The Hong Kong government is dormant right now. Its only active – not to say frenzied – component is the police force, which seems to have been placed under Beijing’s control. Similarly, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office is now doing the press conferences.
Yesterday’s, following Sunday’s assorted protest mayhem, was the third in two weeks. The spokesmen turned the rhetoric up a notch to ‘signs of terrorism’. (This is switch position 6 on the official propaganda Freakometer.) State media released more footage of security forces trundling menacingly around Shenzhen.
At the same time, a huge crowd turned up at the airport to protest police brutality. Most of them left after a few hours.
Did the government really cancel all flights in an extreme and melodramatic attempt to portray the protesters as a public menace ruinous to the economy? And/or to trap the kids for mass-arrests?
Regular and peaceful sit-ins in the arrivals hall on previous days haven’t disrupted operations. A charitable view would be that the authorities panicked at the sheer numbers of yesterday’s turnout (largely filling both arrivals and departures) and had genuine safety-related grounds to shut down flights.
A more cynical view – bearing in mind that Beijing officials are calling the shots now – is that Mainland overseers saw an opportunity and ordered flight cancellations to create maximum inconvenience to the public and thus score a PR blow against the evil foreign-backed separatist forces. As we know from their involvement in humdrum local elections, Liaison Office meddlers take stage-management of events almost absurdly seriously.
The fact that we even ask the question is a mark of how crazy things are.
Which brings us to another illuminating thread on Beijing’s strategy. As this one points out more specifically, the Hong Kong rebellion of 2019 is not about an extradition bill or crap governance – it is a battle in which a Leninist-dictatorship elephant is trying to subdue a free-society mouse.
One remarkable feature of this struggle is the sheer ineptitude of China’s leadership in coming to terms with this tiny but obviously alien place.
The messaging is laughably bad. The usual excuse for this is that Beijing-speak is aimed at domestic audiences – but you have to wonder why, in that case, none of them can spare a few minutes to communicate directly to the local population.
The analysis (‘a few radicals backed by foreign forces’, ‘large silent patriotic majority’) is apparently self-deluding – though no-one knows for sure if they really believe it.
Beijing’s basic approach is: try what works on the Mainland; then, when that proves counter-productive and makes things worse, try even more of what works on the Mainland – and repeat, over and again. They cannot conceive of an easier way.
While kids display creativity and courage, Hong Kong’s own dismal, cronyistic ‘elites’ wallow in pathetic helplessness. After 1997, these tycoons and bureaucrats had power and status handed to them on a plate. They could have given a damn. But no, they just squeezed every drop from the city while strutting around as if they had some shred of merit or talent. The Chinese Communist Party is now (oh-so predictably) flicking them aside – hanging them out to dry or openly extorting squeals of loyalty from them. They are of little further use. To anyone. Whatever happens.