The ongoing Hong Kong protests have posed one of the largest political challenges for Beijing.
The Chinese Communist Party leadership is scrambling to resolve the crisis before Oct. 1, the Party’s 70th anniversary of its takeover of China, according to an insider source in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, citizens prepare more strikes, rallies, and demonstrations to pressure the Hong Kong government into withdrawing a proposed extradition bill they believe embodies Beijing’s ever-increasing encroachment on the city’s affairs.
The source, who is the son of a Party elder, attended an Aug. 19 meeting of Beijing’s representatives in Hong Kong, during which a message from Party leader Xi Jinping was conveyed: He is displeased with the way the Hong Kong government has handled protests, as it has intensified clashes and made protesters direct their anger toward the central government.
“Whoever created this mess will have to fix it. They are not allowed to create any more pressure for the central government,” Xi’s message stated, according to the source. He shared meeting details with the Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times on condition of anonymity.
On Aug. 18, the day before the meeting, more than 1.7 million Hongkongers braved heavy rain to participate in a mass rally and march.
Since June, protesters have demanded that the Hong Kong government withdraw an extradition bill that would allow anyone living or traveling in Hong Kong to be transferred to China for trial if Beijing names the person as a criminal suspect. Many fear that the proposal would leave individuals vulnerable to China’s opaque judicial system, with its disregard for rule of law.
As Hongkongers marched, high-ranking officials from various Chinese national agencies—including the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Information, and the military’s General Political and General Staff departments—all watched the events in Hong Kong unfold live, according to the source. Later that day, Xi held an internal meeting with some top officials in Beijing.
There, Xi gave a speech, his first official statement regarding the Hong Kong protests, according to the source.
His speech was then conveyed in Hong Kong the following day, which was attended by Party officials in charge of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office—Beijing’s top agency for handling those territories; the Liaison Office, Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong; and the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong.
Xi had also said that whoever handles the Hong Kong protests must make sure dissent doesn’t spread to mainland China—and that protesters don’t target the Chinese central government.
“Xi said these are the two outcomes he is most unwilling to see,” the source stated.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s words were also relayed at the Beijing internal meeting. According to the source, Li stated his criticism of the Hong Kong government more directly. “Carrie Lam is not trustworthy at all,” he said, referring to the city’s chief executive and head of the Hong Kong government. “She has misled central authorities.”
The source explained that Li reprimanded Lam and other Hong Kong officials for repeatedly misleading Beijing into believing that they could easily tackle and quell the protests.
The source said he believed both Xi and Li’s words implied that Beijing’s representatives in Hong Kong are not loyal to Xi, adding that Wang Zhimin, the current director of the Liaison Office, has close ties to Zeng Qinghong, former Chinese vice chair and member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Party’s highest-level decision-making body.
Zeng is known as the former right-hand man for former Party leader Jiang Zemin. In recent years, Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has purged scores of officials loyal to Jiang, who oppose Xi’s rule.
Although he is retired, Chinese political observers believe Zeng is still an influential political figure in Hong Kong affairs today.
“At the end of the conveyance meeting, the directors and officials from the Liaison Office looked very upset,” the source stated.
Spokespersons from both the Liaison Office and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office have made public statements in support of Lam, and have described the protesters as “rioters” and “arrogant lunatics.” This has drawn anger from protesters.
The source further revealed that the Liaison Office itself is very divided between officials from different areas of China. There is the Guangdong Province faction, the Fujian Province faction, and the Beijing faction. They disrespect one another and compete for power, the source said.
For example, the central government in Beijing has allocated more funds to the Liaison Office in recent years, intended for “maintaining stability”—quelling dissent—in Hong Kong. The different factions often confront one another about allocation of funds, and accuse each other of not using the money for its stated purposes, the source said.
Lam Again Under Fire
Lam has recently drawn censure again for her comments, angering many protesters and the city legislature’s pro-democracy camp.
At a press conference on Aug. 27, when asked by a reporter whether she would consider exercising the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to resolve the crisis—a law that grants the chief executive broad powers to make arrests, stop communications, and issue punishment during “occasions of emergency or public danger”—Lam’s vague response ignited criticism.
She didn’t deny or confirm whether she would invoke the law; she only noted that her government would consider all “existing laws.”
“All of Hong Kong’s laws, if they can provide a rule of law measure to stop the violence and chaos, the government has the responsibility to look at it,” Lam said.
Protesters fear that invoking this law would give Lam a free hand to control the situation, including by shutting down internet access, restricting press, and prosecuting dissenters.