A New Chill Blows Over Hong Kong

PRESIDENT XI JINPING’S silence over the increasingly violent protests in Hong Kong had been deafening. Now it is chilling.

While visiting Nepal — and not naming Hong Kong directly — he warned that the fate of those who attempted to sheer off any part of China would be to ‘perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder’. An additional reference to ‘external forces’ dispelled any lingering doubts about the target of his remarks. State media has banged on for months about the external forces they see being behind the Hong Kong protests.

Xi’s words will further reinforce the fears of those who worry that China will not be able to quell the unrest in Hong Kong any way but violently. Beijing’s reluctance to ‘send in the tanks’ for fear of a repeat of Tiananmen Square in 1989 looks less certain by the day.

There is no doubt that Beijing is well aware that doing so would have severe consequences for Hong Kong and for China’s international standing. And it very much remains a last resort. But casting the protests as being about separatism, rather than the implementation of the autonomy guaranteed to Hong Kong under the 50-year post-1997 settlement of ‘one country, two systems’, suggests that the winds are changing in Beijing as the policy of letting the protest play themselves out appears to be failing.

Instead, the new approach is to create a narrative about a violent and militant core of protestors who are pushing for independence — splitists who can be demonised. That will make it easier for Beijing to crack down on the demonstrators, not perhaps with the overt brutality seen in Tibet and Xinjiang, but still bone-crushingly hard if necessary.

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2 responses to “A New Chill Blows Over Hong Kong

  1. Pingback: Building A Solution In Hong Kong | China Bystander

  2. Pingback: Protests Push Hong Kong Into Recession | China Bystander

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