To Understand Rising Tensions in Hong Kong, Look to Beijing
To Understand Rising Tensions in Hong Kong, Look to Beijing
Rival political faction stirs trouble in Hong Kong over pressure from anti-corruption campaign

News analysis

If an oil well catches fire, firefighters ignite dynamite near the blaze. The blast has an effect similar to blowing out a candle. It sucks out oxygen while the shockwave pushes away the burning fuel.

While under pressure from the anti-corruption campaign of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the rival political faction led by former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin is using a method similar to what’s done when fighting an oil well fire—starting chaos elsewhere to draw attention from itself.

For the second time since 2014, the Chinese legislature, which is still part of the Jiang faction, is interfering with its governance of Hong Kong. On Nov. 7, it issued a rare, controversial reading of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. Hong Kong residents have started responding in a similar way to the 2014 Umbrella Movement, and are organizing protests against Beijing for eroding their rights and freedoms under the official “one party, two systems” governance of Hong Kong.

The Jiang faction’s idea of stirring trouble, it seems, is to discredit the Xi administration, and force Xi to shift his attention from taking down the few remaining elites of the Jiang faction.

As the regime’s new “core” leader, however, Xi Jinping now has the political leverage to execute a judo move on the fractious elements. With Xi continuing his relentless takedown of Jiang’s faction, those in charge of rousing Hong Kong will most likely stay in the game of “chicken,” and hasten their own political demise.  

Protesters march amid ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong on November 6, 2016. (ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters march amid ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong on Nov. 6, 2016. (ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)

Shortly after becoming China’s leader in 2012, Xi Jinping launched an anti-corruption drive, and stated his intent to rid the regime of endemic corruption. Many of the Party cadres who were purged happen to belong to the faction of Jiang Zemin, the Party elder who entrenched corruption in China and in 1999, personally ordered the brutal persecution of Falun Gong, one of China’s largest spiritual communities before Jiang’s political campaign.

The ferocity of the Wang Qishan-led anti-corruption campaign in Mainland China has cowed Chinese officials, leaving them afraid to display their wealth or take bribes. But pushback has come in the form of countrywide “passive resistance,” according to Renmin University professor Jin Canrong. Local officials, likely yearning for a return of loose regulations under Jiang have chosen not to properly implement policies and directives of the Xi leadership.

Communist Party leader Xi Jinping (L) talks to his predecessor Jiang Zemin as they watch a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2015. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Communist Party leader Xi Jinping (L) talks to his predecessor Jiang Zemin as they watch a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2015. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the Jiang faction elites have chosen to be proactive in resisting Xi via Hong Kong—and their efforts have recently been outed by a pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper, Sing Pao Daily.

Since August, Sing Pao has been regularly smearing top Chinese officials in cover-page commentaries. These have included Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Dejiang, Liaison Office chief Zhang Xiaoming, and Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying.

Even pro-democracy newspapers in Hong Kong haven’t openly criticized elite Chinese officials, so the nature of the commentaries has some political analysts saying the newspaper could have the backing of the Xi Jinping leadership.

Sing Pao accuses these men of “ruining” Hong Kong by masterminding the police action that sparked the Umbrella Movement street occupation in 2014. The newspaper also lambasts the three officials for playing up pro-independence sentiments in the city, which allowed the Chinese legislature to hand down a rare and highly controversial legal interpretation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution on Nov. 7.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (L) and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen (R) take part in a press conference in Hong Kong on November 7, 2016 following a ruling by Beijing on two elected pro-independence lawmakers from the city's legislature. China effectively barred two elected pro-independence lawmakers from Hong Kong's legislature on November 7 after they deliberately misread their oaths, saying that they could not be sworn in again. / AFP / ISAAC LAWRENCE        (Photo credit should read ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)
Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying (L) and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen in Hong Kong on Nov. 7, 2016. (ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)

Sing Pao states that Zhang Dejiang, Zhang Xiaoming, and Leung Chun-ying are the political clients of Jiang Zemin, head of the rival faction, which Epoch Times had earlier reported.

Tensions in Hong Kong have been rising since the Chinese legislature interpreted Hong Kong’s law, but Hong Kong’s leader and the chief of the Liaison Office did the opposite of cooling things off.

Leung Chun-ying, the Hong Kong leader, said in a recent press conference that his government will enact a highly controversial anti-sedition act that brought half a million Hong Kong residents to the streets in protest in 2003.

Meanwhile, Zhang Xiaoming, head of the Hong Kong Liaison Office, suggested to revive the idea of introducing “patriotic education,” a syllabus that was widely derided as communist indoctrination, in Hong Kong schools.

Baggio Leung (L) and Yau Wai-ching of the Youngspirations organization march during a protest in Hong Kong on Nov. 6, 2016. (ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)
Baggio Leung (L) and Yau Wai-ching of the Youngspirations organization march during a protest in Hong Kong on Nov. 6, 2016. (ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)

Hong Kong is now like a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse. But if the situation turns explosive, the Xi Jinping leadership could step in and discipline members of the Jiang faction overseeing Hong Kong.

“Let’s see the show of Zhang Dejiang and Leung Chun-ying,” the source close to Beijing told the Hong Kong edition of Epoch Times in the evening of Nov. 6. “The more they act out, the faster and more thoroughly they’ll be dealt with.”

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