On the surface, there isn’t much in common between Hong Kong and the Middle East. The tiny semi-autonomous city enjoys considerable civil liberties compared with mainland China, which administers it, and its laissez-faire economy is admirably well heeled. Yet, 10,000 of Hong Kong’s people took to the streets on Sunday, some even claiming inspiration from the Middle East’s uprisings.
The immediate trigger behind the protests was a recent budget that announced large handouts, which many found to be inept use of public finances. But there were other catalysts too: high food and property prices, and a widening wealth gap.
Popular sentiment about the city’s government is also at a low. Hong Kong still doesn’t enjoy universal suffrage, and the slow pace of democratization is often roundly criticized. If that sounds familiar, then Beijing should realize that discontent can surface even in the most unlikely place. That could well be Xinjiang and Tibet.