It’s no coincidence that Leung Chun-ying stepped up his criticism of the rise of independent thinking among young Hong Kong people.
It came around the time key players in the 79-day democracy protests surrendered to the police and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam effusively praised Chinese immigrants as a key source of population growth.
Now the stage is set for the government to tighten the screws on two fronts — education and population policy.
The idea is to to create a harmonious society that does the bidding of the central government, never mind that “one country, two systems” still has more than three decades to run.
Leung hammered against any efforts to discuss Hong Kong self-determination in his policy address on Wednesday, short of laying down the law on free speech.
The next day, the government unveiled a report on its population policy which showed Hong Kong had recorded more than 800,000 new migrants from the mainland.
Lam quickly seized on the report to argue that these migrants help ensure Hong Kong’s competitiveness by making up for its low birth rate.
In fact, tertiary institutions in Hong Kong have been accepting Chinese students in the past decade.
Some full-time courses have more Chinese students than locals.
This is part of a policy to allow more mainlanders into Hong Kong by giving Chinese students right of abode after living here for seven years.
In addition, the government has launched a recruitment program to lure Chinese talent into key sectors such as public relations, construction, social work and education.
The program covers a wide range of service industries which in fact require local experts rather than imported professionals.
The government has been stressing the urgency of the recruitment campaign, saying Hong Kong needs fresh talent.
But this is all coming at the expense of young Hong Kong people who are finding it increasingly difficult to get a job.
To them, the policy has introduced needless — and unfair — competition.
Who can blame them for thinking they’re being punished by the government for not embracing its pro-Beijing agenda?
And who can stop them from thinking that their government would rather welcome subservient mainlanders than deal with its own contentious youth?
There’s no doubt Leung’s administration will do whatever it takes to justify its population policy, especially in the context of sustainable growth.
The reality is that the more mainlanders are allowed into Hong Kong, the faster — and more significantly — society will change.
Social divisions will deepen between sectors of the population that have divergent views over Hong Kong’s core values and other important issues from resource allocation to political ideology.
In fact, ideology is at the heart of worsening cross-border tensions.
National education is seen by both the Hong Kong and central governments as a way to unify that ideology by raising a generation of patriots.
The government has allocated HK$120,000 (US$15,480) for each school, or a combined HK$100 million, as part of an exchange program with mainland institutions.
The program requires each Hong Kong student to visit China each year, raising concern the government is trying to brainwash them.
Not if you look closely at how Leung attacked an academic discussion of self-determination by a university student publication.
He accused the publication of inciting independence for Hong Kong and the online exchanges that followed of “spreading fallacies”.
That looks like an excuse for clamping down on freedom of expression and dissent.
And that is no coincidence either. Leung’s government has failed to uphold “one country, two systems” and therefore the basic freedoms it guarantees.
Now his policies are starting to make it look like he represents Beijing rather than Hong Kong.
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