Beijing plays it tactful

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office’s statement (text here if you’re bored) and press conference represent Beijing’s measured response to the 2019 opposition movement in Hong Kong. It describes a small but annoying challenge by foreign-influenced radicals. There is little or no role for any ‘hearts and minds’ stuff – just firmer law-enforcement.

The spokesmen emphasized Beijing’s strong support specifically for the police (and, tellingly, their families, though not so much for the local government in general). This gives the cops a green light to ramp up their efforts in suppressing protests and ‘punishing criminals’ by force.

It also looks like a co-opting of the police into the pro-Beijing camp/United Front sphere. In other words, when it comes to dealing with political opposition, the HK Police will now – along with New Territories triad bosses – come under Liaison Office control.

This points to more ID checks, harassment of kids, intimidation, surveillance, tolerance of thug-on-activist assaults, vindictive raids and arrests – as well as tear gas (if there’s any left), rubber bullets, water cannon and other big tough-guy stuff. The Liaison Office will also require the public prosecutions officials, and ultimately the courts, to play along in implementing a more authoritarian regime.

Will this work, or will it provoke a greater backlash from the populace?

Some of our ‘various sectors’ will kowtow. The American Chamber of Commerce has chosen this time to call for an independent inquiry into the causes of Hong Kong’s unrest. This key opposition demand is actually a challenge to China’s sovereignty (in the CCP’s worldview), as it would expose things like the Liaison Office-triads-police links. Expect AmCham to shut up about an inquiry pretty quickly.

Other parts of the community are more likely to resist. Every teenager who gets bullied by the police means another alienated family. There are signs of dissatisfaction among civil servants, transport workers and even elite athletes. If (say) air traffic controllers all call in sick, or bus drivers block tunnels, the city comes to a halt.

The question is, can the CCP – using all its subtlety and charm – fine-tune the thuggish Leninist rule-by-fear methods that work so well in the Mainland to be effective in a prosperous, free and pluralist society?

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16 Responses to Beijing plays it tactful

  1. Hong Kong Hibernian says:

    (sigh) We waited decades for the “Former Colonies Now Treated as Colonies Office” to make a statement, and all we get is that rubbish ?

    The fact that Han Zheng, the seventh-ranking Politburo Standing Committee member, was sent to Shenzhen “to take command” while communicating with Hong Kong’s “top leaders”, (assuming that the paranoid nationalists found any), must mean that the first through sixth ranking members were too busy getting their hair dyed before the big Summer Funfest in Beidaihe.

    Will Curry Lamb be invited to any of those events ? Her poisonous presence would be wonderful to watch! Imagine her moving from clique to clique trying desperately to find a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, being met with cold crocodile smiles. Lovely.

    Meanwhile, the various thug movements, (HK PoPo Force, Triads, etc.), hold their own version of the communist lovefest in Yuen Long:

  2. Guest says:

    The pro-Beijing camp despises foreign influence–except for the police tactics imported from the West.

  3. Stanley Lieber says:

    I’m 100% behind the protest movement.

    However, inconveniencing the public on their way to work by closing down MTR lines is a stupid and counter-productive tactic that is sure to annoy fence sitters.

    Gathering large crowds outside CH Tung’s colonial-era office bungalow in Kennedy Road, or holding serial protests outside the palatial mansions where the useless, overpaid top officeholders live, would be far more effective.

  4. The third of China’s suggestions – played up by Starry Lee after the press conference – was “to move out of political gridlock to focus on development and livelihood issues instead”. We have heard variations on this theme every time the government wants to shift the public’s focus away from its political failings, but does anyone really believe it any more? Any serious action to improve people’s livelihoods would require challenging the vested interests of the property developers, the retail cartels, the tourism industry, and the Heung Yee Kuk. Since China has co-opted all these groups into the United Front, it’s not going to happen – and most people know that.

  5. The Profit Margin or Outlaws of the MTR says:

    @Stanley Lieber
    Frankly, at this juncture, any fence sitters can be safely said to have already sided with the Communist Party.

    To quote Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

    Bothering overpaid top officials is very tempting, but I think it will just mean they use even more public money to get around it: helicoptering in and out, using boats etc.

    A repeated kicking in the tycoons will have them hurting far more — employees traipsing in an hour late every week with a solid excuse and house prices plummeting will soon have them whingeing, and then maybe the overpaid top officials are suddenly blackballed at the club, the use of Mr X’s yacht in the Azores this summer is rescinded, and that cushy finance job for their spouse’s idiot nephew disappears… can’t helicopter around that.

