pause at that point? JOSEPH CHENG: That started in 2013, when the pro-democracy camp asked for the introduction of genuine democratic elections of the chief executive, which was promised in 2007 by Beijing. Very briefly put, the Chinese authorities, on August 31st, 2014, promised that Hong Kong people could elect their chief executive on the basis of universal suffrage. But the pro-Beijing establishment would continue to control the lists of candidates. And this was not accepted by the pro-democracy movement. That triggered the Occupation campaign. And as a result, the relationship between Beijing and ordinary people in Hong Kong, especially the pro-democracy movement, certainly had been further alienated. And Beijing refused to discuss the issue of democratization since then. And the issue of democratization remains one of the five major demands on the part of the protesters in the recent months. SUNIL BERI: So that protest was called either the Umbrella Movement or the Occupy Hong Kong. And it was primarily targeted around the legislature. And somehow, it died in November, if I'm not mistaken, when they arrested most of the leaders. Is that a fair assumption? JOSEPH CHENG: More or less. Yeah. The Occupation campaign sort of evaporated. Because Hong Kong people lost interest in it. And Hong Kong people did not believe that the economy should be disrupted for such a long time. And that probably gave rise to the confidence and arrogance of the Hong Kong government. The major impact on the part of the Chinese authorities was that they reaffirmed their reading of the situation-- that although Hong Kong has returned to China, the hearts of Hong Kong people have not returned. And the various political measures have been tightening. And although for several years after 2014, the number of protests, or you may say the general situation of the pro-democracy movement was such that it was not able to challenge the government. And the government misinterpreted this decline on the part of the pro-democracy movement as political stability-- SUNIL BERI: And validation of their view, and managing of their economy, and the political process. Is that-- JOSEPH CHENG: Exactly. And this explained this continuation of this policy, this neglect of and lack of respect for various checks and balances mechanism. And actually, meanwhile, these dissatisfaction, the anger-- SUNIL BERI: Had been building. JOSEPH CHENG: --continued to accumulate, and explaining, or giving rise to the protests from June to September this year. SUNIL BERI: In your view, was the 2014 protest that lasted, is that because people have such high cost of living that they could not afford to continue with those protests? Is that what the Beijing strategy is now as well? Or rather, the current government, not the Beijing. Apologies. But the current government outlook is that if there is enough fatigue, that people will start to lose interest in the current protest as well, just like it did in 2014. JOSEPH CHENG: With the benefit of hindsight, I think most people in Hong Kong now understands that the Chinese authorities have no intention of granting genuine democracy to Hong Kong any time. It believed that its economic support for Hong Kong, and the fact that it was helping Hong Kong, facilitating Hong Kong to maintain its prosperity meant that Hong Kong people should be satisfied with the status quo. That Hong Kong people should respect the parameters of the one country, two systems model as defined by Beijing. And Hong Kong people should be taught a lesson so that Hong Kong people would learn to respect and understand those parameters. This certainly has not been the case. And you see the anger on the part of Hong Kong people, and especially among the young people. SUNIL BERI: So let me close the 2014. So in your view, was that an abject failure of the protest? Or did we achieve something? Or did we just bury it under the carpet, or pushed it under the carpet for a while? JOSEPH CHENG: The pro-democracy movement in 2013-2014 was in no position to convince Beijing, nor exert sufficient pressure on Beijing to demand democracy. And to some extent, a considerable segment of the Hong Kong population desired democracy, but refused to sacrifice for democracy. But they still want, however, they still want the maintenance of the lifestyles, of the values that they cherish, especially the rule of law. But in subsequent years, they see that even this basic demand has not been able to be maintained. And they see this extradition bill introduced in the beginning of this year as a flat to what they value-- SUNIL BERI: And what they feared. So now let's go back to what the current situation is, and how this current situation started. So obviously, everybody knows that, like stating the obvious, when the bill was introduced, people objected to the way the bill was going to get passed, and also what it meant. So maybe you could if you could spend two minutes or so talking about what this actually bill means in practice. JOSEPH CHENG: As