Hong Kong, China – It is the ruling party that has remained a clandestine organization even in a part of its own territory, but as the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its centenary this week, there are indications that it is emerging from the shadows in Hong Kong, the former British colony that became the quietest city in China.
Moreover, the party, feared and hated by many Hong Kongers, demands its absolute love and fidelity.
“For the CCP, it is crucial that the people of Hong Kong recognize China’s achievements under the leadership of the party,” said Bruce Lui, a tenured professor at Hong Kong Baptist University and a veteran political commentator. “Anyone who doesn’t do that doesn’t come to love the party and the nation.”
In early June, a formation of more than 350 people gathered in a Hong Kong public square to leave out the patriotic tune “No Communist Party, No New China” despite restrictions on COVID-related rallies.
Two weeks ago, a colloquium on the party’s centenary at a heavily guarded convention center in the heart of the city was attended by the political elite, including past and present executives.
And on a weather radar in one of the highest points in the territory, the slogan “Obey the party” rises above the skyscrapers below.
In recent years, the CCP has been taking on an increasingly high profile in the former British colony and asserting its presence in a territory that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
For more than half of the last century, Hong Kong served as sanctuaries generation after generation of mainland Chinese fleeing communist rule.
First came the class with money, after the civil war ended in 1949 and the Communists took over from the nationalists who withdrew to Taiwan. Industrialists from Shanghai and the thriving coastal cities nearby, as well as landowners and traders moved south, fearing the possibility of collectivization.
The next to arrive were the intellectuals, targets of political purges in the 1950s. Then came the exodus of the common people expelled by the famines and violence of the Cultural Revolution.
Between 1952 and 1965, at least 1.5 million sought refuge in Hong Kong from the party, which represented almost half the population at the time.
For many, the current for freedom is etched in the family tradition, along with the trauma of life under communist rule.
But even during the colonial era, communists were never far from Hong Kong.
Communist supporters played an important role in the mass strikes of 1922 and 1925 in the then Crown colony. The agitators of the communist support workers’ union provoked riots in 1967 in which 51 people died and 848 were injured.
Subsequently, the colonial authorities decided to eliminate the communist groups by forcing the government to register and therefore lead them underground.
Xinhua as a party front
Xinhua News Agency, created in the dying days of World War II, was the party’s liaison office after communist fighters played a critical role in defending the Japanese-occupied rural areas of Hong Kong. , the Communist Party of Hong Kong ”by Christine Loh, a former member of the Hong Kong legislature.
Until the 1997 delivery, Xinhua would act as the de facto Chinese mission and party command center in the city.
In 1987, however, three years after the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration to return Hong Kong to Chinese rule, Xinhua’s then-director Xu Jiatun elected a party member who worked incognito as a teacher of ‘school to be his assistant. It was a shock to Hong Kong society. Xu saw it as a much-needed reminder of political reality.
“Xu told me this way,‘ Now that Hong Kong will return to Chinese sovereignty, it’s better for the people of Hong Kong to get used to the fact that the CCP is in Hong Kong, ’” Ching Cheong said. a longtime commentator on Chinese. policy that at the time was a top-level editor at Wen Wei Po, one of the Hong Kong newspapers controlled by the state media group.
Two years after the delivery, the Central People’s Government Liaison Office officially replaced Xinhua. The liaison office was, Ching said, under Beijing’s strict orders to comply with the “one country, two systems”Mark marked with the British and not get involved in Hong Kong affairs.
However, in 2003, after half a million people took to the streets to oppose Beijing’s push for anti-sedition legislation – and it prevailed – the liaison office found an excuse to get involved. if, though still by delegation.
Elections for the election for the two pro-Beijing political parties in the territory became more plentiful, channeled through the liaison office, and were donated by local tycoons eager to gain favor in Beijing. at a time when China’s economy was beginning to take off.
About ten years later, as Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to consolidate his power, the party, which he leads as general secretary, is increasing its dominance over the mainland. In Hong Kong, the majority of the public treats the party’s dragging presence as a later thought.
However, over the last year, statements from the liaison office have become more frequent, such as:Patriots must govern Hong Kong. Anyone who opposes the party cannot be called a patriot. “
At the symposium two weeks ago, he reminded delegates, “No communist party, no country, no two systems, the framework meant guaranteeing the colonial status quo of civil liberties and the rule of law for 50 years. after the transfer.
“The message that the party is supreme is clear,” Lui told Al Jazeera. “There will no longer be party leaders in terms as vague as ‘central government’ and as warm as ‘homeland.'”
At the handover, it was agreed that the Hong Kong executive committee would be chosen by a committee, and candidates would have to go first to meet with Beijing. In the legislature, only half of the seats would be directly elected, which would ensure that Beijing could maintain control while providing the people of Hong Kong with some political views.
But new electoral rules imposed by Beijing have drastically reduced the number of directly elected seats and have been pro-democracy politicians disqualified under the National security law imposed last year. Most are in jail while others have fled exile.
There is growing speculation that the party is studying new forays into Hong Kong’s electoral policy.
Just when an academic and mainland party spokesman despised the pro-Beijing parties in the territory as “loyal losers” after the pro-democracy camp won the 2019 district council elections by a landslide, a new political group, the Bauhinia party, apparently emerged from nowhere last December.
Founded by mainland Chinese immigrants, Bauhinia had a goal of 250,000 members, even though the main pro-Beijing party had managed to gain only 50,000 members in 30 years. The ambitious goal has fueled suspicions that the party is a front for the Communists: it seeks to plant members in the elected office while maintaining the façade of “one country, two systems.”
Ching, the commentator, estimates that there would be at least 400,000 Communist Party members waiting on the wings in Hong Kong, although no one really knows who they are or whether they joined the party locally or on the mainland.
“Beijing has concluded that the people of Hong Kong who run Hong Kong do not work,” Ching said. “So now the party wants to play a direct role.”