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.
Undercover CCP members in the Hong Kong police force are under the still more direct command of Chinese government agencies. Even Beijing’s Hong Kong Liaison Office does not know their true identities. Chinese government agencies might issue different directives depending on whether they are in Xi’s hands or those of other factions.
For example, opinions published in CCP-friendly Hong Kong media often seem designed to sharpen the contradictions between China and Hong Kong. They have even gone so far as to publish private information about a US consular official.
This behavior is clearly contrary to Xi’s policies and has brought accusations that these media are engaged in “high-level black” (高級黑) activity, which means something along the lines of “opposition disguised as reverence.”
Following the CCP top leaders’ annual Beidaihe meeting, which ended on Aug. 16, Xi went on an inspection tour in northwest China’s Gansu Province, where he was only accompanied by a few trusted aides who are unconnected with the work he was doing there.
When Xi inspected an air force base, the official Xinhua news agency’s report only mentioned in the last paragraph that “Xu Qiliang (許其亮) and others took part in the activity.” Xu is vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and a trusted aide of Xi, who has known him since they met in China’s Fujian Province in 1991, so it is odd that he should be reduced to a footnote.
China’s Cultural Revolution involved a struggle within the CCP in which Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) “proletarian headquarters” attacked and defeated Liu Shaoqi’s (劉少奇) “bourgeois headquarters.” This struggle threw the whole country into a reign of terror.
It is hard to say how many “headquarters” now exist in Beijing, but they have cast a dark shadow over Hong Kong, with repeated bloody clashes. Meanwhile, the US-China trade war has been going through many twists and turns. It looks as though only the US can put an end to this mess.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) spoke during the opening ceremony of this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA). For the first time in the assembly’s history, attendees, including Xi, had to dial in virtually. Xi made no acknowledgement of the Chinese government’s role in causing the COVID-19 pandemic, nor was there any meaningful apology. Instead, he painted China as a benign force for good and a friend to all nations. Except Taiwan, of course. The address was a reheated version of the speech Xi gave at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Xi again attempted to step into the
The World Health Assembly (WHA) held its annual meeting this week; Taiwan was still not represented. Its journalists were also barred from covering the online-only proceedings, despite the nation’s clearly demonstrated pandemic expertise that has set an example for the world. When the SARS epidemic reached Taiwan from southern China in 2003, dozens of lives were lost, but its health experts learned the importance of general testing, masks, technology to locate infected persons, swift decisions and quarantines. The lessons were applied immediately across Taiwan when COVID-19 arrived this year. From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated as an observer in the assembly under