Adam Ni, 8-16-19
In order to achieve its immediate and long-term goals in Hong Kong, Beijing has put in place a multi-pronged strategy. A full picture of this strategy has emerged in recent weeks:
1) First, Beijing is firmly backing the embattled Hong Kong authorities. Chinese officials have repeatedly urged the Hong Kong police to adopt tougher tactics against protesters who they see as criminals.
And in the last week, we have seen an alarming escalation in police violence, with tear gas and rubber bullets being used with increasing frequency.
2) Beijing is also ramping up its influence operations in Hong Kong to solidify support among pro-establishment elites, businesses, and other “patriotic forces”.
Last week, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong held a consultation forum with about 500 pro-establishment figures in Shenzhen, just across the border.
The key message was that the Chinese government was fully behind them and that their fate was tied to Beijing. This has had an immediate impact on the ground in Hong Kong, with the city’s billionaires “breaking their silence” this week and calling for the protesters to stand down.
Hong Kong’s billionaires, whose common interest with the government is to ignore the root problems of current protests (rampant inequality, housing woes, undemocratic regime), helped vote Lam into power and have once again thrown their weight behind her. https://twitter.com/alvinllum/status/1160511920371204098 …
Not with a small degree of irony, Beijing and its proxies in Hong Kong have a close relationship with the city’s organised crime groups. On several occasions in the last two months, these groups have assaulted protesters on Beijing’s behalf in an attempt to instill fear in the local population.
3) Beijing has stepped up its propaganda and misinformation efforts against the protesters in an attempt to cast them as villains in the unfolding drama. Criminal elements are also working with nefarious foreign agents to foment turmoil and undermine China, the official line goes.
Within mainland China, such blatant twists of truth are widely believed. And because Beijing has successfully mobilised public opinion there, that makes it harder for the government to back down and make compromises (not that we are seeing signs of that).