That ugly popping noise coming down from Kennedy Road yesterday afternoon was the sound of blood vessels bursting at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs office. Andy Chan’s remarks (also here, pix here) at the Foreign Correspondents Club didn’t cover a lot of ground – he just zeroed in on the most hyper-sensitive heresy imaginable, repeatedly.
Essentially: “China is an empire and threat to the world, and Hong Kong is a colony that can only preserve its freedoms and culture as an independent nation”.
Contrast this with the principles long-espoused by the older traditional pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong: “We are all Chinese, and we would like the Communist Party to keep its promises to give Hong Kong democracy, please – otherwise we will whine about arcane constitutional points and hold a march, again”. On icky subjects like CCP elites’ corrupt families, or Tibet or Xinjiang, they were mostly mute. For decades, this was the voice of firebrand opposition, which Beijing has always treated with contempt.
Andy Chan’s position, including that of race-traitor, is so extreme, you can almost sympathize with Chinese officials’ fury at the FCC for giving it a platform. The pro-independence idea has previously been largely hidden away – the preserve of teenage fantasists. It would have stayed hidden away if Beijing hadn’t insisted the local authorities make a big deal about banning Chan’s barely-existent HK National Party. (We could debate whether this is a screw-up or calculated. We could also speculate that discontent would never have arisen if China had ruled Hong Kong halfway decently since the handover in 1997 – it’s not as if the British regime was a really hard act to follow. But that’s another story.)
The key thing is that Andy Chan’s shocking and outré stance is also hard-headed and logical. His analysis is sound. The Communist one-party monopoly-of-power dictatorship will not give Hong Kong representative government, because by definition it cannot; and it will destroy Hong Kong’s freedoms and distinct identity, because as a Leninist system that only knows control through force, it must.
This reasoning – ‘unacceptable’, ‘crossing a red line’ and ‘threatening national security’ – is based on what many will see as fact and truth. By exposing this so publicly, Chan humiliates not only Beijing but our lame moderate pan-dems who wouldn’t dare be so honest. There is a real chance that all this might make the pro-independence logic more mainstream.
There will be retribution. The FCC wins the ultimate accolades of hurting the feelings of the Chinese people and getting its website hacked. The Hong Kong government will look increasingly hapless as it pretends to be in charge and all remains well. The banning of groups and ideas will proceed, and censorship of seditious thoughts will inevitably follow, and so on. Beijing will prove Andy Chan right.