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China will certainly be judged on how it deals with Hong Kong's political aspirations. But important as those are, Hong Kong's survival and well-being depend more on how well Beijing lives up to the broad Western values guaranteed by the Basic Law, a kind of miniconstitution it approved along with Britain in April 1990. China's leaders put their names to a document maintaining the rule of law, an independent judiciary, civil liberties including the right to peaceful protest, a free press, continuation of the capitalist system, a separate identity in international economic bodies, local control over currency and no taxation by Beijing.
But plenty of people in Hong Kong are still concerned that their civil liberties are not protected well enough. When Tung attempted to curtail public protests even moderately, he ran into an international hailstorm of criticism. Observers grew even more anxious when Tung publicly suggested on the eve of this year's June 4 rally that it was time for Hong Kong to "forget the baggage" of Tiananmen. The Independent Commission Against Corruption is widely credited with cleaning up Hong Kong's notoriously graft-riddled police and civil service in the late '70s and maintaining a staunch bulwark against the rampant bribery, kickbacks and favoritism that have infected the mainland. So when a Tung spokesman indicated that the word independent was being dropped from its English name because it did not appear in the Chinese, Hong Kong again suspected the worst. (It was all just a technicality, the spokesman later said, leaving the English name intact to calm the critics.)
Much of Hong Kong fears China's notorious corruption will ooze across the border. "Of course it will filter into Hong Kong," warns a Western diplomat on the mainland who handles scores of such complaints. "It's inevitable because it's cultural, it's the way business is done here." To that, tough Lily Yam, the new chief of the Anticorruption Commission, responds, "Do I have the nerve to pursue an investigation if it involves someone very important? The answer is an unequivocal yes." Anthony Neoh, 50, chairman of the Security and Futures Commission, must find a way to regulate bad influences from the primitive markets in China, whose rash practices and lack of rules could pollute Hong Kong's financial structures. China does not apply the "same culture, system and law" as Hong Kong, he says: "We have to make sure the culture of transparency and accountability will continue."
Rich socialites like Elizabeth von Pfeil, daughter of Francis Zimmern, and lavish-living bankers like Andre Sukjin Lee say the main thing they dread is street crime, long virtually unknown. Lee's town house was broken into recently, and police blamed illegal immigrants from the mainland. "We've been a very safe place," says Von Pfeil. "But what will our police force be like now?"