Thursday, 28 November 2019

Hong Kong and China

Is the Dam Wall Beginning to Crack?

The success of democracy in the recent Hong Kong local authority elections is significant.  It is now clear that the protesters enjoy widespread public support.
Though the district councils’ authority is mostly local, they appoint 117 of the 1,200 members of Hong Kong’s Election Committee. Coupled with the roughly 400 opposition members already sitting on the election committee, the additional seats will give the pro-democracy camp much greater sway when the next chief executive of Hong Kong is selected in 2022. The current chief executive, Carrie Lam, has denounced this year’s protests and remained staunchly on the side of Beijing.

“The result is astonishing. It is a clear sign that a public majority supports the democratic movement and the anti-extradition protests,” says Eric Lai, the vice convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that has played a key role in organizing the protests. [Daniel Tenreiro, National Review Online.]  
What impact is this election result likely to have  upon the Chinese Government's Politburo?  Does it bring pressure upon President Xi Jinping, or is it of little or no account to the dictator?
Tenreiro argues that it does bring pressure upon Xi Jinping, even right back in the Politburo itself.

Back on the mainland, Chinese president Xi Jinping, whose reign has been characterized by a strong line toward Hong Kong, will need to recalibrate his strategy: Any move to expand democracy in Hong Kong will weaken the hand of the Chinese Communist Party in the region, but the status quo is no longer tenable. Xi’s intransigence in recent months has added fuel to the protesters’ fire and threatened his grip on the party.

Last month, the Hudson Institute’s William Schneider told National Review that opposition to Xi’s strategy has increased within the Chinese Politburo. In addition to the political crisis in Hong Kong, members of the party leadership have questioned the prudence of Xi’s intransigence on trade with the U.S., as well as his efforts at territorial expansion through the Belt and Road Initiative and his provocative military maneuvers in the South China Sea.

If Xi fails to address the concerns of Hong Kong protesters, such existing discord within the party could increase, and he could find himself on even shakier ground. After all, the strategic importance of Hong Kong to Beijing has always been political first and foremost: If the Chinese state can’t show the strength to get its way in Hong Kong, dissidents on the mainland might be emboldened. And emboldened mainland dissidents would be an existential threat not just to Xi’s leadership but to the party itself.
The horrific persecution of the Uighur minority stands as a curse upon Xi and his supporters within the Politburo. 

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