This HKFP article concludes with an interesting question: will, or when will, the Chinese Communist Party operate openly in Hong Kong?
The Hong Kong government virtually never mentions the phrase ‘Communist Party’. And the rising use of nationalistic symbolism in town (flag-raising, national anthem, national education, etc) looks deliberately secular – focusing on the state and omitting the CCP-church. We are a long way from having the CCP out itself on this side of the border.
The main demand for this radical step comes from local pro-Beijing quasi-politicians and apologists, typically under the DAB/FTU (CCP front) umbrellas. Despite help from Beijing’s local Liaison Office, rigged elections and shoe-shining media, they are tragically unhip and easy to mock. With the might of the CCP visible behind them, no bully would dare kick sand in their faces again. We would have to take them seriously.
However, it is hard to see the CCP operating openly in an even slightly pluralistic environment. It could not handle the humiliation of losing in a District Council election or otherwise competing as an equal with rival groups or ideologies. It would only materialize as a party people can join or vote for when all other opposition groupings are banned or reduced to Mainland-style ‘democratic’ stooges. The CCP cannot even tolerate losing a debate or being publicly criticized, so this scenario presumes a fully censored media and Internet as well. It is a Leninist organization: all it knows is control, and monopoly of power.
Keeping the CCP underground here should suit Beijing, anyway. Xi Jinping is sealing the Mainland off from evil foreign hostile ideas and forces, while projecting CCP influence overseas via United Front and other activities. Hong Kong is a unique environment, where Western influences are projected into a small and distinct part of the Motherland. The local population are still too brainwashed by colonial oppressors to accept Marxist and Maoist truth. And the city is a place where patriotic or co-opted Chinese businessmen are accepted and indeed prominent in international circles. The foreign businesses are eager for deals, and ripe for being suckered into ‘win-win cooperation’. It would be counter-productive to creep them out with hammer-and-sickle posters in the boardroom.
That assumes Beijing’s leadership is rational. A regime that (for example) holds Canadians hostage might be insecure and stupid enough to let the CCP blunder onto the local stage, like setting up campus branches or overtly guiding listed companies. It is almost tempting to hope that it does.