perceived by the community in Hong Kong, the bill allowed the Chinese authorities to extradite Hong Kong people for crimes committed in Hong Kong or outside Hong Kong to go to face trial in mainland China. Now this certainly has not been acceptable to Hong Kong people because they do not trust the judicial system in China. We understand that the courts in China have to work under the leadership of the party, namely the party committees within the court system actually guides the judges in adjudicating the cases. With regard to this, even the business community was not happy. Even the business community could not accept this amendment of the extradition bill. But certainly, the Carrie Lam administration was able to seek the support of Beijing. And when the Chinese authorities indicated support for the amendment of the legislation, various critical voices were silenced, especially those within the establishment-- namely the business community, some of the pro-Beijing academics. They stopped their criticisms of the bill. And in fact, the Carrie Lam administration at that point was certainly confident that the bill could have passed the legislature. SUNIL BERI: Is it about just moving to Beijing? Or is it about changing the due process of Hong Kong for extradition? JOSEPH CHENG: The initial amendment meant the possibility of Hong Kong people being extradited to China to face trial in China. But broadly interpreted, this certainly affects Hong Kong people's demand for a fair trial, which is a very core value of Hong Kong people. SUNIL BERI: I understand that. But my question here is that if the courts are looking at the case, do they have to argue in Hong Kong court that there's sufficient grounds of extradition? Does that process still go on? Because this type of amendment has not been needed for the last 22 years. JOSEPH CHENG: Yes. And it is generally understood that even when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, the Chinese authorities, and the administration at that time did not believe that it was necessary nor desirable. Because Hong Kong people, including the local and expatriate business community, did not have confidence in the judicial system in mainland China. And this lack of confidence remains today, and which is totally neglected by the Carrie Lam administration. SUNIL BERI: So if Carrie Lam really wanted to, could she have passed it? From what you said before, that the due process of passing this thing was not required. JOSEPH CHENG: We realized that after one billion people marched in the streets on June 9th, the Carrie Lam administration in the same evening indicated that the bill would go to the legislature according to schedule, and that the contents of the piece of legislation would not be altered. Then the next day, the president of the legislative council announced a timetable for the deliberations on the bill, and the bill was expected to be passed in the legislature around about the 20th of June-- because the establishment, the Carrie Lam administration, and the pro-establishment legislatures believed they had the votes in the legislature to do so. And it was actually on June the 12th, a Wednesday after the Sunday protest march, that the young protesters marched in the streets, and surrounded the legislative council, prevented the legislative council from holding its meeting-- that the process was stopped, leading to Carrie Lam administration's announcement that the bill would be shelved from being introduced into the legislature. SUNIL BERI: So just delayed. Or shelved. Because I want to go back, first of all, to what drove the million people, or around about that number because there's always a dispute of that number, to come out. This was a very substantial number of protesters coming out. What actually was a trigger? Why they wouldn't come out in 2014, but they came out this time? JOSEPH CHENG: They came out because they probably felt that they had enough. And they could not accept that people in Hong Kong could be extradited to mainland China to face trial. There was a certain feeling among many of the protesters, including myself-- I also took part in that. This was probably the last time they would march in the streets. There was a certain sense of pessimism, that they probably could not do much. But they still would like to go to the streets, to march in the streets, to articulate their position, to articulate their opposition. That was very much a feeling of most people marching on that Sunday. SUNIL BERI: They had almost given up, but yet they wanted their voices-- JOSEPH CHENG: They still wanted to articulate their stance, to demonstrate their stance. SUNIL BERI: What happened on the 12th after the young people came out? And that was not a small number either, but nothing like a million. Did that end peacefully? Did that cause more problems? JOSEPH CHENG: On that Wednesday, there was the first clash between the young protesters and the police, which was generally believed to be quite unnecessary because the clash took