FPI / June 19, 2019
By Richard Fisher
Barely a week after the historic June 9 one million strong protests, on June 15, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam decided to “suspend” but not withdraw the controversial law that would have given China the right of extradition, the ability to take and remove Hong Kong citizens for trial in China.
However, in previously leading strong support for this law, Lam was advancing China’s goal of diminishing Hong Kong’s remaining freedoms so that it would not offer the people of China an alternative vision to that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dictatorship.
Firm and consistent in its belief that it alone can exercise political power, the Chinese Communist Party has feared and resisted successfully all efforts to make it accountable to other forces, like the law and public opinion.
CCP leaders have rarely hesitated to use force to suppress political opposition, most famously on June 4, 1989 to crush peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square.
In addition, the Party has worked hard since the early 1990s to make clear that it cannot “reform” or attempt to temper its dictatorship with accountability, as did the former Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev, if it to remain in power.
On June 11, the Chinese website Boxun revealed that the CCP leader Xi Jinping had stated, “The situation in Hong Kong is in danger of getting out of control,” and Boxun further noted that “the PLA’s Southern Theater Command and Hong Kong Garrison are awaiting orders and prepared to fully respond to all possible scenarios that may arise in Hong Kong,” according to a June 12 report in Taiwan News.
Carrie Lam’s suspension of the extradition legislation may be a signal victory for public accountability, but for the CCP it represents a brazen act of defiance that could encourage other Chinese to demand similar accountability, or the beginning of the end of CCP rule.
A failure by Xi to at a minimum engineer the replacement of Carrie Lam with a more obedient Chief Executive or begin a higher level of direct CCP involvement in Hong Kong affairs, could undermine high level CCP support for Xi, especially in the People’s Liberation Army.