Offending the absolute ruler can lead to a grisly fate. And for months, it has looked as if Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is being set up for the same treatment – when the CCP eventually works out what it wants to do here.
Now someone has leaked a confidential memo from the CE to Beijing, in which – in a tone perhaps reminiscent of the class snitch – she (allegedly, etc) blames pro-government forces, unionized health-care workers and an 80% chunk of the population for her administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus scare. She also proposes to leverage the WuFlu outbreak as a political weapon against the city’s opposition movement. (Discussion here, Apple Daily report here, more here.)
(For some context: it seems pretty certain that the Hong Kong authorities delayed action to close the border – among other virus screw-ups – at the behest of Beijing; and new Liaison Office boss Luo Huining has warned that a pro-dem victory in September’s Legislative Council elections could undermine the Chinese state’s right to govern.)
Some suspect that Beijing officials themselves arranged the leak to further discredit Carrie ahead of her forthcoming defenestration and to help the pro-Beijing camp to distance itself from her. That said, Beijing, while purging and streamlining its Hong Kong Affairs bureaucracy, is still publicly backing her strongly (which of course is not the same as convincingly). To the extent Beijing sees the LegCo elections as a big deal, they will need to pull out Carrie’s last entrails in the next few months.
The chattering classes speculate on who will replace her and assume that it is difficult to find anyone who would want the job. In reality, Beijing will not choose anyone who says ‘no’, and the lucky appointee will largely be a figurehead anyway. It doesn’t really matter, but people who enjoy a gamble might put some money on Security Secretary John Lee or even Police Commissioner Chris PK Tang.
For more background, in this week’s episode of Know Your Knuckle-Draggers: Willy Lo Lop-lam on Luo and the new HKMAO boss Xia Baolong…
Since Xia reports directly to Xi, the means and mechanisms that Beijing will adopt to materialize “comprehensive rule” in the Hong Kong SAR could become swifter and more efficacious than before. It is conceivable that in the long run, at least a modicum of the mentality behind Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs and Tibetans might be applied to the citizens of Hong Kong.
…and Mark O’Neill…
Xia and Luo have a similar profile. They have no knowledge or experience of Hong Kong or south China; they do not speak Cantonese. They had little opportunity to know Hong Kong people, other than business people who invested in the provinces where they worked.
To an outsider, it seems incredible that, at this most critical moment in Hong Kong’s life since 1997, Beijing has chosen to appoint as overseers two people with no knowledge of the complex and divided territory which operates in a completely different way to mainland cities.
One of the weirder but more intriguing charts I’ve seen lately: looks like a seismometer readout, but in fact the gap between release dates of Hong Kong’s monthly stats. Pre-1997 it was one calendar month (28, 30 or 31 days); since the handover, it has vacillated increasingly wildly, ranging in recent years from 24 to 38 days…