Himalaya Moscow Katyusha (RU) НастяApfel
The arrest of more than 50 Democrats in Hong Kong last week reinforces Beijing’s drive to stifle any return of the populist challenge to Chinese communist rule, and new measures are possible, according to two individuals with direct knowledge of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) plans, Hong Kong writes (Reuters).
Highlighting that the plans are not yet complete, the people said it is possible that the Hong Kong elections, already postponed until September due to the CCP virus, could face reforms that, according to one person, are aimed at reducing Democratic influence.
Both men with extensive experience in Hong Kong and representing Beijing’s interests spoke on condition of anonymity.
Beijing’s involvement was “essential” in managing and coordinating with the Hong Kong government, one of them, a senior Communist Chinese official, said.
He told Reuters the latest arrests were part of a wave of ongoing protests to silence activists and “make sure Hong Kong doesn’t slide back to what we saw 18 months ago,” as massive demonstrations heralded the wildest public uprising against Communist Chinese leaders since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.
The CCP has been “too patient for too long and needs to sort things out once and for all,” he added, saying that tougher steps would be taken “for at least a year.”
Hong Kong chief executive spokeswoman Carrie Lam said the implementation of the National Security Act last June restored stability and reduced street violence.
“The legal rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong have been upheld and criminals have been brought to justice through our independent judiciary,” he said in an email response to Reuters, without answering questions about Beijing’s role.
Elections in Hong Kong have been set for September 5 and officials have worked to ensure that the elections are open, fair and fair, he added.
The Communist Chinese government did not respond to requests for comment.
A communist Chinese official said Beijing remains concerned that the opposition could still win a majority in the legislature if elections are held, given the lingering wave of public support.
Communist Chinese officials are now discussing ways to change the electoral system to address “flaws” in the political structure, he said, and the elections could be further postponed.
A second pro-Beijing source confirmed that active negotiations are under way for structural changes in Hong Kong’s political system, including a possible reduction in Democratic influence on the 1,200-member electoral commission to elect the next Hong Kong leader in 2022.
“This is likely to shake up the entire political base,” a source said about the reforms.
A spokesman for the Lama said the authorities are exploring the possibility of using electronic voting and setting up polling stations and enumeration areas in mainland China to allow voters registered there to vote.
Any changes to electoral legislation aimed at further isolating the opposition will now be procedurally guaranteed as the legislature is now controlled by pro-Beijing politicians following the massive resignation of Democrats from the legislature last November.
Since the introduction of the new Security Law, authorities have arrested 93 opposition figures, froze activist assets, confiscated phones, computers and travel documents, and disqualified some lawmakers and targeted media outlets. Hundreds of people fled into exile.
Six high-ranking Democrats interviewed by Reuters expressed concerns about what they described as grim prospects following the recent arrests.
Among the next steps the authorities could focus on, they say, are the disqualification of hundreds of democratic “district councilors” who dominate the grassroots political arena; strengthening loyalty to the CCP in the civil service; pressure on businesses whose bosses clearly support the democratic cause; and the creeping internet and media censorship under the auspices of national security.
The authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly stated that the security law will target only a small minority of troublemakers.
Beijing denies restricting rights and freedoms in the global financial center and opposes criticism of the arrests as “a serious interference with the sovereignty and internal affairs of the CCP.”
Hong Kong, a cosmopolitan metropolis of 7.6 million and known for its free spirits, has seen many challenged the CCP’s authoritarian rule, persecuted under its broad Security Law.
“Hong Kong has entered a harsh winter,” said Benny Tai, a former law professor who was a key camp strategist after his arrest. “The wind is blowing strong and cold.”
When the city returned from British rule to Chinese rule in 1997, Communist Chinese leaders promised in a mini-constitution to grant the city a high degree of autonomy and wide freedoms not allowed in mainland China, including freedom of expression, assembly, and ultimately full democracy.
Yam Kai-bong, a Tai Po district councilor for local pro-democracy Neo-Democrats, said the specter of protracted arrest trials could scare off or weaken the opposition camp’s chances in any upcoming elections.
“It is quite clear that this time the authorities want to throw one net to catch all those who may have planned to participate in the upcoming elections – if they take place at all – and make them very difficult to participate in the elections.”