Who is the most dangerous person in Hong Kong today? 

No, it’s not the 15-year-old girl locked up this month and denied bail for allegedly inciting subversion. And it’s not any one of her three 16-year-old supposed partners in crime, charged with the same offence. 

Jimmy Lai. File photo: StudioIncendo.

Perhaps it once was Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the founder of that relentless font of anti-government, anti-Communist Party invective, Apple Daily. But the 73-year-old “mastermind” of collusion with foreign forces is now safely behind bars awaiting trial while senior members of his staff have also been arrested and charged under the national security law (NSL). 

Finally, now, after 26 years of stubborn resistance, this once brazenly proud tabloid-style newspaper is no more, driven into the ground by the Hong Kong government in the name of protecting the city — and seemingly the whole mammoth Chinese nation — from all of the evil forces out there beyond our shores who want to turn Hong Kong into a snivelling acolyte of Western democracy. 

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, until recently the city’s largest union for educators with 95,000 members, also had to go, and the trouble-making, pro-democracy Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions just this past weekend followed their teaching counterparts into oblivion. 

The Alliance outside the District Court on May 5, 2021 after four activists, including Joshua Wong, were sentenced to jail for taking part in the banned Tiananmen Massacre vigil last year. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Goodbye, too, to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. Their crime? Well, that remains something of a mystery, but surely the group known for its three decades of organising the now-halted annual candlelight vigil in memory of those who died in the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen massacre has committed countless transgressions under the new order in Hong Kong. 

The NSL, imposed on Hong Kong by the central government in the summer of 2020, provided the blueprint for this malign transformation, but security tsar Chris Tang Ping-keung deserves special condemnation for the perverse verve and enthusiasm he has brought to the job of putting the sweeping legislation into practice. 

Formerly chief of police throughout the latter months of anti-government protests in 2019 and 2020, Tang is remembered for his lame, often bumbling attempts to justify police violence against peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders in MTR stations and shopping malls as well in the city’s streets and on the campuses of its major universities. 

Photo: GovHK.

Yes, some of those protests turned ugly and vicious; we all saw that. But we also witnessed repeatedly the unwarranted police violence that only further fuelled the pent-up rage driving the protesters — a rage that clearly continues today, as evidenced by the hateful, celebratory response on social media to the recent demise of a policewoman who died at sea after her patrol boat was rammed by smugglers.

This shower of disrespect included mocking comments from members of the city’s disciplined services, four of whom — one from the police force, one from the Correctional Services and two from the fire department — have been suspended from duty as a result. 

While Tang has expressed his “regret and anger” over the verbal abuse directed at the deceased officer, Lam Yuen-yee, he did not pause to consider to what degree he is responsible for the blind hatred that far too many Hongkongers feel towards their police force.

And now, in his new position as secretary for security, to which he was promoted last June, Tang has succeeded in totally befogging the already indistinct red lines of the NSL. The city has reached a point where anyone whose political stance veers away from hoisting the flag of China (right side up, of course) while singing “March of the Volunteers” must now worry about being labelled a subversive, a secessionist or even a terrorist. 

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Chris Tang. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Let’s hope it is not in itself an act of subversion to point out the misplaced hubris of the man who is tasked with keeping Hong Kong safe from those who would raise a candle to honour the hundreds if not thousands of Tiananmen dead, march against an arrogant and incompetent chief executive or question the wisdom and practice of our powerful overseers to the north. 

The reason professional unions and civic organisations are folding their tents left and right is not because they have been charged with any specific offence; rather, it is their fear of some future, as-yet unspecified indictment under the NSL. 

Tang’s remarks about Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen, and Sunday’s anniversary of the 1911 Wuchang Uprising, which led to the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, is a maddening case in point. 

Members of pro-Beijing group Chinese Hearts unfurl a large national flag at the piazza outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui on October 1, 2021. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Whereas October 1 — the day in 1949 on which the Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China, the defeated Nationalists having fled to Taiwan — is celebrated as National Day in China, the so-called Double Tenth Day is still recognised as the foundational day for Taiwan, which also calls itself, never failing to raise Beijing’s ire, the Republic of China.

When asked by reporters whether referring to Tsai as president of Taiwan and/or in any way celebrating the Double Tenth would be a violation of the NSL, this was Tang’s response: “There is no problem if the public does not have that intent [to regard Taiwan as separate from China], and they do not need to be worried. We would look at the speaker’s intention from their heart … If they have that intent in their heart, we’ll be able to find evidence.”

How do you feel about your city’s security boss peering into your heart as a test of your loyalty?
Scary? Indeed, and that’s what makes Chris Tang, hands down, the most dangerous person in Hong Kong. 

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Kent Ewing

Kent Ewing is a teacher and writer who has lived in Hong Kong for more than two decades. He has written for the pre-Alibaba South China Morning Post, The Standard, Asia Times and Asia Sentinel. Allegations to the contrary, he insists he is not a colonial fossil. Follow him on Twitter.