Writer:Au Loong Yu
Translated by Felix Fong
This essay is a slightly edited version of its Chinese original, published in the Taiwan Apple Daily.
There was nothing new about the Liaison Office press conference on 29th July. It sent the same message as the July 21 statement—condemning the demonstrators and supporting the Carrie Lam administration. It is the things not mentioned by the Liaison Office today that are worth noting however. The opposition movement has kept on escalating its actions in the past week, but the Liaison Office has not changed its tune at all! What about the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or other thunderous deterrence means? None of them were mentioned today.
Beijing Colludes with the UK and US
From the perspective of pragmatism, the PLA is indeed not needed now. At present, the intensity of radical youth violence is disproportionately low, and the highly militarized Hong Kong police can totally handle it. However, Beijing’s decision not to use thunderous deterrence means is because Beijing has a different medium-term goal, namely to continue to use Hong Kong as an important medium in its pursuance of global expansion until the date when Shanghai can catch up. Deploying the PLA at this stage will lead to a premature rupture between Beijing and the West, which will hinder this goal.
Beijing declares that the opposition in Hong Kong is colluding with foreign forces. Interestingly, Beijing’s implementation of ‘one country, two systems’ in Hong Kong has always been criticized by mainland Maoists as right-wing and pro-imperialism. Recently, the mainland website Hongqi (Red Flag) published an article criticizing the CCP’s Basic Law in Hong Kong for being too accommodating to the West, especially the clause which allows the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (HKCFA) to hire foreign judges. In these Maoists’ opinion, this is almost traitorous.  In fact, Deng Xiaoping’s so-called ‘one country, two systems’ is less a promise to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Hong Kong citizens – in the eyes of Beijing, these people were nothing important. Deng’s primary goal was precisely to collude with the British and American forces so as to use Hong Kong as a leverage not only to modernize China but also to steer it towards capitalism. This is why the Basic Law allows, among all the promises of Hong Kong autonomy, the HKCFA to hire British and Australian judges—not only because Hong Kong is ‘the goose that laid the golden eggs’ but also because keeping its old system unchanged is conducive to Beijing’s policy of compromising with the West over Hong Kong to help its own ‘Reform and Open’. This is why the CCP made such a historic compromise to Britain and the United States.
On top of the aforementioned reasons, there is one more factor at work behind Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong. The United Kingdom ran Hong Kong for nearly 150 years, while America began to make its influence felt in Hong Kong after the Second World War. Therefore, Hong Kong is not only a place where the West has vested interests, but also a place thoroughly permeated by the British and American forces. How much evidence of the corruption of senior CCP officials has been obtained by the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)? And how much has been obtained by the European and US intelligence agencies? How many high-ranking civil servants prefer, politically and culturally, the British (even if only a colonial) institution over the CCP’s regime? These considerations make Beijing choose to act cautiously in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the editors of the Mainland Red Flag cannot understand the dilemma of the CCP leaders.
The most recent example of collusion between Beijing and America was reported by Reuters—the commander of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison has proactively assured a top Pentagon official that the PLA will not interfere in the affairs of Hong Kong. Why does Beijing need to disclose its military secrets to American imperialists? It is because currently Beijing does not have good cards in its hands even if it wants to play the game of hegemonic competition with America. It has been proved that Xi Jinping overestimated himself and as a result China has always been the underdog in the current Sino-US competition, especially after the start of the trade war.
Conspiracy to Seize Power Secretly Exposed
Beijing also has a trick that is better than using the PLA. This is to continue to let the Liaison Office seize the power of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Under the leadership of the Liaison Office (or the Hong Kong-Macau Work Committee), there are tens of thousands of CCP members (estimations are from 80,000 to 350,000) and tens of thousands of spies, informants, gangsters and allies (under its ‘united front work’) who have submitted to the CCP. There must be many more Hong Kong government officials who have become CCP’s agents as well. Beijing’s plan is to hollow out the Hong Kong government and turn it into a puppet. It thinks that this trick can deceive the Hong Kong people and foreigners. Although this trick is secretly played, occasionally we can still observe some tiny signs. In 2016, for example, the ICAC experienced a leadership earthquake and certain top officials resigned.
The current anti-extradition movement is also a monster-revealing mirror, which lets everyone see the black hand of the Liaison Office and how it directly commands the Hong Kong police and the mafia. Beijing believes that as long as it controls Hong Kong secretly, the opposition will gradually dissipate. However, it did not expect that this conspiracy could also become the source of chaos: While the Liaison Office enjoys real power without taking any responsibility, Carrie Lam’s administration has to take all the responsibilities but has no real power. In Chinese cities, similar kind of relationship defines the Party’s secretary and the mayor, although within very different context. But this cannot work in Hong Kong where there exists of freedom of the press. What has happened to Carrie Lam in the past few months is proof—as the head of the SAR government, she has made so many embarrassing goofs and become a laughing stock, which has cost her all credibility and legitimacy to govern.
This brings us to a second point: the puppet show of the Liaison Office has finally motivated a large number of government officials to stand up and fight back, on the back of the massive uprising. So far, civil servants from 44 government departments, including more than one hundred from the most senior rank (Administrative Officers grade), have come out to criticize Carrie Lam for her dereliction of duty. These people must have already been aware of how the Liaison Office permeates the Hong Kong government.
Hong Kong is Small but has a lot of Leverage
The second point leads us to the third point: the rebellious acts of the civil servants further encourage the people’s movement, now running through society from the lowest level to the middle and upper levels. The July 27 demonstration in Yuen Long was another milestone of civil disobedience—more than 200,000 people ignored the police ban, as the movement took a further step towards an uprising. A similar situation occurred the next day on Hong Kong Island. When the majority of pro-democracy citizens decide to move from being supportive of the radical youth’s street fighting against the police to joining hands with them the moment of uprising may arrive. This threshold into the next stage is not easy for the majority of people to cross though, because everyone knows that a group of savage tigers in Beijing is watching them. Hong Kong is too small to be able to overthrow the SAR government on its own after all.
However, the subtlety of the matter is that there is more than one tiger in Beijing. This is why I say ‘a group of tigers’. No matter how powerful Xi is, the other CCP factions are still wrestling with him in the dark. As a result, despite being small, Hong Kong has become the stage for a huge game that is very worth watching.
The fourth feature of the present situation is that it exposes all the multiple players who are participating in this game simultaneously. In addition to the Hong Kong people who are fighting against Beijing’s puppet, there is Britain, America, the European Union, the Hong Kong Government, the Liaison Office, all the mainland political and economic entities which have direct or indirect interests in Hong Kong, and the inimical factions at the top of the CCP. It is too early to predict the winner. Although Hong Kong is small, it is in a very special position, which possesses unique internal and external leverage that ordinary cities do not have. If one knows how to use this leverage, it is possible to move the earth.
July 29, 2019