place at around about 3:00 PM, 4:00 PM in the afternoon. At that time, there was nothing urgent. The legislative council already announced that there would be no meetings on Wednesday, nor on Thursday. And usually, the police did not have to do anything. The police normally, even when trying to clear the scene, would like to allow safe passage, at least for a certain period of time, 15 minutes, half an hour, for the protesters to withdraw peacefully. But instead, there was an attempt to surround, round up the protesters. And the scene was chaotic and violent. And that opened up a whole series of rather unpleasant and violent clashes between the protesters, usually young protesters, and the police. And the clash and subsequent clashes gradually exacerbated mutual hostility between the protesters and the police, leading to the present situation-- that police brutality has become a very serious issue in the resolution of the crisis at this stage. SUNIL BERI: Now, I know you are pro-democratic. But I have to ask you to be a devil's advocate, and ask you to be as objective as possible from your point of view. Is there a collusion with foreign powers? Is there evidence to that, that might suggest that there is some involvement? JOSEPH CHENG: Well, this question has been raised by Western journalists in various press conferences held by the state council, and the Chinese authorities. All the evidence that the Chinese authorities have been able to produce are statements made by Western governments, and Western political leaders in support of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement-- as well as meetings between Western government officials, Western political leaders with leaders of the protest movement, leaders of the pro-democracy movement from Hong Kong. So these are-- SUNIL BERI: You mean the likes of Joshua Wong? JOSEPH CHENG: Yes. And Martin Lee, and so on. And these are certainly normal diplomatic activities, which are being practiced by the Chinese authorities as well. SUNIL BERI: So we saw Joshua Wong, Martin Lee, and lots of other people participate during the Occupy Central. But we don't see them leading the protest march, leading the thing. So how is this actually happening? Are they really the leaders? JOSEPH CHENG: There are no leaders of the protests in the recent months, mainly because the traditional pro-democracy movement leaders do not support violent protest activities. They still subscribe to the basic principle of non-violent political struggles. However, many of the young protesters believe that this is not enough-- that further pressure has to be exerted on the government. And here in lies a basic difference between the older generation, the mainstream pro-democracy groups, and the younger generation of protesters. However, it has been well demonstrated by now that all these protests are organized or coordinated by messages on the internet. And there has been no-- and these protesters have made it plain that they want no leadership, they want no formal organizations, and they would behave like water, deep water. And they believe that this mode of operation probably suits them best. SUNIL BERI: Right. Beijing has called it the Color Revolution, in an effort to throw. Could you comment on that? Is that the right label? JOSEPH CHENG: This probably is not the right label because-- for the vast, vast majority of Hong Kong people, and even the young protesters, they too would not desire the overthrow of the Chinese Communist regime in Beijing, nor the Hong Kong government in Hong Kong. They just want democratization. They want the right to protest. And you may say that 99% of the Hong Kong people understand very well that independence is not a practical option. And there is no desire on the part of Hong Kong people to flatten the Chinese regime in Beijing, nor to endanger China's security, to challenge China's territorial integrity, China's sovereignty, and so on. To put it in very simple terms, the bulk of the Hong Kong population simply want to be left alone, and not to suffer from interference, as in Beijing. To have democracy, if possible. So at least to maintain their lifestyles, and their values-- SUNIL BERI: You just answered my next question, which was going to be, is this movement about challenging the China authority? Which is what the China press, and the mouthpieces have said. And is it about independence? Which obviously, you have categorically said, this is not the case. There were two other events, one event, both took place on the 21st of July. One was the attacking of the liaison officer, China liaison officer, on Hong Kong side. And the other one was that same evening, some of the mobs, which was called the white shirt mobs, attacked some of the commuters and the protesters in Yuen Long. Could you talk about that? And why that was important? To me, that was that some of the turning points, both from the China side, and also from the protesters side. JOSEPH CHENG: On that crucial evening, some protesters approach the China