Oh Boy it was a big news weekend for Hong Kong. I took a few days off for hunting and being lazy so its time to catch up. The heavy hand of the HK police got heavier. The mainland commie stern rhetoric picked up and a HK leader has started signaling fatigue.
Following what many have described as the most violent weekend yet after 86 days, or 13 weeks of pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong, which have led to the arrest of at least 1,117 residents, where the local police is now deploying water cannon in response to “rioters” using petrol bombs, China appears to have finally had enough and on Sunday, Beijing issued a stern ultimatum to not only Hong Kong protesters, but also the West on Sunday, reiterating that it will not tolerate any attempt to undermine Chinese sovereignty over the city.
“The end is coming for those attempting to disrupt Hong Kong and antagonize China,” stated a commentary piece published by the state’s Xinhua News Agency.
According to the Nikkei, the ultimatum was directed at “the rioters and their behind-the-scene supporters” – which should be interpreted as China’s latest accusation of Western meddling, with the article warning that “their attempt to ‘kidnap Hong Kong’ and press the central authorities is just a delusion,” adding, “No concession should be expected concerning such principle issues.”
The commentary said three red lines must not be crossed:
- no one should harm Chinese sovereignty,
- challenge the power of the central authorities
- use Hong Kong to infiltrate and undermine the mainland.
“Anyone who dares to infringe upon these bottom lines and interfere in or damage the ‘one country, two systems’ principle will face nothing but failure,” the piece declared. “They should never misjudge the determination and ability of the central government… to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, security and core interests.”
With the protests attracting global attention, the demonstrators and the authorities are also fighting a PR battle. On Saturday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry took an unusual step of distributing images of alleged protester vandalism to the international press, in an apparent attempt to discredit the movement.
The warning came just hours after tens of thousands of people blocked roads and public transport links to Hong Kong’s airport. The demonstrations, which started in response to a proposed bill that would have allowed extradition to the mainland, have mutated into a broader rejection of Beijing’s growing control over the semi-autonomous city, with China – and even Russia – accusing the CIA of being behind the ongoing protests.
Despite recently linking his view of the trade war with Beijing to the ongoing Hong Kong protests, Trump has refused to sternly condemn the growing possibility of a Chinese crackdown, leading some to suggest that China has cobbled a behind the scenes deal with Trump, whereby it lets the US president give the impression of a modest win in the trade war in exchange for being given a carte blanche to deal with the HK protesters as it sees fit when the time comes, and with the Chinese National Day holiday coming on Oct. 1, it is almost certain that Beijing will have to regain control over Hong Kong in the coming weeks if not days.
As the rhetoric describing Hong Kong protesters out of Beijing as well as the HK government gets more aggressive and assertive, are the mainland’s gloves about to come off? A senior Hong Kong official has claimed “elements of terror” are embedded among anti-Beijing pro-democracy protesters after a particularly violent weekend of unrest, and as demonstrators once again attempt to shut down the city’s busy international airport.
John Lee, Hong Kong’s secretary for security made the comments Monday, which is the first time a top Hong Kong official has invoked “terrorism” in relation to the months-long unrest.
“The extent of violence, danger and destruction have reached very serious conditions,” Mr. Lee said. “Radical people have escalated their violent and illegal acts, showing elements of terror.” — The New York Times
The police have emphasized that rioters hurled as many as 100 firebombs at security personnel over the weekend, for which ample video evidence exists.
Mainland China’s narrative over the past month has been to emphasize foreign subversion driving the protests as well, and went so far as to accuse the United States of fueling the unrest.
As NPR noted previously, “Official state media pin the blame for protests on the ‘black hand’ of foreign interference, namely from the United States, and what they have called criminal Hong Kong thugs.”
Meanwhile bloody encounters and direct violence between HK police and anti-Beijing protesters continue to escalate.
I am trying to imagine this happening in US, but can’t because US cops would’ve shot and killed. Hong Kong police need to be commented for their restraint for not shooting Hong Kong protesters 👇🏼pic.twitter.com/P6nsQGRSIU — Carl Zha (@CarlZha) September 2, 2019
Lee’s “terrorism” comments Monday are unprecedented in terms of the Hong Kong government’s up until now more moderated rhetoric compared to that of Beijing, as Axios explains:
…the comments by John Lee, Hong Kong’s secretary for security, mark the first time a territory official has used rhetoric akin to China’s propaganda machine — which has compared the protesters to terrorists on several occasions.
