The recent Hong Kong-led incursion into the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands has highlighted a contradiction: some of the patriotic activists who planted the Chinese flag on the rocks frequently gather outside Beijing’s representative office in the Big Lychee to burn the same banner and call for the Communist regime’s downfall. This obviously puts the Chinese government in an awkward position. Sworn enemies of the one-party state – people probably barred from travelling to the Mainland – are promoting a cause the Chinese government exploits to garner public support for itself.
As today’s Wall Street Journal notes, the Hong Kong activists are attracting support and offers of donations among the Chinese population, thanks to approving coverage in the Mainland media. But we can be sure this coverage does not mention that these Hong Kong compatriots oppose the state. To protestors like Tsang ‘Bull’ Kin-shing, the Diaoyu Islands rank among a long list of anti-Communist Party causes. They oppose the one-party regime because it denies democracy, imprisons dissidents – and, in allowing the Japanese to get away with continued control of this piece of territory, fails to protect the Chinese nation.
(This raises an interesting question: why did anti-CCP activists carry the five-star red flag onto the islands? The reason is that the opposition, to the extent it can be called that, lacks its own symbols. The ‘white sun’ Republic of China flag (carried by the task force’s Taiwanese member) is associated with the Kuomintang and the more conservative wing of Taiwan politics. The amazingly cool imperial banner represents the corrupt and barbarian old Qing Dynasty. So they fly the red flag when they want it to represent the nation or people, and burn it when they want it to represent the state or party.)
If Beijing had firmer control over Mainlanders’ emotions and media access, it might be tempted to hush the Hong Kong expedition up. But instead Chinese officialdom has to join in and hail these guys as heroes. The theoretical risk is that Mainlanders who research hard enough will find out more about these Hong Kong activists’ other opinions and causes. The heroes want to pull the party down.
In practice, most Mainlanders will probably not know, or even much care, about some eccentric Hongkongers’ muddled political ideas. But the contradiction is very obvious here in the Big Lychee itself. Today’s China Daily (HK) tries to resolve it, and predictably ends up smothering the uncomfortable truths with platitudes.
The writer cheerfully suggests that the ‘protect Diaoyu’ activists’ “sense of national identity and of obligation to the nation is too evident to deny,” before admitting that “Hong Kong is a society with a complex political eco-system, where it is very difficult to reach common understanding … for example … over the country’s political system and the nature of some historical events.” The answer to the conundrum, the reader is thrilled and delighted to discover, is National Education.
The weekend is hereby declared open with a tribute (highlighted by Paul Zimmerman) to Hong Kong’s status as a city without ground, complete with brilliant three-dimensional maps, for people who like that kind of thing.