liaison office building near the Central District. And they certainly threw ink, and eggs at the building, including the National Insignia, which was very much highlighted by the Chinese official media as an insult to China's sovereignty. This certainly should not have been done from my point of view. This unnecessarily and disrespectfully challenged the Chinese authorities. This should not have been done. But at the same time, one easily noticed that the office building was not guarded. And under normal circumstances, there were anti-riot police there preventing people from approaching the building, preventing people from moving that close to the entrance of the building. But on that evening, that didn't happened. Protesters could move right in front of the building, which was-- SUNIL BERI: When you say there was no-- JOSEPH CHENG: Surprising. SUNIL BERI: --was that because of logistics, that police couldn't get on time? Or do you think that they were just not prepared? Or just willingly not there? JOSEPH CHENG: Subsequent explanations from the police was a matter of logistics. They could not bring in policemen that soon. But that appear to be quite absurd. That was a very, very important location. When protest activities took place 10 minutes walk from the building, obviously, the police should have been there to protect the building. SUNIL BERI: So you mean, there is a police station next to it? Or close by? JOSEPH CHENG: There were police stations rather close by. But the centralized office building has always been an important point for the police to guard against protest activities. Then we go back to what happened in Yuen Long, on the same evening. That caused a lot, a lot of anger on the part of Hong Kong people, because apparently the Triads, the gangsters were involved. They were mobilized to attack the protesters when they were returning home. So there were no protest activities in Yuen Long-- a rather distant new territories, new town. And it was unacceptable, certainly, that the Triads, gangsters were mobilized, attacking these young people, these young protesters when they were returning home very late in the evening. And worse still, it did not appear that the police came to protect ordinary citizens, the protesters, and so on in this clash, giving rise to another type of conspiracy theory-- namely that the gangsters had been mobilized, had been bought by the pro-Beijing united front. And at the same time, there was collusion between the police and these gangsters. SUNIL BERI: So let's go back, and talk about the five demands that the protesters have. And probably end this section, and then move on to the next section of-- what are the possible outcomes from here? So first one was the withdrawal, which has been done. JOSEPH CHENG: Yes. SUNIL BERI: The second one-- JOSEPH CHENG: After some delays. SUNIL BERI: Lots of delays. Then the second one is the independent inquiry. The third one is? JOSEPH CHENG: The labeling, or defining the nature of the protest activities as riots. SUNIL BERI: Right. Which carries a heavier sentence. And the release-- JOSEPH CHENG: --of the protesters. SUNIL BERI: OK. So these are the demands. Right? Have I missed anything? JOSEPH CHENG: Plus the resignation of Carrie Lam, and the introduction of democratic elections. SUNIL BERI: Correct. OK. So now let's go forward a bit. And maybe you could cover some of the outcomes we don't know-- nobody knows that this is the outcome that is going to be the be all and end all. So maybe we can discuss, starting with the best case, and moving on to the more contentious possible outcomes. JOSEPH CHENG: The best case scenario, probably, is the resignation of Carrie Lam. In fact, the most recent opinion poll indicated that up to 65% of the respondents would like her to go. If she goes, there will be a new chief executive, a new team, administrators, and so on. And hopefully, this new team will be able to establish a respected independent commission of inquiry, thus generating the beginning of the reconciliation process. But it seems to be rather unlikely given the orientations of Beijing. Then the second scenario, probably, will be the continuation of what has been happening. And given time, the protest activities will subside because people get tired. And there are district council elections to be held in November. And given the pro-democracy movement would like some peaceful environment for the conduct of the election campaigns. So this will be the second best. But we have to realize that the anger remains. SUNIL BERI: So in that case, if it do subsides, so we're just pushing back the solution, or the next steps to election day. JOSEPH CHENG: Exactly. It simply means that, for the time being, no more weekly protest activities. People may go back to their normal life, and so on. But the problem remains unresolved. SUNIL BERI: So let's go to the more contentious, starting with number three. JOSEPH CHENG: Then, if the protest activities continue, then the government may be tempted to introduce