Amid the escalating political upheaval and social turmoil in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) of the State Council, along with Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, organized a closed-door gathering in Shenzhen on Wednesday.
According to the account of those who attended the event, HKMAO director Zhang Xiaoming told the attendees that the most “pressing and overriding task” for the Hong Kong government right now is to “stop violence, end the chaos and restore order”.
Zhang also said that “subversive forces” working against China and Hong Kong should not miscalculate the current situation or underestimate the stiff resolve of the central government and people across China to defend their national sovereignty, security and unity, as well as the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.
In the meantime, Liaison Office director Wang Zhimin reportedly referred to the ongoing struggle in Hong Kong as a “battle of life and death” for the future of Hong Kong and a “battle to defend” the city, and hence there is absolutely no room for retreat.
Given that it is a “battle of life and death”, former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie was said to have stated in no uncertain terms that even if the central government deploys the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to Hong Kong to suppress riots, it won’t be deemed as violating the “one country, two systems” or Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
In other words, deploying the military is an option on the table for Beijing.
While it remains to be seen if Beijing will indeed order the PLA to intervene, or refrain from doing so, what is clear now is that the Hong Kong police has become increasingly tough in arresting protesters and pressing charges against them, largely because it has the firm backing of the central authorities.
Anti-extradition bill protesters’ initial decision to escalate their resistance movement was an attempt to raise the costs for the administration in governance, putting pressure in a bid to force the authorities into accepting the demands of the citizens.
The problem, however, as it turns out, is this: what the protesters are getting now is exactly the opposite: their escalating violence has raised the costs for themselves in terms of punishment, with dozens of arrested protesters now facing the serious charge of rioting, under which they could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Given the current situation, we believe protesters must avoid crossing Beijing’s red line of defending the national sovereignty, and re-adopt the peaceful, rational and non-violent approach to pursuing their cause.
Regardless of the depth of their feelings, it is just not worth it for young people to put their personal futures at risk.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 8
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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