Beijing sent the boys round to show Hong Kong some muscle over the last week. They barged in, kicked some furniture over, muttered threats about bad things that happen to those who don’t cooperate – and performed an unconvincing ‘nice-guy’ routine.
Official Wang Zhenmin told Hong Kong to forget about political reform for the next five or 10 years. He maintained that the 1997 handover was part of a revival of the Chinese race, and Hong Kong should respect and admire the Communist system when instead, he observed (getting rather miffed), they insult it more than anyone else in the world. He also warned that Beijing would scrap the ‘One Country Two Systems’ principle intended to insulate Hong Kong from Mainland Leninist malevolence if the city didn’t eagerly start submitting to Mainland Leninist malevolence.
Meanwhile, ‘expert’ Rao Geping advised that the Chinese government would intervene if the local political situation deteriorated like it does when the Chinese government intervenes. Wang then tried to reassure everyone that the Communist regime wasn’t trying to Mainlandize Hong Kong or anything.
Ronnie Tong, a former pro-democrat politician now trying to be friendly and constructive with Beijing, wrung his hands and wondered if we can’t all try to understand each other more. The problem is that Communist dictatorships don’t do ‘understanding’, and Hong Kong’s pluralistic people know that all too well.
Allen Lee, former pro-Beijing politician, is exasperated that Wang Zhenmin presumes to tell Hong Kong how and when it can address political reform. Less squeamish than most critics, Lee adds that post-1997 Mainland immigration levels have undermined the ‘One Country Two Systems’ idea from the start. (Like the swamping of Hong Kong with mass-market tourists, the inflow of low-skilled migrants is the crudest form of Mainlandization – but few dare to say it.)
The immediate cause of Beijing’s hyper-freaking-out locally over the last few years has been the rise of a Hong Kong independence movement. Or, to put it another way, the immediate cause of the ‘independence movement’ has been Beijing’s hyper-freaking-out.
There are several possible reasons why Chinese officials and local loyalists have built up this false threat. One is that they are paranoid and stupid. Another is that it is to do with bureaucratic rivalry or factional infighting. A third is that the campaign is supposed to send a message to someone (though mere mortals cannot discern what or who). What is clear is that the extreme reaction to the previously barely existent and essentially absurd concept of Hong Kong-nationhood is unsettling to many innocent bystanders, like investors, not to say the international media and public opinion. The rantings of Wang and Rao are part of this strange, apparently counter-productive, pattern.
Anyway – here comes the funny part. Someone in Beijing’s hierarchy has noticed that the Communist Party’s Special Exclusive Patent ‘mouth-frothing, ranting, insult-spitting, intimidation, with pat-on-head for shoe-shining tycoons’ Formula for Inspiring Love and Adoration® has not worked in Taiwan, especially among the young. Maybe they will notice that it didn’t work in Hong Kong either. We look forward to seeing their new approach.