China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), the top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) political office in Hong Kong, on Wednesday condemned pro-democracy demonstrators as a “political virus” that “must be eliminated” before Hong Kong can return to prosperity.
China’s State-run Global Times on Wednesday said, “Hong Kong will not enjoy a peaceful day unless black-clad rioters are eliminated, and the central government will not sit and watch this destructive force wantonly do whatever they crazily wish, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said on Wednesday.”
As reported by the UK Guardian, the HKMAO made no distinction between law-abiding critics of the Beijing-aligned government and “black-clad rioters,” lumping them together as a “recklessly demented force” threatening the One Country, Two Systems arrangement that allows Hong Kong to retain a shred of autonomy as a CCP possession:
It said the protesters and their oft-used mantra of “if we burn, you burn with us” were a “political virus”, and that the movement’s organisers wanted to “drag Hong Kong off a cliff”.
It said that while many Hong Kongers had sympathy and understanding for them, “the more sympathisers the tyrants have, the greater price Hong Kong will pay.”
“It can be said the forces of black violence are destroying the foundation of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” the statement said.
It said the central government had responsibility for safeguarding national security and the constitutional order in Hong Kong, and called for the urgent implementation of long-shelved national security laws.
The Guardian noted that the protests have resumed, although on a far smaller scale than the gigantic demonstrations that convulsed Hong Kong for much of last year. The HKMAO accused the small groups of protesters who have resumed their activities of violating coronavirus safety rules and seeking to resume “street warfare.”
The protest movement sees Beijing’s talk of eradicating them like a virus as more than just political hyperbole that exploits pandemic anxiety. Observers quoted by the Guardian noted that the exact same “virus that must be eradicated” line was employed by the CCP against the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang province right before they were herded into gigantic concentration camps, tortured, brainwashed, and sold off as slave labor.
“It is regrettable that the Chinese government seems to be increasingly inflexible in dealing with its population from Xinjiang to Hong Kong, using the only tool it has in disposal: a crackdown,” Human Rights Watch told the Guardian, seeing the new hardline rhetoric and the recent wave of political arrests as a sign that Hong Kong’s limited autonomy is about to become much more limited.
The Global Times did a little spin doctoring by toning down the rhetoric in the HKMAO statement, but still applauded the office for dehumanizing the protesters and lumping them together as a terrorist threat to Hong Kong’s future that could prove more devastating than the Wuhan virus:
The statement came after the COVID-19 epidemic began to ease in Hong Kong, but black-clad rioters soon resumed their violent activities such as illegal gathering, disrupting normal business and throwing Molotov cocktails. The spokesperson has been making frequent statements since mid-April regarding various issues including condemning some members of the opposition for malicious filibustering which paralyzed the functions of the LegCo and voicing support for Hong Kong police for arresting criminal suspects and riots’ mastermind including Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and Martin Lee Chu-ming.
Hong Kong economic recession deepened in the first quarter of the year weighed down by violent anti-government protests that started last June and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Hong Kong’s GDP contracted 8.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, the largest recorded decline since 1974. The unemployment rate has reached 4.2 percent, a record high in the last nine years.
While COVID-19 has threatened the safety of people around the world and brought unprecedented difficulties and challenges to global economic growth, the greatest calamity Hong Kong is facing is within itself, which is the black-clad rioters and anti-government protests, according to the spokesperson.
The Global Times was infuriated at protesters for disrupting the Communist Party’s May Day holiday and “aiming to block the increasingly deep communication and cooperation between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.”
The CCP newspaper amplified HKMAO’s threatening language against those who have “sympathy and understanding or even naive fantasies” about the protest movement, signaling that the CCP’s immediate goal is to terrorize Hong Kongers who support or admire the movement without participating in its demonstrations. To that end, the CCP endorsed the creation of its own “popular movement,” a group called the “Hong Kong Coalition” that ostensibly hopes to “unite people, clean up the mess, and push Hong Kong back onto the right track.”
The Hong Kong Coalition (HKC) is not some sort of grassroots populist movement; it is an alliance of “tycoons, ex-officials, and other leading public figures” with a very rich and well-connected but extremely small membership of about 1,500, as the South China Morning Post described it on Tuesday.
All 12 of the HKC’s “core members” are pro-Beijing moguls or current or former government officials, including the richest man in Hong Kong, property magnate Lee Shau-kee. Another member is Hong Kong’s only delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Communist China. The people who actually formed the group, Tung Chee-hwa and Leung Chun-ying, are currently “vice-chairmen of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference,” a Chinese Communist Party organism that “advises” the regime in Beijing.
When Tung and Leung launched their coalition, they said the same things Beijing is saying about the Hong Kong protest movement and opposition legislators, who did far too well in the last election for the CCP’s comfort:
“The opposition has resorted to all means to seek mutual destruction, such as attacking the police with petrol bombs, and making remote bombs,” he said.
“They damaged mutual interests of Hong Kong, and pushed the city to the edge of a cliff. If they want to destroy the future of Hong Kong, we won’t let them succeed.”
Tung also accused opposition lawmakers of abusing their power, obstructing the government’s work by filibustering in the legislature, and allowing external forces to undermine China’s progress on the pretext of democracy and human rights.
“It’s most outrageous to see some opposition figures begging the United States to intervene in the affairs of Hong Kong and China, and to impose sanctions on the city,” he said.
“Such acts have seriously violated the Basic Law and touched the bottom line of the principle of ‘one country, two systems’,” said Tung, the city’s first postcolonial chief executive from 1997 to 2005.
Leung made it clear the HKC has the power and money to do a lot more than talk about how much it dislikes Beijing’s adversaries in Hong Kong:
Leung Chun-ying, who was Hong Kong’s chief executive from 2012 to 2017, said the coalition would make use of its network to help university graduates find jobs, internships and volunteer work so they would not “stay idle”.
“Some employers said they should not hire university graduates this year because some were involved in illegal protests. But I do not agree. I believe most youngsters are against violence and mutual destruction,” he said.
But Leung shunned the question on whether the coalition would help supporters of anti-government protests last year.
Asia Times noted on Wednesday that the HKC’s membership is largely identical to the cadre of Beijing loyalists in the “Our Hong Kong Foundation,” a similar group formed to counter the popularity of Hong Kong’s previous protest movement, the Umbrella Revolution of 2014.
A few of the rich businessmen in the HKC were savaged by pro-Beijing media last year for being indulgent of the protest movement or attempting to help young protesters who said they were assaulted by the police, so joining the CCP’s new front in Hong Kong could be a means of doing penance and signaling that their minds are now right.