Publication by Hong Kong Civil Hub
The Chinese Communist Regime (“CCR”) in China may be the world’s most powerful authoritarian regime. It has developed sophisticated strategies and skills to suppress opposition at home as well as to project influence beyond its border. There are many tools of sharp power in its toolbox of manipulation.
These tools of sharp power have been tested in Hong Kong before they are being applied in other parts of the world. Hong Kong has been the experimental ground of China’s sharp power.
The Umbrella Movement in 2014 was the high mark of Hong Kong people’s demand for the introduction of genuine democratic elections in Hong Kong but the CCR suppressed such demand. In the post-Umbrella era, the ultimate goal of the CCR is to help the Chief Executive (“C E”), who will never be democratically elected and must be under CCR’s direction, find more political legitimacy. If this is successful, there will be no need to introduce genuine democracy in Hong Kong. The CCR worries that once democratic elections are fully implemented in Hong Kong, the control over the territory would be lost and Hong Kong could be used as a base of subversion to threaten the CCR’s rule in Mainland China.
At least in the following areas, the CCR intensifies its uses of different tools of sharp power to pressurize, neutralize, weaken or silence any constraining power that is still active in Hong Kong.
Rule of Law
The official understanding of the rule of law promoted by the CCR puts maintaining social order as the overriding function of law even at the costs of granting arbitrary powers to government of officials and restricting fundamental rights of citizens disproportionately. This narrow understanding of the rule of law is being used to legitimize the use of law to disqualify anti-CCR legislators and candidates, to generate a chilling effect in the society to silence anti-CCR voices, to weaken anti-CCR political groups in Hong Kong and to introduce measures that will hurt the autonomy of Hong Kong.
The legal and political environments for civil society have deteriorated rapid- ly. The freedom of association has been challenged by the authorities by rejecting the registration applications of groups promoting civil disobedience, self-determination or Hong Kong independence. The freedom of assembly and demonstration is at risk as the authorities have taken advantage of the re- strictive Public Order Ordinance and other Common Law charges to prosecute more protestors with more severe offences. The authorities and their surrogate groups also exercise their sharp power to harass and bully people participating in political assemblies and demonstrations.
The electoral system of Hong Kong has been subject to constant and immense manipulation by the CCR regime through infiltration and divide-and-rule strategies. Disqualification of candidates have jeopardised fundamental political rights of Hong Kong people, produced a chilling effect among pro-democracy politicians and killed hopes of the new generation of Hong Kong. Gerrymandering, unlawful voter planting, as well as various luring and mobilising tactics by the CCR, have also effectively boosted the winning chance of pro- CCR candidates. The crippled LegCo vote counting system and the distorted LegCo Rules of Procedure have made any substantive legal reform very difficult, if not impossible. Hong Kong has not enacted any political parties law, and all pro-democracy political organisations are vulnerable to be labelled as societies against national security and subsequently outlawed and penalised.
After 20 years, the CCR has become more impatient about the situation of Hong Kong. Major Hong Kong media organisations are being used to fulfil the agenda of the CCR. First, through acquisition, the CCR can fundamentally change the stance of the media organisation. Top managers planted in the media organisation can serve as agents of the CCR to execute its will on a daily operational basis. Second, by drawing a moving political redline in the name of national security and declaring war on those who breach it, a chilling effect can be generated. Third, physical assault and forced disappearance can result in the termination or suspension of media operation. Media organisation can also be used for propaganda such as participating in a scripted and staged interview of human rights victims.
Academic Freedom and Education
Hard power and soft power are exercised interchangeably, mutually strengthened and become a “sharp” strategy towards Hong Kong’s education. Various tools of sharp power are being used. They include enactment of the National Anthem Law and the introduction of national anthem education, manipulation of the appointment and dismissal processes of key positions in educational institutions, control over decision-making mechanisms on education issues, influence on the development of school curriculum and publication of textbooks, interference by pro-Beijing non-governmental organizations, award schemes and exchange programs.
The concept of China factor can illustrate how the CCR absorbed and mobilised the religious sector of Hong Kong before and after the handover in 1997. It includes the following approaches: manipulating the religious sector representative mechanism, imposing the Chinese concept of separation of Church and State, articulating the patriotic ideology of “Love Hong Kong and love the religion”, and establishing the model of “State-lead, Church-follow” in Hong Kong. The Chinese influence exhibited directly or indirectly may also reveal the operation of China’s sharp power in the local religious realm.
China’s economic sharp power in Hong Kong involves the manipulation of in- formation, limiting any meaningful choices available to economic agents, there- by enabling China to achieve certain economic and political goals, mostly to enhance China’s strength. These policies seemed benign and attractive at first, but have proven to have adverse effects on Hong Kong, and the impact could extend beyond economic losses. They may cause irrevocable changes in the local economy, and in some cases, caused the loss of core economic strengths. This reduces Hong Kong’s bargaining position when negotiating policies with China, and means losing out on influencing future strategic decisions that affect Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is now at the forefront of the conflicts between the liberal world and the authoritarian world. We hope that members of the international community who share the same vision can join forces with Hong Kong people to fight back China’s sharp power by doing the following things:
- To build long-term and multi-dimensional international linkages between civil societies around the world and the civil society of Hong Kong.
- To establish foundations to fund scholarships in Hong Kong study, programs and projects on Hong Kong.
- To arrange election monitoring by independent and international observers in future elections in Hong Kong.
- To pay close attention to any incident of abuse of the rights of Hong Kong people by China’s hard and sharp powers and to issue strong statements of condemnation in cases of human rights infringement.
- To demand direct responses from Beijing or Hong Kong officials concerning issues of democratic development, maintenance of the rule of law, and human rights infringements in Hong Kong.
Reposted from original source with author’s permission.