    Worse still, the populace might all switch to the buses and then the police will have to hand out parking tickets and impound all the bosses’ Alphatards in central to keep the traffic going.

  6. Reactor #4 says:

    “…….in a prosperous, free and pluralist society?”

    Exactly. So why the hell are they protesting? It’s nuts. If you take all of the societies in the world, HK would easily be in the top 15-20. Nowhere is perfect; HK, is pretty good. If it was that rubbish, why are many of the readers of this column still living here? Is it possible that it is still better than back home/elsewhere? The situation sort of links to Marie-Antoinette’s “…let them eat cake” missive. Figuratively speaking, HK’s protesters now demand cake for every meal they will ever have. Spoiled, limp, bathtubs. In my opinion, having grown up in the north of England in the late 60s and 70s, they would all benefit from a right good smack on their lower legs.

  7. steve says:

    Reactor #4: Thanks for the “Hong Kong, Love It or Leave It” satire, salted with just a smidge of you-kids-get-off-my-lawn physical violence. Unfortunately, it’s as flatlined as the Lam administration.

  8. Cassowary says:

    You have a nice house. One day, the bank tells you that they reserve the right to evict you on almost any pretext, seize your assets, and send you to debtor’s prison where you may be tortured for shits and giggles, and your response is “There’s nothing to complain about because my house is still very nice”? Some logic you got there.

    Incidentally, I now get to tick off the “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave” and the “Kids these days are spoiled, in my day, I had to walk to school uphill both ways barefoot in the snow!” boxes on my bingo sheet. Thanks.

  9. Reactor #4 says:

    Oops. Looks like I have triggered a couple within a rather short time. Marvelous. Could I suggest you try 24-48 hours outside of your echo chambers.

  10. The Profit Margin or Outlaws of the MTR says:

    @Reactor #4

    That whooshing sound you’re hearing is the point sailing over your head.

    Hong Kong is trying to leave; Beijing won’t let us.

  11. Headache says:

    Reactor #4: anyone who responds to a rebuttal with “triggered” isn’t debating, they’re trolling. Crawl back under your bridge. You and Mark Pinkstone can form your own little authoritarian police state fantasy echo chamber down there.

  12. Boris Badanov says:

    Leaving aside it’s obvious causes and a government failure to respond to them, would one of these protestors please explain their strategy. The central government does not play nice and negotiate with those who oppose it. If the HK police is eventually proven ineffective, there are far worse options on the table, not far nicer ones. Full democracy is not going to be granted. Not do I suspect a full amnesty for increasingly violent protestors. A genuinely open inquiry that looked at root causes would be positive but the likelihood of that seems to be receding. In the meantime protestors are becoming increasingly self-righteous, no matter how understandable their initial aims. And the police are being turned into a loyal stooge of the pro-Beijing camp. How does HK benefit from this continued trajectory?

  13. Stanley Lieber says:

    @Reactor #4

    The colonial oppressors were competent administrators, they respected civil rights, they ran clean courts and they left people alone.

    To maintain a level playing field, when an insider took advantage or a tycoon got a little too greedy, he was called in for a chat and a cup of tea. Problem solved.

    It wasn’t perfect, but it worked. The Brits did an outstanding job. Hong Kong’s material well-being and social harmony were the evidence. Who needed voting?

    If the CCP strived for similar goals (which they don’t) and achieved similar results (which they haven’t), there’d be about six protesters in the streets today.

    The fable of the frog and the boiling water is exactly that: a fable.

    The protesters see and feel the effects of the rising temperature of the water, and they want to jump out of the pan before it’s too late.

    They’re right to try.

  14. old git says:

    We are not allowed to say that the ICAC is the Commission of Enquiry, but we are allowed to think it.

  15. steve says:

    Reactionary #4: You’re pretty smug for someone expressing views that were rightly ridiculed by the likes of Monty Python half a century ago.

  16. Puke says:

    @Reactor #4

    You must be one of the illiterate senior police ***** egging on your troops to employ the harshest measures possible against these kids. Spoiled brats?

    You seem to have forgotten what most Hongkongers have overwhelmingly have not. The UK agreed with the commie cannibals on certain conditions for the procedural handover back to CCP rule. Among those were 50-years of semi-autonomy from the cannibals, non-interference in local affairs, and free elections. Twenty-years into this farce none of these have materialized, anyone who still believes the cannibals from the north are _not_ actively meddling in local affairs is a fool and an idiot and you.

    You’re siding with cannibals and mass-murdering genocidal maniacs you’re one of them. Cut and dry. Let’s do have your passport revoked so you can go lick Winnie the Poohs toilet droppings.

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