Johnny Lau Yui-Siu: After July 1

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HT’s inside China columnist does not see a spirit of compromise emanating from Beijing. Originally written by Johnny Lau in Chinese, translated by Harbour Times Chinese Language editor, Fay X. Cain.

Nearly 800,000 voted. More than 500,000 marched. Beijing is reassessing the Hong Kong situation. Reasonably speaking, public opinion has already clearly expressed a desire for a true universal suffrage. Beijing, seeing the strong resistance against its efforts, far exceeding expectation, should seriously ask if its Hong Kong governance policy has gone astray. To avoid further deterioration, if the central government should adjust its current position and policy.

Unfortunately, after examining all sources of information, Beijing’s reaction is  nothing like those articulated above, but quite in the opposite. It believes that ‘public opinion got kidnapped’. Some even “leftier” opinions believe that public opinion is only an “opinion of rogues” and should just be ignored.

Current intelligence suggests that, the only questions being examined in detail are:

• What’s the next move of our opponents, especially the aggressive ones?
• How will the external forces take advantage of this and support more trouble?
• Will Occupy Central (OC) happen earlier?
• Will Hong Kong police have enough capacity to handle OC?

Storm and defend
In other words, Beijing is still in the combat warrior mode – storm (deploy a continuous stream of high pressure tactics after the release of the White Paper) and defend (diminish the influence of rebels and ‘external forces’).

Skimming through the recent news from politics, business and society, some signs of this strategy have already come to the surface. For example, business and community organisations have continuously received appeals not only to avoid supporting OC but also openly issue anti-OC statements. Some business organisations are unwilling to step into politics and immediately find trade deal negotiations suspended at once. In another example, hundreds of newly-founded groups and institutions received a  kindly reminder that they should “make more contributions” to the support the  cause, and be supported in turn. Also, mainland researchers issue multiple predictions that Hong Kong’s economic situation, will be negatively impacted by an out of control situation in the streets.

Pressure tactics
These are all manoeuvres that have been deployed and are currently being developed. Nothing new there. Some formerly rare pressure tactics are becoming more common, putting insiders directly ‘under the heat’. For instance, while the position of some is quite black and white in the media, there are still a few relatively mild and neutral people in the game. They were not under much direct pressure  before, but have recently started  to see the increasing attention and ‘tough love’.  They have received letter and emails of unknown origin, unlikely to be sent from the ‘50 Cent Party’ – government paid Internet posters who attempt to influence social media conversations. Most of the outreach contains systematic records of the targets’ past speeches and behaviours, suggesting a higher level of sophistication on the part those sending the missives. Targets are warned to “make a smart choice”. All these trends have shown that the previous acceptable middle ground is also disappearing and is no longer acceptable to the powers that be.

Pressure inside and out
Pan democrats and unaligned moderates aren’t the only ones feeling the heat.  Members of the pro-establishment camp are feeling it as well. Some of them work as lower level helpers and some are true-blue united front comrades. Regardless they  re all expected to behave within the spirit of the Party law, if not under direct orders. However, subordinates have recently been harshly criticized and asked to give their heads a shake, give up their doubts and act firmly against the enemies at the gate. Comrades-in-arms have also felt the toughening of the messengers’ tone. Some  messengers have made it clear that they should ‘stand in line’, and ‘if they flip their position then they have to bear the consequences’. Some more direct ones even said openly that, “if they do not cooperate, then the cooperative relationship they enjoy [with Chinese authorities] will be terminated”.

Irresistible force, immovable object
Regardless whether the above language is merely empty threats or holds some  eight,
Beijing has so far not woken up to the trend of Hong Kong’s public opinion. Relevant parties are in full preparation, only waiting for the next clear whistle blow to take their orders from the central government.

Within the central leadership, the hardliners are in control and moderates are barely heard at all. The only concession the hardliners are willing to make is that some government officials can still engage in negotiation posturing when Beijing presents  its political reform plan. They can still communicate with the pan-democrats, or make more explanations to Hong Kong citizens. But these efforts are all for show. Like the Haka performed by the New Zealand All Blacks, they are the show, but not the actual game. Real policy changes or negotiations will be off the table. In conclusion, if Beijing keeps on in this direction, a hard battle is inevitably ahead.