Like the rest of the world, Chinese Australians have watched this month's protests in Hong Kong with admiration tinged by pessimism.
"Friends in business have been seeing this coming for a long time," says Jocelyn Chey, Australia's consul-general in Hong Kong just before British handover to China in 1997 and now a visiting professor at the University of Sydney.
"They are gloomy, writing it off, seeing it becoming like Shanghai."
This week's backdown by the territory's Beijing-approved chief executive, Carrie Lam, has at least alleviated fears that Hong Kong was heading for a Tiananmen-style crackdown by the People's Liberation Army forces, which have been stationed in the former British garrison since the handover. During the massive demonstrations, the PLA held well-publicised exercises in dealing with civil unrest.
Lam says the contentious bill to allow extradition to mainland China is now "dead" and concedes that the Hong Kong government's handling of the issue has been a "complete failure."
But she has repeatedly refused to formally withdraw the bill, and has rejected calls for an independent inquiry into the protests and the police response.
Nor does Lam show any signs of acceding to demands for her own resignation, just two years into her five-year term. But she has failed to deliver for Beijing, which sees Hong Kong as a haven for fugitives and critics, and she has also lost whatever confidence she had among the public. Installed in 2017 by a panel vetted for "patriotic spirit" by Beijing, she is essentially there at the Chinese leadership's pleasure.
Just 22 years into the "one country, two systems" agreement, Hong Kong's autonomy is under severe strain. A key provision of the Sino-British transfer - that serious consideration be given to using a universal franchise to electing the chief executive from 2017 - was pushed aside. Chinese police have covertly snatched a critical publisher and a fugitive businessman from the territory.
Hong Kong is now grouped in a "Greater Bay Area" with nearby mainland industrial zones and the former Portuguese territory Macau. Authorities in Guangdong province say that the controversial "social credit" system, which uses facial-recognition technology to penalise citizens for infractions like late payment of bills or jaywalking, will be introduced in Hong Kong within three years.
All this is adding to perceptions that Hong Kong is at a turning point.
Not surprisingly, enquiries about emigration have reportedly jumped. A tipping point might well arrive when residents liquidate their assets while property prices are sky-high and move their money, and themselves, offshore.
The protesters' demand for democratic elections is unlikely to appeal to China's authoritarian president Xi Jinping, who has expanded mass surveillance systems, enforced ideological orthodoxy, and attempted to deculture the entire Uighur population of Xinjiang. Yet he might consider how far the recent extradition exercise in Hong Kong has got Beijing.
Not only is the US Congress discussing targeted sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials, but Taiwan is even less likely to be brought into the Chinese fold through a similar one country, two systems deal. In fact, Taiwan is playing up the Hong Kong crisis for all it's worth.
"These two outposts of democracy share the same values, and our paths and destinies are closely linked," says foreign minister Joseph Wu. "We both stand on the front line against the expansion of authoritarianism."
In Australia, the assumptions behind Canberra's embrace of "one China" are weakening.
The mainland and the island are not converging. The People's Republic is growing ever more totalitarian. Taiwan, a democracy heading for its seventh directly contested presidential elections, is the most socially liberal place in the Chinese world.
About 281,000 Australian residents - roughly a third of the Chinese-Australian community - speak Cantonese, the language of the region that takes in Hong Kong. The newspaper that most appeals to them, the local edition of the Sing Tao Daily, has been giving full and generally balanced reports on the protests.
While certain security hawks have questioned the loyalty of Chinese Australians, a remarkable aspect of the may federal election was the contest in Chisholm between a Hong Kong-born Liberal, Gladys Liu, and a Taiwan-born Labor candidate, Jennifer Yang. Relations with China figured not at all, with most attention going to issues like negative gearing and franking credits.
Liu emerged the winner. In a statement on Facebook this month she implicitly contradicted Beijing's depiction of the protests as riots.
"I am one of the many people who have been moved by the recent protest action in Hong Kong," she said.
"The significant number of people who have taken to the streets to voice their concerns demonstrates to the world the kind of passion and commitment that the people of Hong Kong have for the future of their city."
- Hamish McDonald is a former foreign editor and China correspondent of The Sydney Morning Herald, and former regional editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review.
- This article is published in partnership with Inside Story.