The South China Morning Post gives the street-sleeper found dead in a McDonalds the nearest she will probably get to an obituary…
It could almost be a metaphor for China’s Hong Kong policy here – to leave the city ‘thoroughly disinfected and operating as usual’.
The thorough disinfecting is underway with the Communist Party’s United Front-ordered blackballing of Johannes Chan. Here is Hong Kong U Faculty of Law’s statement, and some other commentary hot off the presses here, here and here.
The effort involved in barring one low-profile figure from one obscure job looks like overkill. Beijing’s Liaison Office and/or agents and proxies had to work overtime and inflict damage to others’ integrity. They illegally hacked into HKU’s emails in search of dirt, leaving the Hong Kong Police publicly complicit as selective non-enforcers of the law. They arranged for Beijing-owned propaganda organs to publish literally hundreds of stories in an over-the-top smear campaign against Chan. They somehow or other pressured pliable members of the HKU Council into voting against Chan for embarrassingly pitiful reasons, leaving them exposed to public ridicule. And HKU is still in the lurch, as it has to find a willing, Beijing-acceptable candidate who can match the rejected Chan in terms of reputation.
United Front tactics rely on intimidation and fear to isolate enemies and leave them friendless. Obviously, overt pro-Communists back the anti-Chan campaign. And the broader establishment has to feign nonchalance or some sort of even-handedness. (SCMP columnists today claim to have ‘no idea if Chan is mediocre or distinguished’ and insist, in effect, that Communist agents hacking emails cannot justify a student whistleblower infringing the corrupted HKU Council’s ‘deliberative privilege’.) And various academics may well be cowed into silence. But the episode has otherwise only highlighted the Liaison Office’s true nature and alerted Hong Kong and the world to what is happening.
The brutishness of Communist officials engaged in a life-or-death struggle for control in a pluralistic society could almost be comical. In the latest attempts to win friends and influence people, the forces of darkness are at this time mounting a propaganda campaign against Li Ka-shing, the God of Hong Kong’s tycoon caste, and (reportedly) planning to erase colonial symbolism from the city’s mailboxes.
So – are China’s officials going to go through all of this to eliminate every real or imagined Johannes Chan out there?
To the extent that the ‘thorough disinfecting’ is successful, the ‘operating as usual’ part is of course finished. Hong Kong’s own officials and shoe-shining elite are waking up to this themselves. SCMP columnist Peter Guy goes back to the fundamental contradictions in the Basic Law…
This is perhaps an insult to clerisies – ruling elites with some (originally priestly) sort of literary leanings. But of all the ‘various sectors’ in Hong Kong, the officials and government hangers-on look perhaps the least prepared. Long comfortable, smug and arrogant insiders, they are now faced with the reality that Beijing will see them as just as expendable as a law professor, or a tycoon, or a colonial symbol on a mailbox. To the Chinese Communist Party, everyone is ultimately just a street-sleeper in McDonalds.
On a brighter note – I will be visiting more-resolutely anti-Communist territory for the rest of the week, no doubt conveying much excitement on the Twitter-thing to the right…