Feature – Wednesday, June 10th, 2020
President Xi Jingping, Xi China Hong Kong, President Xi Hong Kong,
Moves by Chairman Xi to clamp down on the Democracy movement in Hong Kong may yield short-term success, but the cost, and the weakness such moves represents, might, in the long-term, mean bad tidings to come for the security of the Chinese Communist Party in the region, never mind Hong Kong herself.
Excerpt from www.japantimes.co.jp
Xi Jinping’s strategic folly in Hong Kong
The fact that Beijing is pursuing this new law isn’t surprising. In a broad sense, this is part of the attrition strategy that the Chinese Communist Party has adopted in dealing with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. In a paper earlier this year, we outlined the different instruments that Beijing has been using as part of this strategy. These included coercive use of the law, calibrated force, digital surveillance, media and narrative contestation, and economic carrots and sticks.
While there was a lull in activities in the first few months of the year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, from late February onward it became clear that Beijing was doubling down on its approach. There were fresh charges filed against people like Apple Daily’s Jimmy Lai. Opposition politician Cheng Lai-king was arrested on sedition charges for a Facebook post. Thereafter, in mid-April, there were more arrests of pro-democracy politicians, while the central government’s point person in Hong Kong, China Liaison Office Director Luo Huining, emphasized the need for a new national security law.
In May, the first of the trials against a protester accused of rioting last year, ended with a four-year sentence. That was followed by additional mass arrests at a Mother’s Day protest, and the publication of a controversial report exonerating the Hong Kong police in terms of its handling of the protests last year and complaints of brutality. Finally, then over the last week, we’ve witnessed clashes in the Legislative Council, with pro-democracy lawmakers being blocked from voting in the election for a key committee chairperson.
In our assessment, these tougher measures by the central leadership are also reflective of the relative success of the 2019 protests. That might sound odd, given the crackdown and challenges that lie ahead for pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. But if one examines the movement from the perspective of disruptive, narrative and electoral capacities, the gains made are clear….
While it’s still early days, expect the new national security legislation to be cleared by the NPC before the Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong in September. The LegCo is Hong Kong’s top lawmaking body. It has 70 members, and only 35 are elected by popular vote. 30 seats are filled by “Functional Constituencies” that represent special interests like banking and trade (and have historically been pro-Beijing).
The structure is such that Beijing will never lose the majority. But given the 2019 protests and the rising dissent toward China, it would be right to fear sufficient gains by the pro-democracy leaders after the district council elections in November last year. Enough seats in the LegCo would allow these individuals to stymie the central leadership’s broader agenda.
Considering the above, instead of reflecting strength, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s gambit of a new national security law is indicative of the central leadership’s insecurities. The successes of the protests, which still enjoy significant public support in Hong Kong, are prompting the Communist Party to adopt measures that are likely to prove self-defeating in a strategic sense. For sure, this will not bode well for Hong Kong, but neither is Beijing going to end up better off or more secure.
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