By Dr. CK Lo
Translated by LoyalReader
The police have caused a public outcry in the city when they arrested Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, turning him from a plaintiff to a defendant. At a press conference to brief the public on this arrest case, a police senior superintendent made comments that not only confounded the memories and common sense of many; they even revoked the official position that had been held by the Force more than a year. The credibility of the police took a deeper dive. Even though Police Commissioner Chris Tang Ping-keung hastily made clarifications on his subordinate’s statements the following day trying to salvage the damage, damage was already done. At best the damage was reduced.
The 7.21 incident last year remains a thorn in the mindsof many HongKongers. While the credibility of the HKSAR Government and the Police had been going downhill after the onset of the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (ELAB) movement, the 7.21 incident was a tipping point. Ever since then, HongKongers have been very dissatisfied already with the indifferent attitude of the Hong Kong Government towards this attack. Persecution of the victims and plaintiffs further exacerbated public grievances. Is such an action an intimidation tactic by the regime to harass the opposition camp and civilians? Or is it a crazy all-in attack initiated by someone? Or merely the foolish act of someone lifting a rock and dropping it on his own feet (a satire to one of the many canned responses by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokespersons) ?
At the same time, the massive propaganda show of a community universal testing project for COVID-19 is in full force. The prelude to the show received poor reviews already. Numerous experts and professionals have pointed out that universal testing that is voluntary-based and lacking in concurrent lockdown would be ineffective and a waste of resources. However, the Government appears to be under pressure to deliver a brilliant result. It initially set a target of of 5 million people being tested but dropped it after realizing that many citizens were not enthusiastic about the test. Afterwards, the Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan Siu-chee, was perceived to be attempting to link the relaxation of the Group Gathering Regulation with the turnout of tests in public comments. This was then denied swiftly by the Government. Carrie Lam slandered those who criticized the project as smearing and ill-intended. Patrick Nip Tak-kuen (Secretary for the Civil Service) had to step in trying to play down the controversy. The series of gaffes and off the cuff comments were symptomatic of government officials having lost their bearings.
The attack on the victims in the 7.21 incident in order to salvage the blemished reputation of Police Force and the resource wasting, exorbitant universal testing seem to be two unrelated matters. In fact, they are connected by a red thread, that is, ‘total governance’. In the general scene set by ‘total governance’, plots of power and interest redistribution are taking place in Hong Kong.
As early as 2014, Beijing made public its policy of imposing ‘total governance’ over Hong Kong. However, this policy is out of sync with Hong Kong’s existing governance system that comprises mature structures with appropriate checks and balances. Beijing had probably run out of patience on the progress of implementing ‘total governance’ some time ago. Last year, when the Anti-ELAB movement caused a severe blow to the authority of Hong Kong SAR Government, instead of helping Hong Kong government to restore its authority, Beijing seized the opportunity to accelerate the implementation of ‘total governance’ . Hong Kong Government was turned into a puppet. The Hong Kong National Security Law is the most notable example of eroding the governing powers of existing establishment in Hong Kong. In areas ranging from policy making, law enforcement, public prosecution to judicial procedures, power structures that run in parallel to those in the existing establishment have been set up to provide handle for the mainland officials to exercise their power.
On the surface, the Hong Kong National Security Law is about national security, but in effect, this law marks the foundational change in the political ecosystem of Hong Kong. Other than national security per se, smitten policy-making sections in Hong Kong Government relinquish their power to the mainland officials and their functionaries in Hong Kong. At this time, who holds the fate of the Radio Television Hong Kong? Contents of textbooks? Free space of the media? Dimension of cultural and artistic creativity? Scale of law enforcement? Policy of public prosecution? Most HongKongers believe that Hong Kong officials are no longer in charge.
China is ruled by single-party dictatorship, but the CCP is not one piece of seamless iron slate. This is not to say that there are some sort of ‘healthy force’ within the Party, but the Party does comprise many power networks and interest groups. They each have their own missions, agendas, perspectives and priorities. In the name of ‘total governance’, the arms of these networks and groups stretch out to operate in Hong Kong. More and more of what is happening in Hong Kong seem not to make sense in the conventional wisdom, but they fit perfectly into the overall schema of ‘total governance’.
Take the latest episode of the 7.21 incident as an example: a senior superintendent glaringly revoked the official statements of the Force that have been upheld for over a year, only to get vetoed by Tang that that pitch wasn’t official-this does not make any sense in conventional wisdom. How could a disciplined force be so disorganised on such a sensitive subject? That Tang did not express any regret and condemnation is bizarre. Was the senior superintendent simply pulling a personal stunt, or was he playing messenger for someone (or perhaps a clique) in the power pinnacle who does not need approval from Tang? Is the Commissioner still in overall charge of the Force? Might it be possible that different power lines and alliances have formed turfs within the Force and they can call their own shots?
Some network and groups in the CCP are after power; some after money. The universal testing project is likely related to the latter. Supposedly some schemer suggested to Beijing that by rolling out such mass testing project in the name of the Central Government would strengthen its authority and win the hearts of HongKongers. When Beijing gave the greenlight, the SAR government just played the role of rolling out the plots. In the short term, some test labs will earn quick money. In the longer term, the precedent of ‘disabling’ the systems in Hong Kong regarding professional qualifications, licensing and tendering has been established. Whenever the banner of “support from the Central Government” is hoisted, umpteen people could bypass these systems to come to Hong Kong via special channels to make a living.
Beijing and Hong Kong officials have emphasized repeatedly that the Hong Kong National Security Law will only affect a tiny minority of Hong Kongpeople. Regardless of whether the claim is true or not, CCP’s ‘total governance’ in Hong Kong affects all HongKongers for sure. The first to purge would be the opposition forces who get in the way. Next, those who do not follow politics as well as the vested interests withinthe establishment will become losers as power and interests are being reshuffled and redistributed. At present, some people keep a distance from controversies to play safe, some making deals with the devil, and some even making gains by taking side. They might see themselves as smart, but one fine day when they lose their own interests, they will realise that they have lost more than that. Their conscience and dignity will have been given up a long time ago. They are no longer in possession of anything.
Blogger | Dr. CK Lo盧子健, public affairs expert. Developed a passion in politics at a very young age, CK’s impacts are traced in student movement, pressure groups, political parties, NGOs and voluntary service in public bodies. Since 1980, he had been an avocational current affairs (contemporary issues) critic until 2014. In 2019, the Anti-ELAB movement and city-wide quest for human rights and freedom stirred up a tempest in his mind. Eventually he ended the5-year hiatus, aiming to pay back more to the society by speaking up.