Andy Chan of the Hong Kong National Party will appear at the Foreign Correspondents Club in a couple of weeks to share his subversive thoughts on the possible future for Hong Kong as a nation.
Guaranteed to go down like a cup of cold sick among China’s locally based emissaries! Will Chief Executive Carrie Lam resign her honorary membership of the club in fake outrage? Will the cops turn up and point cameras at attendees? Expect some awkward mumbling of discontent from Government House at the very least.
This thread by the Financial Times correspondent argues that Beijing’s obsession with crushing fringe Hong Kong groups is not an exaggerated gesture but a sign of genuine fear. From the Communist Party’s point of view, the democratic values of Hong Kong and Taiwan pose a real threat of toxic ‘peaceful evolution’ that will undermine one-party rule.
Hong Kong’s mainstream pan-democrats and much of the moderate establishment instinctively resist this idea. This is partly because it is more comforting to assume that Beijing is pragmatic and sensible rather than paranoid and irrational. But it’s also because the alternative is too scary to contemplate.
That alternative is that a free and pluralistic society in Hong Kong is simply not compatible with CCP dictatorship. That means the ‘One Country, Two Systems’/‘high degree of autonomy’ formula is a fallacy (in case you didn’t notice Chinese officials pointedly modifying the slogans’ meanings in recent years). It naturally means you can forget about representative government (assuming you haven’t yet).
It also means the idea of a ‘Hong Kong government’ is a fiction. This is already obvious in Beijing’s choice of mediocrities to head the local administration. Check them out. When they discuss the difficulties of rationalizing road-tunnel tolls or finding land for affordable housing, Carrie Lam and her colleagues blather about not being able to find a consensus – they are smug and contemptuous. When it comes to an issue like the HKNP, the tone is totally different. They are stiff, their expressions and phrasing pained. They are afraid. Carrie knows what she is doing is evil, yet she knows she has to do it.
It’s understandable that polite Hong Kong society wants to look away. If a tiny localist group freaks out the CCP, what else will Xi & Co have to crush and eliminate in order to ‘control’ the city sufficiently to set their paranoid hearts at ease? Judicial independence is certainly out, as is press freedom, and then schools, churches and so on. A rough and ready gauge: only when crooks can profit from producing toxic milk powder and kids’ vaccines here will the CCP feel safe. Andy Chan is right – Hong Kong’s only way to keep its freedom is independence.
And then (to take the thread’s starting point), there’s the big global picture. If Beijing can’t distinguish a bunch of smart-ass kids in Hong Kong from a ‘threat to national security’, how is it going to behave in its relations with other governments and international players in future?