Protesters in Hong Kong think they’re tenacious enough to wear down Beijing. But considering what President Xi and his National Security Commission reportedly discussed when they met last week, the protesters seem to be clinging to a vain hope. The AP reports:
China’s ruling Communist Party believes it has offered enough concessions to Hong Kong in the past, and will give no ground to pro-democracy protests because it wants to avoid setting a precedent for reform on the mainland, sources told Reuters.The position, arrived at during a meeting of the new National Security Commission chaired by President Xi Jinping in the first week of October, appears to give Hong Kong’s leader little room for manoeuver as he seeks to end the crisis.
(The Diplomat makes the case for this too, citing additional and alternative CCP sources.)All of this raises the question of whether Xi is willing to use military force to preserve the current order in Hong Kong. If the Chinese government sees victory for the protesters as a potential contagion, it will do whatever it must to stop it from spreading. It proved that in Tienanmen Square. Today’s leaders have pledged not to replay that gory scene—unless it comes to that. The AP goes on:
“(We) move back one step and the dam will burst,” said a party source familiar with Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong, adding that if Beijing yielded, it could have a domino effect with Tibet, Xinjiang and other parts of the mainland demanding the right to elections. […][Vice Premier Yang] Wang, speaking in Russia over the weekend, said the West was supporting the protesters, whose aim he said was for a “color revolution” in the territory, a reference to movements in countries like Ukraine which have forced incumbent governments from office.However, China has decided there will not be a bloody crackdown in Hong Kong, and sending in the People’s Liberation Army would only happen if there were widespread chaos, the second source said.
The stakes are high: Hong Kong is a preview for Beijing, as the same sort of pro-democracy unrest could take place on the mainland. As we’ve written, the real question is whether Beijing is smart enough to be flexible when it comes to modernization and liberalization. Will it be able to change enough to keep its people happy while hanging onto power? The Hong Kong crisis isn’t yet over, but this is a key preview of the regime’s longterm chances.