With the 79-day Occupy Central (OC) movement of 2014 and Mongkok riots last year, Hong Kong suffered its most disruptive, violent mass protests in half a century. The orchestrated, well-financed eruptions prompted savvy Hong Kongers to finger not only local “pro-democracy” ringleaders, but also their foreign backers — notably the superpower that has a patent on “color revolutions” and has been trying to contain China for six decades, with ever-growing urgency. Perhaps its “protection” was what had shielded both ringleaders and shock-troopers from facing the legal consequences of their law-breaching actions, which included violence.
Their ostensible immunity, which has outraged many in Hong Kong, may now be ending. The recent National People’s Congress session in Beijing saw China’s premier and other state leaders take a notably tougher line in public against would-be subversives and other troublemakers in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, including advocates of political independence.
Following two years of virtual non-action by the SAR’s judiciary and judges, lawbreakers of Occupy Central and Mongkok received precedent-setting jail sentences the past couple of weeks. The terms ranged from two to four years. A law-maker turned law-breaker was arrested. And due in court shortly are some OC chieftains — including Joshua Wong, poster boy for “democracy” in Western mainstream media. Increasingly, community leaders are calling for the long-delayed enactment of national-security legislation, as required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s “mini-constitution.” The move has been fiercely opposed by local “pro-democracy” (i.e., anti-Beijing) forces.
Outside Asia, most onlookers may not think Hong Kong politics very significant. But the developments in China’s premier Special Administrative Region are in many ways a microcosm of the age-defining tussle between China and the Western imperium centered in Washington. This is being played out in the evolving politics, values, culture and economy of Hong Kong, in the form of acrimonious as well as less conspicuous struggles.
Hong Kong, of course, was the prime booty of the Opium Wars and was ruled by Britain for 156 years. It has deeply entrenched Western institutions and inclinations. And a generation of refugees from China’s bitter Civil War ensures that there is a deep bedrock of anti-Communist sentiment, which the British played on expertly before their formal departure in 1997. Today, Hong Kong is host to the biggest US and UK consulates-general in Asia.
In the 20 years since reunification, China has exercised remarkable patience and restraint over the HK SAR — contrary to the relentless insistence of local “democrats” and Western mainstream media about creeping “control.” Did Beijing finally read Hong Kong the riot act about putting its house in order? If so, local pan anti-Communists who call themselves “pro-democracy” will scream bloody murder (i.e., repressive interference by Beijing tyrants), as is their wont. But most level-headed Hong Kongers who want the best for their home town would say: Bloody good show — and long overdue.
Carrie Lam, the top civil servant with a reputation for tough-mindedness and executive efficacy, will take political command in Hong Kong, come July. We look set for some interesting times.