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Xi Jinping’s Strong Words Signal Harsher Measures on Hong Kong

On November 14, when attending the BRICS summit meeting in Brasilia, Xi Jingping made his position clear on the current situation in Hong Kong. As Xinhua News Agency reported, Xi said that the persistent violent criminal acts in Hong Kong have seriously trampled on the rule of law and the social order, seriously undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and seriously challenged the bottom line of the principle of “one country, two systems.” Stopping the violence, ending the chaos, and restoring order are Hong Kong’s most pressing tasks at present. Xi added that he will continue to support the Chief Executive firmly, to lead the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in accordance with the law, to support the Hong Kong police firmly in their stern enforcement of the law, and to support Hong Kong’s judicial authorities firmly in punishing violent criminals. “The determination of the Chinese government to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and the interests of development is unwavering; the determination to implement the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ is unwavering; the determination to oppose any outside forces’ interference in Hong Kong affairs is unwavering.”

Hu Ping, an independent scholar living in exile in the U.S., told the BBC Chinese that Xi Jinping’s change of wording indicates that the central government’s means of dealing with the situation in Hong Kong is “clearer” and its posture “tougher.” He believes that the central government will control the situation “with more severe measures in the near future.” However, Hu believes that, at present, the central government will try its best to use the local police force to deal with street violence.

Regarding whether Beijing will dispatch the People’s Liberation Army to quash the chaos, Hu does not believe that will be the case for the time being. He said that considering that Hong Kong will hold local district council elections this month, a brutal crackdown would push the votes toward pro-democracy candidates. “Although the district council elections are low on the political hierarchy and less important, it would still throw the authorities into a defensive position.” .

Hu Ping said that Xi’s strong words also serve to warn the United States that even if the Congress passes the Hong Kong bill, its “actual effects are limited” in terms of containing China. “If the chaotic situation deteriorates to an intolerable level, the authorities may still resort to suppressive actions despite the risk of losing Hong Kong’s special customs status.”

Source: Xinhua, November 14, 2019
BBC Chinese, November 15, 2019