Monday was brought to you by a whole load of arrests after the CUHK assembly (people inciting secession aka shouting slogans). The freezing of Ted Hui’s bank accounts stops and then starts again (complete with ‘international front’ scare, and colluding with foreign forces by Facebook). And it seems HSBC (or at least the HK Police, or at least the CCP) have frozen a charitable church’s account.
For lack of anything new to say on this incessant ‘lawfare’ overload, let’s look at an SCMP report, ‘Mainland-born, Hong Kong-based financiers launch new Bauhinia Party’. The paper quotes James Tien and Regina Ip, who sound amusingly condescending to what they no doubt see as a rival.
First thing to remember: ‘political parties’ in Hong Kong have no role to play in competing for power in a representative system. Before being squeezed out, pan-dem parties took part in the charade even though they had no chance of forming an administration or having any input into policy. The main pro-Beijing groups, on the other hand, have always been United Front operations – designed to absorb, co-opt and unify parts of the populace in a top-down system of control.
So what is this new ‘party’ about? It could be a semi-altruistic vanity project – but why would these high-powered financiers take an interest in fanciful political-sounding matters like reform of the legislature or creating a ‘democratic political system best suited to Hong Kong’? Maybe one of these figures fancies being Chief Executive and wants to prove his worth. But don’t bankers have better things to do? Or it could be a convoluted attempt to win public backing for their own agendas – but why bother when they can do all their lobbying behind closed doors.
Assuming the new group in fact has Liaison Office support, it looks like Beijing wants a more disciplined and loyal business community. The existing pro-business/establishment parties (Liberals and the spin-off Business and Professionals Association) are splintered, self-serving and unreliable – like the old-style local tycoons they basically represent.
Since the Legislative Council is henceforth to be no more than a Mainland-style rubber-stamp, the newly formed party is probably not really aimed at building a voting bloc in the assembly. The idea would be to use LegCo, quasi-elections and the rest of the (mainly ceremonial) ‘political’ structure as a pretext for a new umbrella organization that tightens and deepens CCP control over the main business sectors.
With Mainland or Mainland-connected businessmen as figureheads, such a group could, in theory, attract local business leaders eager to network and shoe-shine, or at least to avoid missing out or appearing insufficiently loyal. The long-term plan would be for local and Mainland business interests to merge and develop a common identity – with correct guidance, of course.
It seems the Bauhinia Party’s leaders are in finance. This might reflect Beijing’s view of Hong Kong primarily as a capital-raising/money-laundering hub where Chinese state-linked companies (and CCP elites) can dollarize Mainland assets. It’s also a sector where the worlds of Beijing, Mainland tycoons and the Hong Kong business community overlap.
The group’s ambitious membership target, if serious, suggests it might even be aiming to strengthen United Front influence throughout the business, professional and establishment-friendly middle-class parts of the population. By offering perceived opportunities and connections – or just prestige – it could evolve into something like a Hong Kong bourgeois-friendly equivalent of the Communist Party on the Mainland. The DAB/FTU would still perform that role in the public-housing estates. James and Regina would be nowhere to be seen.
And now back to today’s latest arrests.
Tip of the day: if you’re feeling old, read the dates of birth of the NPC Standing Committee vice-chairmen just sanctioned by the US. You’ll feel so much younger.