the emergency regulations ordinance-- which was an old ordinance established in 1922, in those days. This will give the government very widespread powers to arrest protesters, to denying them habeas corpus, to close down media, and so on. And this is unfortunate. And this has been objected even by the business community, because they certainly do not want any serious disruptions of the economy. SUNIL BERI: Under this ordinance, basically, the government can't pass piecemeal, so they have to pass the entire ordinance-- which not only the issues that you say, detain people, suspend habeas corpus, but they can also cut down the ports, cut travel, cut communications, and put restrictions on press. JOSEPH CHENG: Yes. This is a very old fashioned, traditional piece of emergency decree, established in 1922. So the chief executive today, with the concurrence and support of her executive council, can implement, can introduce and implement this piece of legislation. And this will give her administration tremendous powers. Although she may, to be fair, her administration may choose to exercise those powers with considerable restraint. SUNIL BERI: Absolutely. So this has been used only once in Hong Kong's history. JOSEPH CHENG: In 1967. SUNIL BERI: During the 1967 riots. Let's go forward a little bit more. Let me ask you, what is the other contentious option? Because Beijing has always said that under the basic law, it can intervene at the request of the current administration. Or if it feels fit, if the security, or national security of China is threatened. JOSEPH CHENG: The worst case scenario in the coming weeks may well be, unfortunately, the death of a police officer, or the death of some protesters at the hands of the police. This will arouse tremendous anger on either parties, or both parties. And then maybe even the People's Liberation Army will be mobilized, and so on. And this is most unfortunate. I do believe that the Chinese authorities at this stage fully understand the undesirability of bringing in the People's Liberation Army, which is very costly-- not only for Hong Kong, the negative impact on its reputation, and its functioning as an international financial, and so on. And it is very bad for China because it spells the failure of its policy towards Hong Kong. It means the end of the one country, two systems model. And it may trigger condemnation, and maybe even sanctions from the United States, and other Western governments. This would definitely have a very bad impact on China's policy towards Taiwan, which is going to have its presidential election in January next year. SUNIL BERI: So last question. First of all, the PLA already has six garrisons, or seven garrisons. JOSEPH CHENG: It has its garrisons in Hong Kong. SUNIL BERI: So it doesn't need to roll in. JOSEPH CHENG: No. No. And there are regulations stipulated, established already for its mobilization and deployment. SUNIL BERI: OK. Then the last question is that-- is that meant to end? China's assertion is that their intervention does not end the one country, two systems. JOSEPH CHENG: It has promised so. SUNIL BERI: But you said-- JOSEPH CHENG: It has promised so. SUNIL BERI: Yeah. JOSEPH CHENG: It has indicate-- the Chinese authorities, as well as the pro-Beijing, united front leaders have indicated that even the mobilization of the People's Liberation Army does not mean the end of one country, two systems model. But perception certainly will work to the contrary. And I think a lot of capital will leave Hong Kong. And a lot of Hong Kong people will actively think of emigration as well. SUNIL BERI: Right. And I had one more question. When you mentioned about mobility of the Hong Kong people, there's 7.1 million people population. How many have foreign passports? And how many foreigners are staying in Hong Kong? JOSEPH CHENG: It has been estimated by various consulates generally in Hong Kong, like those of United States, Australia, UK, Canada, and so on. And very roughly, probably over one million people may well have foreign passports already, given the fact that passports can be secured for your children and grandchildren as well-- for those who acquired their foreign passports in the 1980's and beyond. And there are foreign residents, foreign nationals living in Hong Kong. So that's 1.3, 1.5 million according to various estimates. And to a large extent, this is the cream of the community. SUNIL BERI: Right. So the middle class, the-- JOSEPH CHENG: Professionals, and so on. SUNIL BERI: We don't know how that thing has gone. But what I think I'd like to end is to say, thank you. But honestly, for me, it has raised more questions than it has answered. I do appreciate your answers, but I think it has-- because it's not binary. The solution is not going to be binary. The outcomes are not going to be binary. So we have to watch of how this develops. JOSEPH CHENG: We have no answers just yet. We can only keep our fingers crossed. Thank you for the opportunity. SUNIL BERI: Thank you. Thank you very much.