Sat, Sep 07, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Hong Kong caught in the middle

By Paul Lin 林保華

Before Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, some people predicted that, without the British colonial government as a buffer, the territory would get directly caught up in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) internal struggles. That is precisely the plight in which Hong Kong now finds itself, because no one knows how fierce the power struggles among the CCP’s top leaders might become.

These behind-the-scenes power struggles might lead to unexpected situations, and they might take the form of clashes over how to handle Hong Kong. This is the biggest threat that it faces.

Hong Kong finds itself sandwiched between contending factions struggling for power within the CCP, with each faction hoping to take advantage of any mistake its opponent might make. No matter which faction wins, Hong Kong would pay the price.

Hong Kong is in a stalemate after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) decided to hold his horses. No matter whether Xi sends in the army to suppress pro-democracy protests, or whether the Hong Kong government accepts the protesters’ five main demands, Xi’s rivals in the faction loyal to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) are ready to blame him for the result.

Xi is stuck in a position where he can neither advance nor retreat, so he can only try to shift the blame onto the US and pass the buck by saying that whoever caused the current mess in Hong Kong should clean it up themselves.

Fully aware of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s (林鄭月娥) “pugnacious” character and her lack of political sensitivity, the Chinese leadership has given her free rein to exercise Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy.”

The only solution Lam can think of is violent repression by the police, which is just what the CCP wants. This has caused police repression to get more violent, to the extent of using water cannons and pointing handguns at crowds.

Inevitably, this has made protesters inclined to “oppose violence with violence,” while undercover officers have been mingling with the demonstrators to stir up trouble. With government approval for their actions, the police are growing ever more brazen.

The police have also done some strange things. For example, they had the nerve to call for the resignation of Hong Kong Administrative Secretary Matthew Cheung (張建宗), who ranks as deputy leader of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, because he apologized to the public on behalf of the police.

When Lam said that Hong Kong was out of control, the police said they had sufficient strength to maintain order. In reaction to the assertion by the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office that violent protesters are engaged in “terrorist activities,” a senior police officer dared to refute the remark by saying that the situation had not gotten that bad.

However, more recently, Secretary for Security John Lee (李家超), who is in charge of Hong Kong’s disciplined services, commenting on the incident where police officers drew their handguns, accused the crowd of terrorism.

The differing words and actions of different Hong Kong government departments are a reflection of the different policies of various factions in Beijing. It is because the Hong Kong police are led from above by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security that they dare to disobey the instructions of the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong-related Chinese government agencies.

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