The CCP has spent the New Year period intimidating human-rights lawyers, sentencing a tycoon to death, mystifying us over the fate of Jack Ma, and blocking WHO Covid investigators. Then comes the dawn arrests of over 50 Hong Kong activists (loosely defined) for trying to win an election.
One reason for the shock is the sheer scale of the purge. The cops grabbed pretty much every pan-dem you’ve ever heard of who isn’t in jail or exile – plus some relative unknowns.
Another is that the tougher the crackdown gets, the more inoffensive the targets are. The round-up includes moderate ex-lawmakers like Kwok Ka-ki, Helena Wong, Claudia Mo, and Jeremy Tam, academic Bennie Tai, unionist Carol Ng, social worker Jeffrey Andrews, lawyer John Clancy, and a campaigner for the disabled called Li Chi-yung – as well as regular arrestees like Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Long Hair.
Most jarring, however, is the creepy Mainland/CCP-style reason given for the mass arrests: suspected ‘subversion’ as a result of involvement in the pan-dem camp’s primary election last July. The polling exercise was intended to maximise the pro-dems’ presence in the Legislative Council as a peaceful and legitimate opposition with a view to obstructing the government’s budget – which (according to the Basic Law) could lead to the departure of the administration. Benny Lai’s constitutional-if-wacky scheme is now regarded as a ‘vicious plot’ to subvert state power under the NatSec Law, punishable by life imprisonment.
There are ideas floating around that Beijing is trying to ‘test’ Joe Biden, or whatever. But the NatSec regime – a parallel government running Hong Kong alongside the local administration – has its own relentless bureaucratic and ideological momentum. The decision-makers are not following the invasion of the US Capitol, the Georgia US Senate runoffs, or even concerned about the pending trade deal with the EU. They only care about a supposed Western-backed conspiracy to use Hong Kong to topple the CCP from power. They are operating in a different world and a different reality to the one we inhabit.
This dragnet has caught up moderates, an aging American lawyer, an ethnic-minority community organizer and a guy whose big thing is wheelchair access. It’s clear that Beijing’s locally based NatSec supremos are not so much dedicated to their mission as desperate to crush anything they can’t control or comprehend. Who the hell will they come for next?