If China’s leadership studies and respects Hong Kong public opinion on political reform, it will bring prosperity to the people of Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan, and to the Communist Party, and ‘will make everybody truly happy’. So says dissident Bao Tong.
His reading of Hong Kong’s rejection of Beijing’s ‘fake democracy’ model is compelling because he was the right-hand man on political reform for Zhao Ziyang, the Premier banished to life under house arrest after trying to avert the Tiananmen massacre of 1989.
He states that the Legislative Council’s 28-8 rejection of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s August 31 edict was a domestic setback to the Communist Party unprecedented since 1949. His logic here is that the NPCSC decision was, under the PRC constitution, absolutely legal and authoritative; and Legco’s vote, the body being quorate and in accordance with procedure, also has ‘incontrovertible legal effect’.
The NPCSC was overruled. The NPC is a rubber stamp for the politburo leadership, so let’s rephrase that. A bunch of (mostly) popularly elected politicians in Hong Kong overruled the supreme and sole source of power in the one-party state. In accordance with the law. It should not be able to happen. Yet it did.
To Bao, under house arrest and looking on from afar, this is momentous. Are our pro-democrats themselves (or local officials, pro-establishment types and others wrapped up in their Hong Kong-centric world) aware of what they did? Or maybe Bao is cut off and overestimates the impact and unresolvable-ness of the NPC-Legco contradiction.
If it’s the former, we really haven’t heard the last of this. Meanwhile, Apple Daily reports that Liaison Office director Zhang Xiaoming is in for the chop – for what that’s worth.
(A couple of points on the article. 1. Bao refers to an ‘elite … used to being the only show in town’. He means the ruling class in Beijing – now perhaps humiliated in the eyes of their own people after running into the Hong Kong ‘obstacle’. Hong Kong’s own ‘elite’ are dependents. 2. The translation says that under the fake-democracy model, you could vote for ‘Zhang’ but not for ‘Zhang’; this is either a typo or Bao is using two different names (張, 章) both rendered ‘Zhang’.)
“that Liaison Office director Zhang Xiaoming is in for the chop – for what that’s worth…”
What is it worth ? If Apple Daily is correct -fingers crossed- it’s monumental: if the puppet master’s head is off, how much longer can the puppet survive ?
Hemlock just missed the breaking news of the leaked walk-out WhatsApp message, which shows that Jasper was also on the list. Goodbye Impartial Legco President ! Bring out the guillotine while I get my knitting gear.
Short but sweet, Hemlock.
One parallel is when our court of final appeal made a decision (something to do with children born to mainlanders who later became HK citizens) on what any reasonable person would think was internal affairs.
The NPCCCCC or something then decided not only that the CFA was wrong but also, for good measure, as lawyers say, that the CFA had to publicly recant, just like Galileo on the flat-earth theory, and kowtow until told to stop.
So a handful of noisy, coarse, noodle-slurping Southerners, some of them evil foreigners, dare to overrule the Imperial ukase? For the same reason that I thought the vote might pass, the Celestial demigods are duty-bound to react (a point I hoped Hemlock might develop further).
In Chinese culture, which uncannily echoes Dark Ages England, the punishment must be rapid, forceful (“Strike Hard”) and closely fit the crime. It should make the criminal suffer, publicly so, but also remove the possibility of him ever repeating the crime.
Who will rid me of a turbulent Legco? As thorns in the flesh go, it would be easy to think of worse, since the talking shop has virtually no positive power. But with Chinese honour at stake, the Red Dragon must somehow invent a “core interest” — and then burn the evildoers in its midst to a crisp, hang and quarter them, then send the ashes to the bottom of the North China Sea in lead caskets.
So Yok-sing was in on the conspiracy? Although of course there was no conspiracy whatsoever, and even if he did help to mastermind one, nothing in the Basic Law prevents him from lying and cheating, just as nothing in Germany’s constitution banned the concentration camps.
And the oleaginous, slimy, smug Siu-ming is out! My cup runneth over!
PS I’m taking good odds on James Tien being the one who leaked Yok-sing’s possibly indictable behaviour. After all, he’s betrayed the Glorious 1000-Year Fatherland twice before.
