The End of One Country, Two Systems in Hong Kong
Police arrest some of the territory’s most respected leaders
Hiding behind the Coronavirus crisis, General-Secretary Xi Jinping has switched to more muscular intimidation of Hong Kong. On April 18, police arrested high-profile symbols of the territory’s dogged defiance: Martin Lee, QC, and co-founder of the Democratic Party; Margaret Ng, former legal sector lawmaker; labor leader and former legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, and Jimmy Lai of Apple Daily.
This wave of arrests totaled 15 including many of the territory’s most respected leaders and it is in line with a global movement of anti-democratic leaders using Covid-19 to take the world’s minds off their actions. The police have a long list of many more activists to arrest and charge for roles in the mass protests of 2014 and 2019. This is only the beginning of the rule by law, mainland-style.
Enforcers from central casting
Xi’s handpicked apparatchiks Luo Huining and Xia Baolong are the pair steering the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agenda in the territory. They were plucked from retirement sinecures for the job. Luo is a colorless but faithful enforcer with little ambition, who dutifully executed all his assignments in remote provinces. Xia is a vigorous boot polisher who declares his – and for good measure, the nation’s – eternal gratitude for General-Secretary Xi’s wise guidance.
Xia gained international notoriety as the cross-slasher of Wenzhou where he destroyed hundreds of churches, toppling crosses, and forcing Christians to replace images of Jesus Christ in their homes with pictures of General-Secretary Xi. The vengeful heroics followed Xi’s 2013 visit when he remarked there were too many crosses and excessive “Western” influence. Xia wasted no time to rectify the situation.
Filibustering incurs CCP wrath
The Hong Kong & Macao Affairs Office, Liaison Office, and the Foreign Ministry representative issued coordinated statements asserting the central government’s right to warn dissenters and supervise legislative matters in Hong Kong. Chief Executive Carrie Lam squawked the party line in CCP-speak. No one expected the madam to do otherwise.
The House Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) is chaired by a democrat whom they accuse of filibustering bills the CCP wants to be passed into law – especially a measure making it an offense to insult the Chinese National Anthem. Boisterous spectators had mooned the national anthem at soccer stadiums. That hurt the feelings of the 1.4 billion patriots on the other side. The bill was laughed into obscurity by the general public.
Article 22 of the Basic Law states unequivocally that offices set up in Hong Kong by the central government cannot interfere with the affairs Hong Kong administers on its own. That is another inconvenience the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress will no doubt change, as they did in 2014 for the provisions to elect the chief executive, which sparked the Umbrella Revolution and student sit-in of 79 days. The Basic Law sold to Hong Kong as a 50-year guarantee of autonomy looks increasingly like kindergarten play putty.
November rout triggers urgency
After months of youth street protests, intermittently shutting down the MTR and causing widespread inconvenience to residents, the November 2019 district council elections were confidently predicted by the Liaison Office as the opportunity for the “silent majority” of Hong Kong to express its disapproval through the ballot box.
The district councils were dominated by the CCP proxy the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment & Progress of HK (DAB). To everyone’s astonishment, the DAB was booted out of 17 of the 18 district councils. Such a sharp public ass-kick left the Liaison Office looking silly again after its bad advice on the Extradition Amendment Bill, which brought millions out on the streets. Beijing decided to drop the clueless Liaison Office wallahs to intervene directly. Hence the parachuting of Luo and Xia to fix the Hong Kong problem.
How to cancel the September Legco Elections?
Given the unmistakably defiant groundswell of public feeling, the forthcoming LegCo elections could be an unmitigated disaster for the CCP. The DAB could be shredded, leaving the pan-democrats in a blocking position in the legislature. The CCP would be unable to explain such a rejection to itself, and to its corralled audience across the border. The September elections have to be canceled. How?
Political analysts warn that the police-state tactics used to arrest over 7,000 youth protestors, followed by the recent arrests of Hong Kong’s respected icons of democracy –
with more in the pipeline – are calculated to infuriate the youth and to provoke more violent challenges to authority.
An emergency can be declared to contain this “threat to national security,” necessitating the cancellation of the September elections and imposition of direct central rule. The menacing bishops are in place on the chessboard. Checkmate. Neat. It is a trap the more hot-headed Hong Kong youth could easily fall into. Will cooler heads prevail?
For the CCP, the passage of the National Security Law (Article 23) is of paramount importance. After that, all freedoms of press, assembly, and dissent that Hong Kong citizens take for granted can be abridged, and individuals charged and detained as on the mainland. That would be the nightmare of the handover finally come true, 28 years in advance.
Liberation myth of 1997
The CCP is miffed that after “liberating Hong Kong compatriots from 150 years of shame,” they remain ungrateful and defiant 22 years after the handover. The liberation myth led everyone across the border to believe Hong Kong residents thronged the streets with euphoric cheering and garlands of flowers for the PLA soldiers trucked in on the dawn of 1st July 1997.
Indeed, the otherwise magnificent Contemporary Art Museum in Shenzhen houses a huge painting of the liberation fantasy in full fake patriotic glory. The real handover was completed in a pouring rainstorm that lasted for two days, heavy with foreboding and anxiety for those who remained.
So yes, the annual June 4th Tiananmen Commemoration, the July 1st candlelight vigil of regret, and the youth street protests against the betrayal of the Basic Law can all be declared illegal and threats to national security. The doomsayers of 1997 could be proven prophetic after all. The CCP cannot allow Hong Kong to enjoy freedoms it dares not grant its own citizens 70 years after their liberation from class enemies into the Maoist paradise.