The Apple Daily was forced to close down, and the top brass, editors and chief writers were arrested one by one. Hong Kong went from a West Berlin in the Cold War to an East Berlin. The fall was faster than anyone could have imagined.
The SAR government has made major personnel changes in the remaining year of its term, with police officers Tang Ping-keung and Li Ka-chiu being appointed as Secretary for Security and Chief Secretary for Administration respectively. This week, Lam led the top government officials to Beijing to attend the party celebration, while Lee stayed in Hong Kong to become acting Chief Executive. It is rare in mainland China for armed forces gunmen to gain such significant power in the government. The future of Beijing’s rule in Hong Kong will be a very strong and forceful one, centered on the state security apparatus.
Hong Kong is sinking at the speed of light, and many of our friends who cherish Hong Kong are nostalgic for the days when Donald Tsang ruled Hong Kong, who claimed to “drink Hong Kong water and shed Hong Kong blood”. At that time, people with democratic background were recruited into the government. The Tsang government, the Democratic Party, the Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong Communist Party and Beijing cooperated to reach a political reform proposal that increased the “democratic elements” of the Legislative Council. Some commentators even feel sorry for the year when Henry Tang did not succeed in becoming the Chief Executive to continue the line of Tsang, that Leung Chun-ying accidentally became the Chief Executive is a turning point for Hong Kong.
In tough times, it is only human to be nostalgic for the past, and even to glorify it, imagining that if we had taken a “path not taken”, today would be a better parallel time and space. The democrats who were beaten to death during the Cultural Revolution all miss the early 1950s when they were “friends” of the Communist Party, when they were treated with courtesy by the Communist Party, when they lived a petty life while scolding and helping the Communist Party, and when they were the white gloves of the Communist Party to criticize and purge the “rich, the rich, the bad and the right”. The good old days.
But to imagine that Hong Kong’s current fall is an accident, that “it could have been otherwise”, is to underestimate the CCP’s deliberate and strategic patience in deploying full control over Hong Kong for decades, and its fierce determination to sweep and purge in a stormy manner without turning back once the time comes.
The script of “one country, two systems” accelerating to “one country, one system” by 2047 has already been written by the Chinese Communist Party. In a paper written in 2008, senior barrister and Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, Mr. Harper pointed out that the Basic Law of Hong Kong has many similarities with the “Article 17” agreement reached between the Chinese Communist Party and the Dalai Lama’s government in Tibet in 1951, and therefore concluded that the Chinese Communist Party must have followed the Tibetan script when drafting the Basic Law.
In fact, Li Hou, the secretary-general of the Basic Law Drafting Committee and former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, revealed in 1997 that the Chinese Communist Party’s 1983 “12-point policy for resolving the Hong Kong issue” was modeled on the Chinese Communist Party’s “special policy for resolving the Tibet issue”.
Back then, the CCP’s approach to Tibet was to allow the Dalai Lama’s government and the traditional Tibetan elite to exercise autonomy before the PLA, CCP cadres, and Han Chinese immigrants could enter Tibet in large numbers, buying time for the CCP to build the Sichuan-Tibet and Qinghai-Tibet highways and establish a second power center, the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region, to gradually overthrow the Dalai Lama’s government. Finally, in 1959, Beijing formally established direct rule in the name of quelling unrest.
This Tibetan script, which repeats the Qing empire’s practice of using the Tulku system to soften the situation, and then purging the indigenous chiefs when the time comes, has been repeated by Chinese communist scholars for years, from Qiang Shigong to Cao Erbao to countless books on Hong Kong published by the Chinese Communist Party. It’s just that Hong Kong’s elite, who are so confident that they are special, have not paid enough attention.
The Communist Party’s “population exchange”, the building of the Express Rail Link, the dissolution of the border, and the massive entry of Chinese capital into Hong Kong to replace Chinese capital all began during the Tsang Yam-kuen era. It was an era of superficial leniency and bribes to anesthetize the local elite in exchange for ample time to deploy direct rule. Its violent end was predetermined from the start. The fact that Lam Cheng, a British Hong Kong civil servant, pursued a tougher line than Leung Chun-ying shows that this line was not the result of someone’s accidental seizure of the throne, but the result of a larger force and planning behind it.
It is still too early to say whether this bigger power and planning will finally have the last laugh, but the fantasy that Tsang can come back to alleviate the pain of Hong Kong one day is destined to be only a dream forever.