The Beijing Line on Hong Kong's Draft Rules


On Sunday, China’s legislature put the kibosh on any possibility for open nominations in Hong Kong. As if it needed to be said, China’s state media and propaganda organs have issued strict marching orders on coverage of the decisions.

Propaganda orders dictating coverage are often daily occurrences for Chinese media outlets. According to one such leaked order from the authorities, Beijing is brooking no conversation on the matter of Hong Kong suffrage. The order reads: “Regarding the National People’s Congress Standing Committee decision on election of the chief executive of the Hong Kong S.A.R., as well as the so-called ‘Occupy Central Movement,’ use coverage by authoritative, central government media as the standard. All Internet platforms must take care to check related content and commentary.”

Occupy Central long ago joined the ranks of the “so-called” in the Chinese media — right alongside so-called human rights organizations and so-called hacking allegations — and the group are being painted with the same brush as the pan-democrats. The “authoritative” coverage from the mainland seems to be mostly editorial in nature, as in the opinion piece from the Global Times (reprinted in People’s Daily and across the nation) entitled “Hong Kong Radical Camp is a Paper Tiger.”

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Paper tiger, or 纸虎 in simplified Chinese, refers obviously to a threatening but ultimately harmless force. However, this seems to be a poor choice of words, seeing as how Beijing’s entire objection to Occupy Central has been that the movement has the potential to create a violent, Ukrainian/Arab Spring-type nightmare in the southern financial hub.

The Global Times editorial referred to both the proponents of pan-democracy and their ideas as “radical” several times and at one point even used the word “swashbuckling” to describe their behavior. But, with open nominations clearly shut down, Beijing’s tone can rightly get a bit more authoritative: “If radical opposition groups fail to understand this and believe they play a dominant role in Hong Kong’s political reform, then facts will give them a lesson.”

That was just one of the threats in the editorial. GT warned that if the pan-democrats resort to “illegal confrontation” they will “definitely be called to account.” But the piece also stated, “If they raise objections in a legal way, their efforts will be in vain.” And, giving its most impressive Bond-villain impression, the Beijing-approved opinion piece stated: “Hong Kong’s opposition groups do not have real cards in their hands despite their fierce clamor. They will understand more fully who they really are through this conflict.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time that democracy and Occupy Central in Hong Kong have taken a beating from the state media and received a blanket censure from China’s censors. Indeed, everything from the July handover protests to the (so-called) 800,000-strong referendum has been met by suppression online and editorial abuse by the state media.

While Beijing has well and truly won this salvo, more protests and propaganda are on the horizon — as the might of the Middle Kingdom and all its wealth, power, and non-stop bullying do battle against the militant “radicals” of Occupy Central with Peace and Love. Democracy advocates seem determined now that the occupation of the center of the city will continue, saying in a press release, “OLCP has considered occupying Central only as the last resort, an action to be taken only if all chances of dialogue have been exhausted and there is no other choice. We are very sorry to say that today all chances of dialogue have been exhausted and the occupation of Central will definitely happen.”

In the end, if any violence occurs with Occupy Central, the central government will call the movement radical and belligerent, and if it’s entirely peaceful, they will continue to call them “paper tigers.” Beijing may be right in saying that the pan-democrats “do not have real cards”, but, with the deck stacked so formidably against them, they have little choice left but to play their hand.

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