So did we all enjoy yesterday’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office press briefing with ‘new’ content? In case you hadn’t guessed from the 800 rounds of tear gas the police managed to fire on Monday, Beijing’s policy on Hong Kong is to make no compromises, but simply rely on the cops to bludgeon and arrest the city into calm – and threaten worse if disobedience continues.
Mainland officials are summoning pro-government figures to Shenzhen later today, where they will state that everyone present adopt this bone-headed and unpopular position as a matter of loyalty. Tremble and obey. One of those moments when shoe-shiners must put their brushes down and contemplate the gleaming boot in their face.
Beijing’s poverty of ideas is partly by default – there’s not much else in the CCP’s toolkit. But it also suggests a genuine inability (or refusal) to read the situation. It holds that the bulk of the population are (or can easily be brought) onside, thus isolating a small number of nasty foreign-manipulated pro-independence radicals. It’s denying the reality here.
This is noteworthy because Beijing has good reasons to go for a pragmatic and low-risk approach. One increasingly pressing priority must be to pacify Hong Kong in time for the October 1 National Day – the 70th anniversary of the PRC. It should be unthinkable that we have disorder on the streets on that glorious celebratory occasion. It would be a shame, to put it mildly, if they have to hold the flag-raising ceremony indoors again.
When we look back at all this one day, one thing that will stand out is the key role played by rigid, unthinking and heavy-handed police tactics in consolidating Carrie Lam’s alienation and embitterment of public opinion. We will surely relish the irony – that the tactics prompted by Beijing undermined Beijing locally.
A couple of quick, topical videos you might have missed: a brilliantly cruel mashup of a Tourism Board ad with scenes of today’s real Hong Kong (Stay an extra day!); and a slow-motion mayhem-as-ballet set to Louis Armstrong (this owes something to Good Morning Vietnam).