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One can almost understand why China's leaders should be baffled by this show of defiance in Hong Kong.Indeed, the deal that Hong Kong's colonial subjects appeared to accept – leaving politics alone in exchange for the opportunity to pursue material prosperity in a safe and orderly environment – is not so different from the deal accepted by China's educated classes today. There was, however, a significant difference between Hong Kong under the British and under China today.It was not simply humanitarian rage that galvanized so many people in Hong Kong to act in 1989 . They recognized then that under future Chinese rule, only genuine democracy might safeguard the institutions that protected Hong Kong's freedoms. Without any significant say in how they were to be governed, Hong Kong's citizens would be at the mercy of China's leaders.The way China's rulers see it, only firm control from the top and the Communist Party's unquestioned supremacy can create the conditions needed for a rich and powerful China to emerge.When Hong Kong was formally handed back to China 17 years ago, some optimists thought that the former colony's greater freedoms would help to reform the rest of China.
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