I’m not sure if the Exco Three know how to use Whatsapp, but at this stage we should not exclude anyone from the investigation, especially Suck-ye.
Hong Kong’s very own version of ‘The Killing Season’ happening live.. suggested viewing on internal labor party politics from ABC Australia.VPN or bittorrent the three episodes. Recommended viewing for any political pundit…or train crash enthusiasts.
Very nice Hemlock.
Bao Tong, Zhao Ziyang, and the initiator of it all – Hu Yaobang – are m*therfucking dudes and should be celebrated as national heroes. Xi Zhongxun also has a spot on my historical list of CCP leaders who qualify as actual human beings (Peng Dehuai, Liu Shaoqi, a few others also, perhaps Zhu De, and maybe GrandPa Wen). Its a short list lol … re: Daddy Xi – ask me in 2022.
Although I am unsure what degree the elite in Beijing believes itself constrained by law – ultimately the NPC Standing Committee can reinterpret the Basic Law until the cows come home – I do agree with Bao’s overall strategic analysis. The CCP survives and exists by owning the entirety of the system (being the “only game in town” – an approach to politics inherited from the Great Ferry Pilot), and in this sense it is most usefully perceived and analysed as a complete system of political and government authority, instead of as a political party. The magnitude of the consequences of the CCP’s failure to achieve their objectives in HKG using the standard CCP playbook is certainly not lost on strategists in Beijing, and were compounded a hundredfold by the unbelievably embarrassing public cock-up of the Stepford Wives last week (which has wounded deeply, if not mortally, their capability to realistically maintain the “intransigent minority” narrative).
So how does the CCP perceive HKG? What does it see as its core needs and interests vis-a-vis their bolshoi Cantonese compatriots (who happened to bring the last multi-generational political dynasty in China, the Qing, to its end)? In the past we had an affirmative relationship whereby HKG fulfilled an important economic function, channelling investment flows in and out of the PRC. During this period, the interests of Chinese society as a whole, and the interests of the CCP, were tightly aligned in relation to HKG – we brought investment, which brought jobs, technology, and international calibre know-how, sorely lacking after the fall of the Bamboo Curtain, as well as substantial heung-yau and wealth accumulation opportunities for local and national party elites. Now however, we are getting down to the bone of the Hong Kong – CCP relationship ; with no critical economic function left to fulfil, what Hong Kong has to offer – a socioeconomic model that includes rule of law, laissez-faire capitalism, free-flowing information and respect for most human rights, and comparatively accountable, efficient government operation. Forget for a moment that, due to our bastardised 2 systems 1 country non-system, the oligopolistic concentration of wealth and influence has increased here since 97: these qualities are all inimical to the CCP, but certainly not to Chinese society as a whole (if you want to test this analysis – talk to the taxi drivers about politics in Chinese in any major metropolis in China).
Hence we are now viewed by the CCP through the prism of its “extinction” paranoia – i.e. as one of many factors of political risk – which is rooted in the antagonistic relationship that the CCP has with Chinese society as a whole. And our rejection of the CCP as a political force in HKG implicitly suggests to Chinese society that there are alternatives to the CCP’s totalitarianism, which is anathema, the unforgivable seven-generation sin of disloyalty to the Emperor, in the eyes of the leftist old guard of the CCP. And the longer this rejection continues, the greater the risk HKG presents to the continued survival of the CCP, as one of the primary (if not the primary) potential catalysts of political transformation in China.
I expect we will see more muddling through in the short-term, but medium-term to long-term, the outcome of this dynamic is binary: either we come under the direct rule of the CCP after some form of violent instability here (and present a reason for a warmongering West to put China in the crosshairs), or the nature of the political system in China, i.e. the CCP, undergoes some kind of paradigm shift, some kind of fundamental transformation.
Which is it going to be? To a large extent this depends on geopolitical factors, the global economic context, and the CCP’s ability to manage growing societal cleavages and pressures domestically. Factional realpolitik around the Emperor, as always in China, is also a critical factor.
