China’s Communist Party office running Hong Kong organized a “symposium” for 550 sympathizers Wednesday where a top government official called the protests there “a battle of life and death” for the future of communism in the city.
Some in attendance expressed support for unleashing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the streets of the city in a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown. The commander of the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison initially ruled out such a move when the protests began in June, but has since made clear his troops are ready to deploy of the Hong Kong government calls upon Beijing to eradicate the pro-democracy movement.
Protests in the city began in June, immediately following a thousands-strong commemoration of the dead in Tiananmen Square in 1989 for calling for an end to communism. The protesters organized against a proposed Legislative Council (LegCo) bill that would have legalized extradition into China for anyone accused of violating Communist Party laws found present in Hong Kong. Under the law currently governing Hong Kong, Beijing cannot enforce communist laws on Hong Kong soil, making the extradition proposal technically illegal.
The Hong Kong government tabled the bill in response to the protests but has since used tear gas to repress the protesters. Protesters have also faced the wrath of masked thugs wielding metal rods, who have surrounded unarmed activists and beaten them. In some cases, individuals wearing black – the color of the anti-China movement – but not partaking in the protests have become targets of violence.
The joint seminar run by the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office and the China Liaison Office of Hong Kong did not address the mob violence, which police confirmed had ties to organized crime syndicates known as triads.
Instead, according to the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), the seminar focused on how to silence the calls for democracy – or, in Communist Party language, how to “stop the riots and disturbances.”
“The most pressing and overriding task at present is to stop violence, end the chaos and restore order, so as to safeguard our homeland and prevent Hong Kong from sinking into an abyss,” Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, told the assembled, according to the Chinese state news outlet Xinhua.
Zhang vowed that, if the Hong Kong government appears to lose control of the situation, Beijing will “not sit back and do nothing.” He did not specify what action the Communist Party would take, though he expressed confidence that the Hong Kong government, a puppet of the regime in Beijing, will be able to handle the situation without reinforcements.
He added that the protesters were no longer fixated on one specific law, but that the movement had “clear ‘color revolution’ characteristics,” referring to the anti-communist, anti-Russia movements in post-Soviet states in the 2000s.
“If the violence and chaos are allowed to continue, not only the safety of Hong Kong citizens’ lives and property will be endangered, the governance authority of the SAR government, the cornerstone of the rule of law in Hong Kong, the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and the ‘one country, two systems’ will also be destroyed,” Xinhua paraphrased Zhang as saying.
“One Country, Two Systems” is the policy that denies Hong Kong its sovereignty, but bans China from imposing communist laws on the region.
Wang Zhimin, the head of the China Liaison Office of Hong Kong, reportedly called the protests “a battle of life and death” for the regime.
“There is no room for retreat,” he warned the assembled communists.
The assembly served as an indication of the seriousness with which the Communist Party is taking the general sentiment against it in Hong Kong, and yet another warning to protesters that Beijing will invade and colonize the city entirely if the benefits of doing so outweigh the potential losses of outraging the international community with gross human rights violations against pro-democracy protesters. The regime’s warnings it will stop at nothing to silence protesters are one prong of a layered effort to convince the world that the protesters are a violent minority that do not speak for the people of Hong Kong.
The Global Times, a Communist Party mouthpiece, published yet another story Wednesday arguing that most people in Hong Kong support the regime in Beijing. The Times has been publishing stories with photos of fewer than a dozen people standing around Hong Kong waving Chinese flags around to combat the images of millions of people taking the streets of a city of 7 million against them.
Wednesday’s Global Times story featured anonymous alleged pro-China Hong Kong residents referring to the peaceful protesters as “cockroaches” and a pro-China lawmaker referring to the democracy movement as “black terror.”
“The ongoing massive violent protests across Hong Kong are causing public fear, and the root of that fear did not come from the already-suspended extradition bill or from understaffed police, but from violent black-clad protesters who attack the city from all angles,” the Chinese government outlet concluded. It did not mention the pro-China mobs that have attacked protesters on multiple occasions.
The symposium Wednesday, coupled with the increasingly belligerent coverage of the protests in Chinese state media, have once again raised concerns of a PLA attack on the civilian protesters. Reports in mid-July indicated that Major General Chen Daoxing, the commander of the PLA Hong Kong garrison, had privately confirmed he had no interest in using his troops to attack protesters. By the beginning of this month, however, Chen had chosen to make himself more publicly visible, warning that the protests were “absolutely intolerable” and that the PLA would “resolutely safeguard the country’s sovereignty” in Hong Kong. The Chinese Foreign Ministry called Chen’s threats “impressive and encouraging” and vowed to protect Hong Kong’s “prosperity and stability.”
China timed the release of a propaganda video showing PLA soldiers attacking protesters dressed to look like Hong Kong pro-democracy activists with Chen’s remarks, his most public to date.
On Tuesday, Chinese police in Shenzhen, the province immediately to the north of Hong Kong, staged a 12,000-officer anti-riot drill, once again combatting individuals dressed to look like Hong Kong protesters, a move many suggested was yet another threat to protesters to cease their activities.
The Hong Kong protest movement is seeking a full withdrawal of the extradition bill from LegCo, an independent inquiry on police brutality, freedom for political prisoners, a government declaration that it was wrong to call a peaceful June 12 protest a “riot,” and full direct election of lawmakers.