In a rare news conference, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council made its first official statement about events in Hong Kong since the anti-extradition bill protests began.
The statement reveals that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) traditional Hong Kong governing agencies, including the Hong Kong Macau Affairs Office and the Hong Kong Liaison Office, have been deprived of the power to make specific policies. These offices are awaiting a final decision from the highest level, and a consensus hasn’t been reached yet.
In the interim, they hope to alleviate the situation to avoid being held accountable later.
The likelihood of Beijing resorting to more intense measures during the U.S.–China trade talks and in the lead-up to the January 2020 Taiwan election is low. Chief Executive Carrie Lam could be replaced at any time, so effectively maintaining security in Hong Kong is Beijing’s priority.
The focus of the Hong Kong Macau Affairs Office statement was to support the Hong Kong police. The CCP doesn’t want to use military intervention; it hopes to continue to support the police and use them to maintain stability.
Specifically, the news conference revealed four key things.
Beijing won’t order military intervention unless absolutely necessary.
Yang Guang, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, asked a reporter to reference Basic Law on the question of military intervention. This shows that Beijing hasn’t really considered using the military yet or doesn’t plan to do so at this point. The current international situation will make it difficult for Beijing to use force.
Beijing intervening with military forces, including armed police, would be equivalent to announcing the death of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. Any bloodshed could also trigger international sanctions. The current U.S.–China trade talks may immediately cease, and the United States may collaborate with other Western countries to impose sanctions on China and Hong Kong.
China’s economy is at a different place than it was during the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre; it’s highly dependent on the global economy and will suffer severely if economic sanctions are imposed.
No consensus has been reached in Zhongnanhai on the Hong Kong issue.
The spokesperson simply repeated the same points spouted over the past two decades; nothing new was offered. That shows that the highest power in Beijing hasn’t formulated a new strategy or “principle” on the Hong Kong issue.
The same old mechanism is currently in effect.
What we have come to know is that the CCP Politburo has held at least two meetings on Hong Kong issues. The United Front Work Department, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of State Security, and other departments have been meeting and reporting frequently, but haven’t come up with any new directives.
No ministerial-level CCP officials were at the news conference, which is interesting. Using a spokesperson indicates a lower-level official response from the CCP, which supports the supposition of no new directives from the top. It’s also an indication that Zhongnanhai, the central leadership of the CCP, doesn’t know how to resolve the unrest in Hong Kong without upsetting other countries.
There is no consensus in the CCP Politburo.
Beijing is prepared to abandon Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
The official statement focused on praising the Hong Kong police. Yang used four Chinese idioms to praise the Hong Kong police for “dutifulness, dedication, fearlessness, and humiliation” and expressed his support of the police officers multiple times during the news conference. However, as for supporting Lam, the verbiage was quite superficial. Past chief executives have all received similar supportive speeches, but that support was eventually revealed to not be long-lasting.
The CCP mainly relies on guns (military) and knives (police) to govern China. If guns are out of the question, knives become even more important. CCP intervention will start with the Hong Kong police. Chief executives can change at any time, but the CCP cannot replace the entire Hong Kong police force.
Beijing hopes Hong Kong will maintain the status quo, including policies and concept of governance.
The spokesperson emphasized maintaining the current “One Country, Two Systems” policy. He focused on opposing violence and maintaining rule of law. The “Three bottom lines” have been quoted many times in the past 22 years; nothing new was offered.
When compared with the usual CCP official expressions, this statement was on the softer side. The CCP didn’t use any strong emotional language such as “[they] will bear all consequences on their own,” “[foreign anti-China forces] will harm themselves like lifting a rock and dropping it on their own feet,” “[Chinese people] absolutely do not accept,” and other similar rhetoric.
Beijing doesn’t want the situation to worsen. The spokesperson didn’t completely negate the large-scale protests of Hong Kong citizens. He only condemned the violence of “a very small group of people,” didn’t mention “foreign anti-China forces,” and just criticized some people and some politicians in the West.
Cang Shan is the editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.