Benny Tai is fired from Hong Kong U, with the Liaison Office applauding the move with impressive speed soon after the gutless announcement. In overruling the university’s Senate, the HKU Council is simply doing the CCP’s bidding. You could say the Council has assumed the role of a Party Committee – but it probably has more shoe-shiners than a Mainland CCP oversight body.
Baptist U has also turfed out a pro-dem faculty member, lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun. Jerome Cohen writes on both cases.
This goes beyond academic freedom. It not only represents the end of universities’ institutional independence – it points to the normalization of purges of government opponents in all professions. There are signs of this already in the civil service and among school teachers.
Beijing’s officials have been busy. It seems they have also ordered the government to postpone September’s LegCo election. (Reports are unofficial. Let’s assume they are correct.) The assembly has a fixed four-year term – at least if you believe the Basic Law.
So up until the day before yesterday, civil servants were busy carrying out their anti-dem pre-disqualification inquisition. Suddenly, it’s all off. Some Beijing official with a short temper had had enough.
Judging from the District Council elections and the pan-dem primaries, it’s obvious the CCP’s surrogates would get hammered in September. The NatSec Law has made pro-Beijing camp even less popular, added to which there’s the local administration’s recent poor handling of Covid.
So the CCP admits defeat, with all the grace and maturity of John F Kennedy as a child when he would (I read somewhere) tip over the Monopoly board when someone else was winning.
The original plan was obviously just to disqualify all or most pan-dems (someone has spent ages checking candidates’ Facebook posts) and hold a lot of one-horse races. Now they think that would look worse than using the virus as a pretext. Eddie Chu Hoi-dick – smartest politician in Hong Kong – sums it up…
As headaches to the CCP, Benny Tai and LegCo elections overlap. But (as with the ‘academic freedom’ woes) we should look at the big picture and not get too fixated on Benny’s plan to create an opposition majority in LegCo. The regime would have other ways of dealing with that (disqualifications, etc). Beijing officials’ overriding fear is the vivid symbolism of another huge turnout and pan-dem majority vote. The CCP cannot allow such a clear public rejection of itself.
Even if the lame Covid excuse is the least worst one, this will still attract international attention. The US has said it will monitor the election. The same even goes for the EU, whose Cartesian officials have a fascination with technicalities of constitutional process. Whatever Beijing does, the case for sanctions and other measures strengthens. (Maybe God is watching, too.)
Reportedly, the election will be postponed for 12 months. Because this time next year we will all adore the CCP and vote the right way.