For the Chinese ‘president for life’, Xi Jin Ping, and for his young, stoic and troubled protégé in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, this week has yet again marked both a popular paradigm shift and a terrible twist in the tale. Lam, for some reason, bordering on the prophetic philosophy of Confucius, predicted that the “silent majority” will back the ruling dispensation in Hong Kong. Was she yet again dreaming of a daily daydream? Or, sleep-walking in stark daylight? Soon after, in great bitterness, she was reminded yet again of that famous line by Confucius: “Learning without thought is labour lost.”
Lam also seems to have missed the uncanny pun in yet another old saying of Confucius, still very popular in ‘capitalist-communist’ China and even in powerful circles in Beijing: ”Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Surely, in the last few intense, restless and disturbing months, she would know how deeply she would have loved her daily life and job, with full backing of Xi, the muscle-flexing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on extra alert in Shenzen near the Hong Kong border, and the entire apparatus of the Chinese State and the powerful communist party in Beijing.
Was Carrie Lam yet again dreaming of a daily daydream? Or, sleep-walking in stark daylight? Soon after, in great bitterness, she was reminded yet again of that famous line by Confucius: ‘Learning without thought is labour lost.’
In her first public appearance since the local district election results, she said she recognised that people felt strongly over “deficiencies in governance, including unhappiness with the time taken to deal with the unstable environment”. For a communist party official to admit this in public is rare self-criticism. And, it is a welcome sign.
Truly, between the superpower totalitarian State of China, which crushed the peaceful pro-democracy movement led by tens of thousands of unarmed students in June 1989 at Tiananmen Square and ritualistically smothers even the most microscopic dissent in text, word and image, Hong Kong has turned out to be bitter pill which they can neither digest nor reject. Indeed, like the brazen and inherent contradictions in the propagandistic party slogan, ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’, the slogan of ‘One Nation, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong has crashed like a house of cards. In the final analysis, for both Xi and Lam, and the formidable Chinese State apparatus, the loss of face has been stark, transparent and irreversible.
Nothing can be more illustrative of this fact then the results of the local district council elections which Lam hoped would prove that the “silent majority” stands with her. This, despite the intense and relentless mass protests, which came in daily 24X7 waves, sometimes violent and anarchic, but mostly organised and peaceful. These waves of resistance in public spaces have rocked Hong Kong since the last many months, without the fear of persecution, police brutality, or the Chinese military forever on red alert.
Like the inherent contradictions in the party slogan, ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’, the slogan of ‘One Nation, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong has crashed like a house of cards. For both Xi and Lam, the loss of face has been stark and irreversible.
Surely, her advisors and intelligence forgot to mention that these dedicated and fierce rainbow protests were not only the handiwork of youngsters and students, but the entire Hong Kong civil society, including women and housewives, professionals and academics, media and daily workers in beauty parlours and restaurants, and generations senior citizens totally backed the young in their quest for freedom, democracy, and justice.
As many as 4 million people had registered to vote in the district polls — more than half the population — and almost 1,000 candidates ran for 452 seats in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy candidates won a total of 347 seats and effectively control 17 of the 18 councils. The ‘official candidates’ lost badly. The mainland media blocked the news.
Though they do not have too much power, and they will only look after local community issues, the democratic district elections have effectively proved that the “silent majority” wants autonomy, democracy and freedom, and free choice polls, unlike what has been the norm in the one-party regime in Beijing. Clearly, Hong Kong has shown the way to mainland China. The huge victory, therefore, is not only a moral victory and symbolic, but it is also a pointer that the ossified structures of communist totalitarianism are not such a popular idea in contemporary China anymore, especially in Hong Kong.