We last heard of Professor Zhang Qianfan a month ago, after Mainland censors ‘disappeared’ his textbook on constitutional law as Western Threat of the Week. He now appears in Hong Kong, suggesting that Beijing’s tightening control over the city is a cause of the separatism and other discontent it is supposed to crush.
This is not exactly news to most of us. It is pretty obvious that if Beijing had allowed Hong Kong more representative or at least responsive government since 1997, the local population would today be happier and, quite possibly, have far more respect for the central authorities.
But Leninists do not do ‘hearts and minds’. If they knew how to be popular they would, after all, be democrats. They assume everyone hates them, and so their toolkit consists solely of co-option, coercion, intimidation and brute force. Hence Beijing’s Hong Kong strategy of cronyism, increasing authoritarianism, population displacement and cultural absorption, and an administration of inept but totally obedient bureaucrats.
Professor Zhang seems to share with our local mainstream pro-democrats a sunny and optimistic view that the Chinese Communist Party can come round to realizing the advantages of a system where government power is limited and subject to the law and ultimately the will of the people. This supposes that China’s princeling and state-capitalist elites will perceive the benefits and joy of giving up their vast and tightly held privileges and monopolies.
In the spirit of sunny optimism, maybe the fact that the Professor is here and saying this – they only disappeared his book, after all – is a glimmer of hope. No doubt Hong Kong officials, businessmen, pro-establishment academics and Beijing-friendly shoe-shiners of all sorts will now come forward to agree with his modest point that the CCP’s heavy handed tactics are a turn-off to local people, and thus counterproductive. Stand aside for the rush.