Beijing Seeks New Formula to Try to Mollify Hong Kong
Former chief executives seek to rally demoralized pro-Beijing forces
After furious caterwauling last week by the Hong Kong & Macao Affairs and Liaison Offices over their right to boss the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, CH Tung and CY Leung (above, singing patriotically), both failed former one-term Hong Kong chief executives, birthed another patriotic front – Unite Hong Kong – to “solve pressing problems” as General Secretary Xi Jinping’s enforcers continued to leap, shriek, circle, and stomp in operatic outrage.
Tung and Leung deny their new alliance is to shore up the pro-Beijing candidates facing September elections to the Legislative Council (LegCo). They hope to recruit 1,000 “heavyweights” from corporations and the professions, to “address livelihood issues like unemployment, and to distribute facemasks.” They believe such largesse will unite Hong Kong to live happily with Beijing ever after.
After voter rejection of the Beijing proxies in last November’s district council polls – where 17 out of 18 councils flipped to the pan-democrats – the loyalists in LegCo are spooked. None of them seek endorsement from Carrie Lam, the current chief executive. She is a political liability, cry the faithful. Beijing agrees. Lam is tied to the stake as the lightning rod to absorb the people’s wrath, while the patriots scheme.
Basic Law trashed
The Basic Law is the mini-constitution that guaranteed the city a “high degree of autonomy” to manage its own affairs, other than foreign relations and defense, for 50 years after the handover till 2047. That was the pledge to Hong Kong residents who were not consulted on the midnight switch of rulers. After all, they were being liberated from colonialism! China didn’t see why they deserved a say in their fate.
After dodging the promise of universal suffrage for 17 years to elect the chief executive and legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress imposed new conditions in 2014. The CE candidates will be pre-vetted by a Beijing appointed committee. That betrayal triggered the ‘Umbrella Revolution” which politicized students to occupy Central for 79 days – with no resolution.
It is that generation half-a-decade later in 2019, on the back of mass protests ignited by the Extradition Amendment Bill – which would have transferred Hongkongers accused of anti-national crimes for trial on the mainland – that morphed to fringe acts of violence against the police, and targeted arson on the streets. “You taught us that peaceful protest does not work” was the raison d'être.
More than 7,000 youth have been arrested, many carrying their ‘last will’ in their backpacks, in case they are shot and killed. This city has never seen anything like it in 150 years of colonial rule. Hong Kong residents were well known to be apolitical. Students studied to secure a good future. The Judas-embrace of an untrustworthy police-state has created a rejectionist generation of youth.
Blame the property developers
The Marxist-Leninist study groups formed to comprehend the persistent anger on the streets of eight months uncovered the root of the problem: the conflict between the land-owning class and an economically dispossessed underclass! That was how Mao directed the seething resentment of peasants against traders, industrialists, and the landed gentry of China, for the revolution. They wreaked havoc in towns and cities in an orgy of bloodletting and landgrab, in the early 1950s.
So the Liaison Office advanced the idea that housing unaffordability was the primary cause of youth alienation and protest. And Hong Kong property developers are to blame. That ploy to divert youth anger failed. Housing is a perennial community burden because of the government’s dependence on land premiums for its revenues. About 60 percent of the end-cost of property is due to that. Housing, however, was never on the list of demands of the protesting youth in 2014 or 2019.
Party analysts trapped in their police-state bubble and propaganda cannot figure that freedom to think, debate, read, write, challenge authority, and live without fear of state-kidnap, are values Hong Kong holds dear and will defend to the death. An omnipotent one-party state of suffocating propaganda and brutal suppression of dissent over 70 years has normalized terror. Hong Kong rejects that viscerally.
The youth protestors did not, like the witless Red Guards of Mao, march on the property developers or vandalize their offices. They are far more intelligent, aware and strategic. They know where the evil emanates from and who the collaborators are for the New Order. Hong Kong police and immigration take direction from the Chinese Security Bureau. That explains how HK booksellers of party leaders’ gossip could disappear and reappear on mainland TV to confess to imaginary crimes.
One Country, Two Systems mantra
This mantra is touted as the unique formula devised for Hong Kong. That is an untruth. The 1C2S model was first laid out as the “Seventeen-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” which was foisted on the invaded country in 1951. It is almost literally repeated in the Hong Kong blueprint. Deng Xiaoping was the political commissar of the South-West Region then.
The CCP in 1951 intended this framework for the regions it annexed, Tibet and Xinjiang, plus those it would take possession of, like Hong Kong and Taiwan. The formula failed miserably in both Tibet and Xinjiang, which are under PLA lockdown. It is failing in Hong Kong. Taiwan repudiates it as totally fake.
Can the youth activists unite?
The youth activists after 2014, rejected the 1997 consensus of the elder democrats who believed in working for change within the system. The youth reject the entire political system as unjust and deceitful. Their abundant energy and rush of ideas spawn autonomous splinter groups competing to be heard. They lack experience and are immature in the quest for a political voice.
Adult direction from jailed former law professor Benny Tai, to focus on winning seats by sinking differences and subordinating egos for a united, strategic approach to nominations, prevailed for the district council polls. The results exceeded the wildest hopes of the youth groups. Hopefully, they will see the sense in productive coordination. The pro-Beijing forces are formidably financed and organized.
Will Beijing pull the LegCo polls?
The CCP hates elections it cannot pre-determine. The rout at the district councils caused Gen-Sec Xi to shunt the Liaison Office and parachute his own men. Another loss of face at the more important LegCo polls would be unthinkable. Passing the national security Article 23 law urgently would enable clamping a lid on criticism and protests. Meanwhile, arrests of young and old democratic activists continue.
If Hong Kong is not sufficiently frightened by 7,000 youth detained and peaceful protest leaders arrested, and the community remains defiant, an emergency could be declared and martial law imposed. The LegCo elections can be canceled and more leaders arrested without regard to legal niceties. Beijing does not care what liberals in the West think anymore. It is a Superbrat on its own terms.