Psychological problem, a culprit for HK protest

Editor's note: The violent protesters in Hong Kong erupted into another round of violence last weekend, and the casualties this time include the Hong Kong branch of Xinhua, China's national news agency. The months-long chaos in Hong Kong has done huge damage to the local economy and society. CGTN spoke to Martin Jacques, author of the global best-seller "When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order," who attended the Understanding China Guangzhou Conference that has recently been held in Guangzhou, China's Guangdong Province, to have his insights on Hong Kong protests. The views expressed in the video are his own and not necessarily those of CGTN. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for brevity and clarity.

Why are some youth in Hong Kong so easily incited to protest?

They are very alienated from society. They don't really feel they have got a place in it and they don't have hope for the future. I think there are several factors. Clearly, there is a lot of antagonism towards China. I think the origins of that are obvious.

Basically, 156 years of British colonialism has left them knowing very little about China and quite prejudiced actually towards China. I think that's a long term problem. It's not an easy one to resolve in a short space of time.

Secondly, I think that they feel their economic prospects in Hong Kong are extremely limited.

I think they feel shut out of Hong Kong society, actually. I mean, this is not particularly to do with generation. But this (Hong Kong) is a very, very unequal society. It's one of the most unequal in the world.

(For example,) Property prices are ridiculous. That's a very, very powerful sense of their alienation from Hong Kong society. And I think they feel that the prospects, the future in terms of jobs and so on is not at all good. So I think these are some of the factors that are behind the kind of behavior.

There is one other interesting thought. Before the handover, Hong Kong had a very hubristic view of itself. They thought that Hong Kong's success between 1978 and 1997 was because of them, and it wasn't. It was because of China's transformation; they made a contribution. But the underlying reason was Hong Kong became the front office for China.

Now, at the time of the handover, Hong Kong's economy was about a quarter of the size of the Chinese economy. Today, it's less than three percent. So from being like having a place in the sun, they now feel they don't really matter. That's a difficult psychological problem to adjust it. 

Given the current uncertainty in Hong Kong, how can the Greater Bay Area help develop Hong Kong's economy?

I think the integration into the Greater Bay Area is really important for Hong Kong. I think Hong Kong can benefit from it in various ways.

(For example,) Young people in Hong Kong need to interact and gain experience about what's happening in Guangdong. I mean, imagine somebody's kids who do reasonably at school, having an internship in Huawei or in Tencent, and breathing some of the creative technological atmospheres in Shenzhen. I think that's going to be very important for them.

And they talk about waving British flags and American flags. I mean, that's the declining part of the world. They are living on the edge of the most exciting part of the world. So, come on, wake up! Boys! Girls!

Western media basically stood on the side of the protesters. What's your take on that?

I've been struck, in my own country, UK, about the extent to which the media across the board have supported the demonstrators indiscriminately, making no distinction between the big peaceful demonstration against the fugitive bill on the one hand, and on the other hand, these completely nihilistic violent, almost terrorist, kind of activities.

The British are hubristic about their relationship with Hong Kong. They think they were wonderful colonial masters of Hong Kong. They know it's embarrassing to talk about colonialism because it did so much damage in the world. But on the other hand, they are still in some way or another attached to it: The complicated psychological problem, the British group.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at