What can we do? Keep our umbrellas handy, make non-violence the centre of our politics, and ensure any political challenge to the attempts of the CCP to modify our sociopolitical system for their own political and ideological benefit is narrowly centred around the demands of Hong Kong citizens for political self-determination (the teenage leaders of the Occupy movement demonstrated insightful awareness of these factors in spades, putting both sides of the pan-dem political spectrum to shame). The economic slowdown in China is causing the CCP’s position to becoming weaker and more desperate: but the PLA still owns all of the guns, tanks, bombs etc.
The reason outright military force hasn’t been used in China since Tiananmen is the CCP elite knows that any more media images of the PLA systematically killing Chinese people for having the temerity to demand political rights is the death knell of the CCP. As long as our own narrative is centred on our demands for authentic political representation (a la the Occupy folks), and avoids directly attacking or focussing on the illegitimacy of the CCP’s totalitarian rule, then we maintain the disincentive for direct military intervention and thereafter Beijing ruling HKG as it does the other metropolises in China.
So in summary, the CCP is trapped between a hardening rock (HKGs burgeoning grass-roots political awareness and intransigence towards Beijing), and a deepening, irresistible force (Chinese society’s growing demands for constitutional governance based on some form of inalienable individual rights, clean and efficient government, accountability, transparency etc).
Is Xi Jinping the man to start a transformation of the CCP and the political system in China? We can but hope that – in this case – the son follows in the footsteps of his father.
Again, I’m in awe. Good stuff.
Bao Tong’s explanation that the decision is considered to be absolutely legal and authoritative explains a report last week, posted here by Tom:
“BEIJING, June 18 (Xinhua) — Chinese top legislature on Thursday said its decision on Hong Kong’s electoral reforms last August will remain in force in the future, despite Hong Kong Legislative Council’s veto of the universal suffrage motion. ”
(Don’t bother clicking, that’s the whole article.)
They’ve got the grumps now.
– But they think they’re making a sober statement of legal fact.
I would like to second the thanks to Biglychee, and also to Monkey Uncensored.
Monkey Uncensored, I hope you won’t mind a small correction. Those bolshoi Cantonese dancing into Legco are bad enough. Even worse if they’re bolshie.
MU, You surpass yourself! Not only an acute, wide-ranging analysis of how we got here — even a Richard Wong can do that on a microcosmic theme, especially if he throws in “colonial” often enough — but above all, and this is the part other commentators often don’t reach, a prognosis-cum-recommended treatment.
If I may take it on myself to attempt to (rather clumsily) extract the core of your advice. Needle Peking as much as we wish but avoid frontal confrontation, to avoid any pretext, in international eyes, for deploying the tanks and bullets. Even if the regime survives, its glory days may be numbered; the whole world is watching us; so HK’s hand can only grow stronger with time, if only as a model for the rest of the country to emulate, as the CP’s power withers slowly away, unless it transforms itself.
@ Monkey Uncensored
Golly, what a thorough post. Excellent read.
It’s a good point that Bao Tong, and you, make. In effect: the post-colonial smudges in China can still throw middle fingers to Peking. (Patten… what are the odds he watched last week’s vote and and smirked: “I did that.”)
To be added to the list of sensible Chinese, Deng Xiao-ping?
A shame Deng died in February 97, before the clusterfuck of Tung Chee-hwa and post-handover Hong Kong children playing at grown ups. If Deng had survived longer surely he would have reined in Tung and Article 23 and upheld a proper one country-two systems solution for Hong Kong. We would all be much better off with Deng’s kind of grown-up leadership.
The Yok-sing Integrity Massacre Scandal still has some puff left in it (heavy-handed hint to Hemlock).
Information provided by http://www.ejinsight.com/20150625-jasper-tsang-behind-scenes-role-exposed/ implies that:
1. he has been offering online security advice only to selected members of Legco
2. he has libelled Albert Chan
3. he attempted to manipulate Legco proceedings so as to get the “reform” package passed by advising loyalists on tactics and the all-important timing
4. his attempt to manipulate the debate in Legco actively contributed to the failed walkout fiasco.
I first smelled a fish when he refused to allow the vote to proceed, while Uncle Fat was being awaited: the vote eventually took place a few minutes late only after he was repeatedly reminded by Legco members to carry out his duty.
