It looks as if, with only two months left in office, CY Leung’s obsession to prove his loyalty to the Communist Party through vindictiveness is bordering on farce. Here is a list of government opposition figures who have been arrested, charged, prosecuted, sued or barred from public office – mostly on shamelessly obscure or contrived grounds. It is like the time CY mentioned ‘Belt and Road’ 50 times in the same speech, except with cops knocking on doors. Another eight (including some duplicates) this morning.
This looks like the work of CY and his psychopath buddies in Beijing’s local Liaison Office – rather than Beijing itself – because, even by the standards of witch-hunts, it is overreaching and a last-minute rush.
The classic United Front tactic is to isolate and crush fringe opponents who might have only limited sympathy among the wider community. That would mean focusing the persecution on young-radical types whose behaviour has shocked liberal gentlefolk. But this crackdown extends to pursuing even harmless and dated idealists and uppity moderates like Benny Tai and Tanya Chan, who could be any of us.
Alternatively, there could be a gruesome Leninist logic to the clampdown, and Beijing has approved if not decreed it.
Either way, this sweeping and overtly political campaign is pushing the police and prosecution system further away from their traditional public-service neutrality. And it will put the courts and judiciary under pressure to become more of an arm of government; if they diligently protect citizens from abuse of state power in some of these cases, they expose themselves as foreign-infested threats to national security.
The crackdown also makes it harder for Carrie Lam’s incoming administration to distance itself from CY’s phobic antagonism towards the local opposition. This opposition, lest we forget, wins 60% support in polls among the population as a whole, and significantly more among the younger and better-educated demographics. However out-of-touch Carrie might appear, she must know that CY’s belligerence towards the majority of this pluralistic society is a burden on governance.
Maybe there is an opportunity – or even a demented United Front plan – to create some sort of bad cop-to-good cop transition on July 1. This particular ongoing round-up of dissidents looks as absurd as it does sinister. But the bigger, tragic context is an erosion of Hong Kong’s institutions, simply as a force of one-party-state nature.
The city’s press-freedom ranking has just fallen to 73rd. Our land and property markets have become an escape valve for the Mainland elites’ dirty cash. The stock exchange is listing Mainland corporate scams. There’s lead in the water pipes, and even the MTR doesn’t seem to be able to run a decent rail system anymore. It’s nothing personal, and it’s not deliberate – the Communists are turning Hong Kong into a banana republic because that’s all they know how to do.