Even the pro-establishment Standard’s editorial raises an eyebrow at Wednesday’s exclusion from Hong Kong of the hitherto little-known, apparently mild-mannered British Conservative and Catholic human-rights campaigner and former Hong Kong resident Benedict Rogers.
Optimistic readings of the ‘One Country Two Systems’ deal 20 years ago concluded that Beijing would not dismissively override Hong Kong’s supposed autonomy like this. But the optimists were wrong. Beijing has previously ordered Hong Kong Immigration to bar aging Tiananmen student exiles, Falun Gong conference-goers, young Taiwan radicals and British lawmakers on a fact-finding mission. Compared with the kidnapping of book publishers and a Communist elite-connected tycoon, this at least follows some sort of due process. This drift towards ‘One System’ is of course also evident in political persecution of radical politicians and protesters, orchestrated freaking-out over ‘pro-independence’ banners on campuses and so on.
Beijing’s heavy-handed interventions obviously undermine Hong Kong’s integrity and/or image as a free, open, pluralist society. Poor Chief Executive Carrie Lam is left looking helpless. Just as she is delivering her big ‘Hong Kong is still brilliant’ policy speech, the Communist Party bluntly proves it doesn’t give a damn about that, or about her.
The Standard half-jokingly asks whether ex-Governor Chris Patten will be banned. The un-funny answer is that the Communist Party – in its paranoia – will do anything it feels necessary to keep itself in power.
There is more of this to come.
The China economic recovery/’miracle’ is over: the story from now on will be the world’s biggest middle-income-trapped aging society. It would take a superhuman to overcome the demographic fundamentals and political-economic contradictions. With this in mind, Xi Jinping is about to have himself declared Chairman of Everything for Life with demigod trimmings and no enemies to be seen anywhere at all.
And China is suddenly starting to suffer premature foreign-influence hubris all over the place. The country has been caught trying to corrupt Cambridge University Press, Confucius Institute-hosting campuses, New Zealand politics, Australian academia and media, and Canadian probably-all-the-above. Beijing is being boorish and entitled – pushing territorial claims, making demands of tributary states, erasing Taiwan, rewriting history and pushing grand and delirious plans to assume world leadership in industry, commerce and technology.
In the past when Beijing has told Hong Kong to refuse entry to subversive hostile elements, the individuals went fairly quietly. Benedict Rogers, who has a small – but we can guess, fast-growing – following here, is going to start an NGO to monitor the decline of the city as China’s Leninist control system tightens its grip. A Peeved Pissed-off Panda Paroxysm follows. I declare the weekend open with the hope that he and others continue to hit this raw nerve.