It looks very much like Hong Kong is about to be given a lesson in Chinese style subjugation with a healthy dollop of shock and awe next week. Early reports are that an army of 5,000 police officers will be deployed to protect the personal safety of Zhang Dejiang, who will be in town to promote the baffling One Road One Belt initiative. Government sycophants are increasingly trying to big-up Mr. Zhang’s visit as though he were the Emperor of China himself.
But the reality is much more underwhelming. Zhang Dejiang, even though he’s the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and the head honcho in looking after Hong Kong and Macau affairs, in global terms is a non-descript, altogether forgettable Marxist small potato, with a patchy career in governing and a penchant for quashing civil liberties wherever he is posted. And please, don’t mention SARS.
Some commentators even offer credible evidence that a purge of Zhang could eventually be on the cards. But let’s not focus on such minor details; for CY Leung’s government, Zhang is the man that Hong Kongers need to bow down before to ensure that the kind benevolence keeps flowing south from the Party.
For all the parroting about how the Basic Law is sacred and protects Hong Kong’s freedoms and makes it prosperous, we can forget all that come next week when Zhang is in town. The local police are already hinting at a good dose of civil liberties suppression, Beijing-Style. His hotel will be guarded by no less than one thousand police officers. Everywhere he goes will be off-limits to people like you or me.
To boot, if your signs, flags, banners or T-shirts could upset the sensibilities of the man himself, or get even slightly close to his gilded, sanitized world, then you will be carted away too. Good luck trying to argue your right to freedom of expression and movement, as protected by the Basic Law next week. There will be an army of black-vested cops to tell you otherwise.
The reality is that his visit is an altogether unnecessary political and financial burden on Hong Kong right now. Flooding the streets of Hong Kong with thousands of jack-boot paramilitary police and restricting people’s liberties, so that just one man can walk around unfettered in his Marxist-fantasy is exactly the kind of system Hong Kongers are prepared to throw bricks at.
The trip has the potential to be a complete non-event because most people in Hong Kong care nothing about what Zhang Dejiang has to say about One Belt One Road. Conversely, it could turn into another seminal moment of Hong Kong’s rejection of the Communist Party of China. Only time will tell.