There are growing signs that the Chinese Communist Party has no intention of compromising with Hong Kong protesters.
Soon after the protests began in Hong Kong, the Pacific Realist took to these pages to argue that Occupy Central was doomed to fail. In that article, I argued that the CCP had already deemed completely free and fair elections in Hong Kong a threat to its existence, and the Party never compromised on its core interests. Mass protests wouldn’t change this assessment, and would instead likely harden Beijing’s resolve. Specifically, it would signal across China that mass protests can force the Party to compromise on its core interests, a notion the CCP has always worked hard to suppress.
“The Party giving in on a core issue because of mass protests would, without question, set a dangerous precedent for the CCP’s grip on power in mainland China. It therefore will not be done,” I wrote at the time. Nonetheless, I also noted that the CCP would do all it could to avoid using armed force to suppress the protests, but would in the end resort to violent suppressing the protesters before compromising on its bottom line.
There is growing evidence to support this argument.
On Wednesday local time the, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, met with pro-establishment Hong Kong lawmakers on Tuesday. According to the report, Zhang joined one of his predecessors, Chen Zuoer, and China’s Vice-Premier Wang Yang in labeling the protests a color revolution being manipulated by foreign powers. Zhang also said that the CCP expects the protests to drag on “for some time” and is “prepared for the worst.”
Together these comments suggest that the CCP will not compromise on the core issues at stake in Hong Kong. By labeling the protests a color revolution, the CCP is suggesting that the U.S. is behind the protests, and is trying to overthrow the Hong Kong government to replace it with one that is friendly to American interests. This would in effect give the United States a strategic foothold on China’s doorstep, something that the CCP undoubtedly views as unacceptable.
This is a consistent with a new report by Reuters which, citing “three sources with ties to the Chinese leadership,” says that Xi Jinping convened the new National Security Commission earlier this month to discuss the situation in Hong Kong. According to the report, at that meeting the top CCP leadership decided that offering any further concessions to the protesters would set a dangerous precedent that could reverberate in mainland China.
Reuters asked one of its sources whether the CCP might make minor concessions to the protesters, to which the source responded, “”Dialogue (with protest leaders) is already a concession.” Referring to the CCP’s decision to vet all Hong Kong chief executive candidates, which sparked the initial protests, another source said: “The central government’s bottom line will not change.” The same source further added, “Hong Kong is not high on the list of the central government’s priorities.”
The rationale for this hardline position, according to a different Reuters source, is that the CCP fears that giving into the demands of the Hong Kong protests will create a ripple effect across mainland China, in particular in Tibet and Xinjiang. “”(We) move back one step and the dam will burst,” another CCP source told Reuters. Still, the same source contended that the CCP was doing all it can — short of making concessions of course — to avoid having to use armed force to disperse the protests. “There won’t be bloodshed like June 4,” the source said, adding: “The People’s Liberation Army will be dispatched only as a last resort if there is widespread chaos – killing, arson and looting.”