Monday, October 22, 2007

China and her babies

On the whole, the relationship between China and Hong Kong is odd. The airports in both Beijing and Shanghai had sections for domestic flights, international flights, and "domestic flights to/from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan." Although the third category was formally labeled domestic flights, they were always attached to the international sections.

The Chinese customs declaration asks you to identify your nationality, and if the answer is China, there is a parenthetical portion where you can check Hong Kong, Macao, or Taiwan. Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan all have their own visa schemes and passport controls, and for all intents and purposes, are separate entities in every way, except on formal Chinese signs and documents.

Media and internet in the SARs (Special Administrative Regions, the formal term for Hong Kong and Macao and countries-within-a-country) are uncensored. Hong Kong news is re-broadcast in parts of southern China, but whenever a story discusses the mainland in any way, the feed blacks out until the story is done. This also happens with CNN, SkyNews, BBC, and the other western international news networks (though sometimes, the Chinese authorities will change their minds and determine that a story is acceptable, so the re-airings will go through without incident).

When Hong Kong and Macao were formally returned to China in 1997 and 1999 respectively, the guiding principle was supposed to be "one country, two systems," but the terms of the agreements guarantee HK and Macao their autonomy for 50 years each. Hong Kong's law is still based on the United Kingdom's rather than China's, and British precedent is the most persuasive (behind actual Hong Kong cases) in the local courts. Taiwan, of course, continues to operate in some nebulous unrecognized zone, where China claims it owns Taiwan, Taiwan claims it owns the rest of China but doesn't do anything about it, and the U.S. maintains diplomatic relations and treaty obligations with both without formally recognizing Taiwain's independence.

In the end, the relationship between all of them is still pretty schizoid, and as far as I can tell, people here don't even think about it, much less have it figured out. The only thing I'm sure of is that when 2047 and 2049 roll around, everyone's going to be confused as hell.

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