In sum, all his sanctimonious, pedantic discussion of the rules of procedure, the Basic Law, etc was a fraud. Surely he must go?
An impressive post and analysis. Thank you.
One niggle: The “warmongering West” doesn’t give a shit about Hong Kong. Nothing that might happen here would cause it to put China in the crosshairs.
Nice. Today, Everybody in cloud cuckoo land sounds happy, at last…
Though Xinhua/CD reported (and Tsang Yok-sing announced) that the motion had been vetoed, I don’t think that’s accurate.
The motion was defeated.
A veto is something that prevents something else that would under normal majority rules have passed, from becoming effective. But that didn’t happen here. The motion was very simply defeated by a majority of those present and voting.
It didn’t get to the point of being qualified to be passed (majority support) even without a qualified supermajority, let alone be ‘vetoed’.
@ all – thanks for the positive feedback.
@ Knownot – thanks for the spelling correction, made me laugh.
@ PD – more or less, I would note though that the CCP, although somewhat attentive to international media, is much more sensitive to the tone of public opinion in the mainland. For example, your typical Han Chinese would support a CCP crackdown here in the event of a real mass independence movement, or outright insurrection against the Chinese party-state. Of course, if we do ever get to that state of affairs, its heads Chinese society wins, tails the CCP loses … but it would also probably be the end of Hong Kong as the cosmopolitan and pluralistic place that we know and love.
The key dynamic is growing misalignment between the CCP’s architecture and organisational culture vis-a-vis Chinese society’s growing demands for political accountability, constitutionalism, pluralism. And yes, in my opinion the longer the CCP puts off domestic political reform the weaker and weaker its position is going to become in relation to its own citizens, especially the industrial working and middle class along the east coast, as well as in relation to the HKG polis.
@ Scotty Dotty – Deng doesn’t make my list because he pulled the trigger on Tiananmen. For me the decision to take a human life is a grave one, and (in my opinion) can only be justified in very few circumstances, such as saving more lives. Taking the lives of your own citizens, because you and your homeboy crew believes that to do otherwise would threaten your political domination of others – all of that lot, Deng, Lu, Jiang, Bo the elder, all get disqualified from the human being list automatically as a result of Tiananmen (in the interests of fairness, I don’t think many US/UK politicians in the last 50 years would make the list either). Wen Jiabao gets a point for backing up Zhao Ziyang, even though he was relatively small fry at the time (http://www.theage.com.au/ffximage/2006/03/31/zhao_wideweb__470x279,2.jpg). Xi Zhongxun gets major points because he argued against the crackdown, even though he knew to do so was the end of his political career (and he was sidelined from high-level discussions thereafter). Demonstrable integrity to humanist values is the sole criteria for my human being list lol.
@ PCC – yes I agree the “warmongering West” doesn’t give a shit about much, apart from its own global corporatist agenda. However, I do believe a major fracas in Hong Kong would be (accurately) perceived by Western elites as an opportunity to weaken China, and give a good reason (or excuse, depending on your perspective) to further “pivot” its military forces to East Asia / Southeast Asia. The US and its allies (or proxies, again depending on your perspective) appear to be on the road to establishing and controlling a unified global political economy – cf. TPP, TTIP, TISA, as well as the US driven fragmentation of the Middle-East (will eat my tie if we fail to see the establishment of a US-allied Kurdistan and US boots on the ground in Syria before the end of 2016, if not before). Although the current “uber” enemy of today is Mr. Putin and mother Russia, ultimately the US global corporatist strategy places it on a collision course with China (and the other BRICS nations), with the geopolitical points of conflict risk already well-known: North Korean stability (conflict with Korea), Diaoyu (conflict with Japan), South China Sea (conflict with Vietnam, Philippines). Apart from Vietnam, all countries have defence treaties with the US.
I am not saying that PRC military intervention in HKG would directly lead to US-China conflict, but it would certainly give the West a golden PR/media opportunity to demonise China (evacuating citizens, companies closing, dead civilians etc) in case the US did wish to start a proxy war elsewhere in Asia.