Will Luo Huining, Beijing’s new Party Secretary in Hong Kong, be nice or nasty? No sooner is the question asked than we get the answer.
Writing in People’s Daily – the party organ that makes China Daily look edgy, zippy and fun – Luo warns that ‘national-security loopholes’ in Hong Kong open the door to ‘infiltration and sabotage’; he also mentions ‘stronger enforcement’, plus ‘learn from Macau’ and ‘strengthen patriotic education’.
With zero exposure to the world outside the Mainland, Luo must be encountering some serious culture shock in Hong Kong. Foreigners roam at will, and their evil ideas circulate unrestricted online, in print and in classrooms. The local population seem to regard this as normal, and many have little interest in Mainland ways and are actually hostile to the CCP. Unfathomably, some do not even seem to accept that they are Chinese. People and media are free to criticize the local and central governments. The legal system is rooted in a perverse notion that one of its core functions is to limit government power over the population. This is no way to run a major city. It’s creepy.
Luo’s comments suggest that he intends to ‘do’ Article 23 or something like it, to clamp down on opposition activity and opinions through broader laws that weaken individual rights, and by introducing more politicized and compliant policing, prosecutions and judicial systems. Plus things like brainwashing kids in schools.
As the reports mention, however, these comments largely echo what Xi Jinping and other senior leaders have been saying for some time. The system now requires total loyalty to Xi, so Luo wouldn’t say anything else even if he had a mind of his own. Essentially, the new Liaison Office director will be channeling the Chairman-for-life himself.
Luo wouldn’t have climbed this far up the ladder without certain other qualities, like cunning and ruthlessness. He won’t personally seem very involved – it will be arms-length thuggishness. Local minions will have to do the dirty work, preferably without looking as wretchedly abysmal as Carrie Lam.
Obviously, the answer to the question was never going to be ‘nice’. The best way of putting it is ‘nasty with zombie-Leninist characteristics’.