President Xi Jinping made his keynote address in Shenzhen. But the speech would have echoed across Hong Kong.
In an ominous oratory to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the special economic zone, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party announced plans that could further downgrade the politically-torn former British colony.
He talked at length about Shenzhen’s transformation from a backwater fishing village to a thriving high-tech metropolis in just four decades. Xi also described the future of the Greater Bay Area, a Silicon Valley-styled project, and called for even closer integration of Hong Kong and Macau.
At the heart will be Shenzhen and the development of not only “innovative industries” but a hub for “international finance and global talent.” He went on to outline greater autonomy for the city in stark contrast with his decision to take a wrecking ball to Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” policy earlier this year.
“If you do not have stability, if you are caught up in revolution, or great turmoil, or anarchy, then you will lose out on whatever advantages and resources you may have previously had,” Victor Gao, a professor at China’s Soochow University and a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, said.
“Then, your economic development will reverse course,” he told the Washington Post.
The “anarchy” Gao was talking about was the pro-democracy demonstrations that saw millions of people take to the streets of Hong Kong during the 2019 Summer of Discontent. Largely peaceful, there were sporadic outbreaks of violence from a hardcore wing of the movement.
But what followed resulted in even greater “turmoil,” culminating in the betrayal of the Joint Declaration. The document was signed by London and Beijing before the handover of the city and the new territories from the United Kingdom to China in 1997.
Enshrined in the charter was the pledge of “autonomy” known as “One Country, Two Systems” Instead, Xi and the CCP imposed a draconian National Security Law on the region in June, arrested leading activists, and brought in the ‘thought police’.
“The National Security Law is being used to disenfranchise the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens,” Chris Patten, the last British colonial governor, said in a statement during the summer.
“It is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy … This is the sort of behavior that you would expect in a police state … an outrageous political purge,” he added.
To humiliate Hong Kong even further, local government leader Carrie Lam was forced to delay her annual policy address this week after being ordered to attend Xi’s Shenzhen talkfest.
With her reputation already tarnished, the Special Administrative Region chief executive has become just another provincial puppet of the CCP after being handpicked by Beijing’s political elite.
She simply does what she is told with Chinese characteristics.
Earlier this year, her administration shelved legislative elections, citing the Covid-19 crisis.
At the same time, at least 12 candidates were banned from standing for office, creating an uproar among democrats.
High-profile figures included Joshua Wong, the former leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Along with the others, he was placed on a blacklist for “failing to uphold” the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, according to government officials.
But the real reason was political censorship amid fears of a pro-democracy landslide at the polls.
“Clearly, #Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of the #Hongkongers, tramples upon the city’s last pillar of vanishing autonomy and attempts to keep #HK’s legislature under its firm grip,” he tweeted.
Human rights ‘banned’
Since then, the education system has been brought under the control of the Communist Party of China with all references on critical thinking, such as democracy and human rights, banned from classrooms.
The mantra now is “be loyal to the Party,” the official state-run Xinhua News Agency reported this week in a broad country-wide campaign.
For Hong Kong, that will speed up Beijing’s ultimate goal of dismantling the city’s “special status” as it becomes completely absorbed in a Red tide.
“The new mission bestowed upon Shenzhen to allow it to play a bigger role in ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is about expanding the scope of the principle. It means Hong Kong will be further integrated with the mainland through Shenzhen,” Tam Yiu-chung, a card-carrying member of the CCP and a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, told the state-owned Global Times.
Another view is that President Xi has finally switched off the neon lights on the laissez-faire city, a political ‘circuit breaker’ with no end in sight.