Certainly we’re in for another violent week, as a widespread public workers strike went into effect Monday, further bolstered by Hong Kong high school students who pledged to join the strike on their first day back to school.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a group of businesspeople last week that she has caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the anti-government protests gripping the city – and that she would quit if she could.
Lam’s also said during the closed-door meeting that she is now “very limited” in how she can resolve the ongoing crisis because the unrest has become a matter of national security and sovereignty for China, according to a 24-minute recording reviewed by Reuters.
“The political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong, that political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited,” she said, speaking in English. “For a chief executive to have caused this huge havoc to Hong Kong is unforgivable.”
“If I have a choice … the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology,” she added.
Lam’s dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong, the biggest political crisis to grip the country since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
Hong Kong has been convulsed by sometimes violent protests and mass demonstrations since June, in response to a proposed law by Lam’s administration that would allow people suspected of crimes on the mainland to be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts. The law has been shelved, but Lam has been unable to end the upheaval. Protesters have expanded their demands to include complete withdrawal of the proposal, a concession her administration has so far refused. Large demonstrations wracked the city again over the weekend. –Reuters
She added that she was profoundly frustrated that she wasn’t able “to reduce the pressure on my frontline police officers,” or reach a political solution to “pacify the large number of peaceful protesters who are so angry with the government, with me in particular.”
Lam’s failure “to offer a political situation in order to relieve the tension” was the cause of her “biggest sadness,” and has made her life miserable.
“Nowadays it is extremely difficult for me to go out,” she told the group. “I have not been on the streets, not in shopping malls, can’t go to a hair salon. I can’t do anything because my whereabouts will be spread around social media.“
If she were to appear in public, she said, “you could expect a big crowd of black T-shirts and black-masked young people waiting for me.” Many of the protesters wear black at demonstrations.
After enjoying relatively high popularity in the initial part of her tenure, Lam is now the least popular of any of the four leaders who have run Hong Kong since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997, according to veteran pollster Robert Chung, who runs the Public Opinion Research Institute. –Reuters
We’re guessing reports of undercover police officers acting as agents provocateurs, and police indiscriminately beating people aren’t going to inspire much sympathy for Lam’s plight.
Beijing isn’t ‘at the gates’ according to Lam
Lam told the group that Beijing has not imposed any deadlines for ending the crisis ahead of the country’s October 1st National Day celebrations, and that China had “absolutely no plan” to deploy the People’s Liberation Army troops on the streets of Hong Kong – something the world has been watching for after the bloody events at Tiananmen Square in Beijing a generation ago. Lam told the attendees that Beijing is acutely aware of the potential damage to China’s reputation if the military is used to quell the movement.
“They know that the price would be too huge to pay,” said Lam, adding “They care about the country’s international profile … It has taken China a long time to build up to that sort of international profile and to have some say, not only being a big economy but a responsible big economy, so to forsake all those positive developments is clearly not on their agenda.”
According to Lam, China is “willing to play along” with the protests – even if it meant Hong Kong would suffer a short-term economic hit.
As Reuters notes, the protests in Hong Kong mark the biggest challenge to the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012. The unrest comes amid a slowing Chinese economy, escalating rivalry with the United States, and a ‘tit-for-tat’ trade war. The Taiwan issue has “further frayed relations between Beijing and Washington,” according to the report.
Lam’s remarks are consistent with a Reuters report published on Friday that revealed how leaders in Beijing are effectively calling the shots on handling the crisis in Hong Kong. The Chinese government rejected a recent proposal by Lam to defuse the conflict that included withdrawing the extradition bill altogether, three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Asked about the report, China’s Foreign Ministry said that the central government “supports, respects and understands” Lam’s decision to suspend the bill. The Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid published by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, denounced it as “fake.”
As protests escalated, Lam suspended the bill on June 15. Several weeks later, on July 9, she announced that it was “dead.” That failed to mollify the protesters, who expanded their demands to include an inquiry into police violence and democratic reform. Many have also called for an end to what they see as meddling by Beijing in the affairs of Hong Kong. –Reuters
Lam was picked as Hong Kong’s Chief Executive in March 2017, vowing to “unite society” and local rifts within the city that remains “by far the freest city under Chinese rule,” according to the report.
“Hong Kong is not dead yet, said Lam. “Maybe she is very, very sick, but she is not dead yet.“