Hong Kong’s pro-democrats accuse Chief Executive CY Leung of using Cultural Revolution-style ‘white terror’ to try to intimidate opponents into silence. While the language is flamboyant, there seems little doubt that he is trying to stir up some sort of popular backlash against supporters of teacher Alpais Lam and the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement. Aside from divisive remarks at his recent town hall meeting in Tin Shui Wai, we have his peculiar, some might say sinister, decision to ask the Education Secretary for a ‘report’ on Lam’s Teacher-Swears-at-Police Shock Horror Outrage.
The pro-dems are picking up on journalist Willy Lam’s analysis that this is the doing of Beijing’s officials, who are growing increasingly paranoid about Occupy Central. In other words, the government is now openly joining the orchestrated campaign that has seen the contrived appearance of multiple pressure groups and daily propaganda screeching against Occupy Central.
His predecessor, knowing that such action would probably be counterproductive, would have made a few disapproving comments and sent them to the Liaison Office to show what a good boy he was. He might even have explained to the cadres why bullying and barracking won’t work in this pluralistic community. CY, however, is either too obedient and unquestioning to argue, or actually imagines that he can rouse some ‘silent majority’ of the population to turn against and marginalize the pro-dems.
Coming at this time, with a political reform process due to start and the administration losing members to incessant quasi-scandals, encouraging and widening the division within the community is irrational. Even government itself is affected: Executive Council members are offering conflicting opinions about the wisdom of ordering an ‘Alpais Report’, and one minor civil service union has issued a statement accusing the cops – public-service colleagues – of bias. But then, the inevitable worldview of the one-party state in China, seeing plots and conspiracies behind everything that goes wrong, is irrational. It’s just that under ‘One Country Two Systems’ the craziness usually stops at the border.
It will be intriguing to see where this goes next. Much depends on the fate of Alpais Lam. Does CY, egged on by the Liaison Office, build her up as a public enemy and crucify her to expunge Hong Kong of its sins? In which case, opposing groups of teachers and everyone else march in the streets, and someone, somewhere ends up having to admit defeat. Or do calmer bureaucratic and other heads convince authoritarians and ideologues to calm down and restore society to its usual happy state of bickering and sniping about how to achieve consensus and harmony? There are pros and cons to both.