The FT on the ‘tug of war’ over Hong Kong’s priorities…
“Rats” is how Hong Kong leader John Lee has taken to referring to a group of eight pro-democracy activists with a combined bounty of $1mn on their heads.
…“We should treat those wanted by police, especially the eight who violated the national security law, as street rats that should be avoided,” he said…
…Meanwhile Lee is also the jovial face of a “Hello Hong Kong” government campaign drawing international visitors. “A world city like no other extends the warmest welcome to you,” he says in a promotional video. The Chinese territory is also attempting to reboot its Covid-hit Asian premier financial hub status and woo foreign investments.
…But analysts said Lee’s priority — with the backing of Beijing — was to stamp out the influence of political activists and reinforce China’s tough line on national security, even if it damaged the city’s international reputation.
…a foreign business chamber representative said Hong Kong “is sending out so many mixed signals” as the hard line pursued by Lee — a former career policeman handpicked by Beijing as Hong Kong’s chief executive last year — hinders attempts to restore confidence.
For the sake of argument, let’s accept the whole narrative about ‘black violence’ and evil foreign forces: it was necessary to crush the pro-democracy movement and much of civil society to save Hong Kong from doom. But now there are no protests or meaningful opposition. Isn’t the ongoing NatSec panic now sheer overkill?
Surely we have reached the stage where authorities can declare ‘mission accomplished’ and ease off on the constant NatSec frenzy. But every week, the government announces another heavy handed NatSec measure, and that leads to more bad press internationally – then we get another outraged statement on ‘slanders and smears’ in overseas coverage (the latest).
One explanation for this is that we have a billion-dollar NatSec enforcement apparatus/complex established in the heat of the moment now looking for threats to crush.
Another is the nationwide push from the very top in Beijing to stress NatSec, from the proposed ‘patriotic education’ law to tighter regulation of data and compliance companies. Hong Kong’s leaders have to overtly show they are on board with this campaign. (Worried Mainland officials are now lobbying foreign companies to resume investment in China. Some observers hope that economic pragmatism will convince Beijing to reverse some of the NatSec focus.)
Deeper in the background is the recent reshuffle in Beijing’s management of Hong Kong. RFA describes how the CCP’s Hong Kong and Macau Work Office has taken direct control of the local Liaison Office and other structures…
Its remit – according to plans passed by the National People’s Congress in March – will be to “deploy the governing power of the central government” in Hong Kong and to “maintain national security” … [as well as] “supporting” the integration of both cities with the rest of China.
UCA News reports Taiwan-based pan-dem commentator ‘Sang Pu’ saying that the new structure…
…would probably run a “rectification” campaign which could mean that some heads will roll in the local administration.
“It has the spirit of [political] struggle – the more communist the better. Nobody in the Hong Kong government has said anything – they must think there is a crisis coming,” Sang said.
“Everything they do … will be about demonstrating loyalty – it’s a continuation of the spirit of the Cultural Revolution.”
Whatever the exact reasons why the NatSec paranoia still drowns out ‘Happy Hong Kong’, there are people wondering whether it is all going too far. The UCA story continues…
Jinghaihou, a mainland Chinese blogger and a former columnist for a Beijing-backed newspaper in Hong Kong urged the authorities to ease the political crackdown on the city.
Jinghaihou alleged that “Hong Kong is losing its uniqueness under the national security law… there are fears the city has lost its luster. It is neither special nor a particularly attractive destination and has been marginalized on the international stage.”
…”Since the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong, a small number of people have gotten into the habit of overdoing the implementation of some policies… of mechanically implementing the government’s decisions…” Jinghaihou said.
He further alleged that the officials had stooped low “to the point where Lu Xun is being taken off library shelves, and movies that have nothing to do with politics are no longer being shown,” the blogger wrote.
“They always seek left over right, regardless of the consequences,” Jinghaihou said, blaming the local government for its “frivolous” use of the law to scare people.
Even the pro-Beijing Sing Tao Daily newspaper on July 11 published an article hitting out at local officials for their “excessive leftism” and calling for a balance between national security, and the need for investment, human rights, and freedom.
Jinghaihou’s blog (in Chinese) is still up. His prime concern is that Hong Kong is ‘losing its uniqueness’…
Hong Kong’s efforts to bring order out of chaos are intended only to restore the benchmark and correct Hong Kong’s constitutional order under the Constitution and the Basic Law, not to implement the“one country” principle in Hong Kong…
…The breadth of freedom of Hong Kong citizens is an important indicator of the success of the “one country, two systems” Hong Kong practice, and everyone from top to bottom is happy to see it…
…Hong Kong’s multiculturalism is directly linked to its international status. Homogeneity will cut itself off from overseas. Only tolerance can consolidate its traditional dominant position, and diversity can make money.
“Maintaining the uniqueness of Hong Kong” is to make the people here love her, those who have left are willing to come back, and those who have never been here yearn to go …
He does not take issue with the ‘only patriots running Hong Kong’ principle.
HK01 has a summary (also Chinese) and adds that in earlier posts he suggested that resolving Hong Kong’s conflicts required breaking the grip of vested interests, and that the post-‘turmoil’ situation looks like ‘over-correction’.
A thread on all this from Bloomberg op-ed writer. Jinghaihou could get in trouble for his post – or maybe Hong Kong’s authorities are getting a ‘coded message’.
In which case, you could in theory see the NatSec panic toned down a notch to a more moderate level of ‘excessive leftism’ – if not to the extent that ‘those who have left are willing to come back’.