English author George Orwell describes in his novel “Animal Farm” (published in 1945) how a pig led animals and seized power from mankind. The new utopian world that promised equality, freedom, and renouncement of slavery ends up continuing the old tyranny of brutal domination, where violence, lies and amnesia take hold. Rereading the novel, a very short but searing non-fairy tale, gives us a better sense of how Hong Kong, dubbed the Pearl of the Orient, is experiencing a rapid disintegration and collapse.
Some believe what is happening in Hong Kong is aimed to take power, removing the power of “outside forces” from interfering with Hong Kong and handing it over to the so-called “patriots”. In the process, public opinion and civil society are ignored and treated like dirt. Media, judiciary and education are the keys to establish an “animal farm” style of governance in Hong Kong.
On the media front, the new Director of Broadcasting, who has no journalistic experience, is being tasked to “transform” the public broadcaster RTHK. And then the Chief Executive Carrie Lam said journalists have no privilege to access personal information of company directors in the Companies Registry amid increasing awareness of the need to “protect personal data”, a move seen to undermine investigative reporting.
On the judicial front, the latest case is media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was sentenced to 12 months and eight months in prison respectively for attending and organizing two illegal assemblies on August 18 and August 31, 2019. Lai will serve a total of 14 months in prison. Lai is the founder of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, an important platform to expose corruption and promote democracy, and it is no surprise he is politically charged with “opposing China and fueling Hong Kong’s chaos”. In fact, Lai is convicted without trial and singled out by Beijing to “deal with seriously”. More than half of his asset has been frozen and he has been restricted from leaving Hong Kong. These signs show his heavy sentence is hardly a surprise. He has been detained for more than six months and has not been sent back to China for trial, which is seen by some as “a great mercy”.
Use non-patriot label to wipe out dissidents
Lai’s case has obviously been swayed by political pressure from Beijing. Luo Huining, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) said “When it is time, actions must be taken.” Zhen Yanxiong, director of the Office for Safeguarding National Security made it clear that “laam chau (meaning pro-democracy activists) should be wiped out”. Their remarks have best explained Beijing’s influence on Lai’s case. Lai is also charged with “collusion with foreign countries or outside forces” under Article 29 of the National Security Law of Hong Kong, and may become the first political prisoner to be jailed for this offense and be one of the victims in the city’s pro-democracy development. The Hong Kong-style “animal farm” needs an enemy (a scapegoat) who will bear all the responsibility and whose black data will constantly be made public. He is the root cause for all the poor governance and a culprit who conspires with foreign forces to undermine the city’s good life. There is every reason for them to be expelled and jailed. Lai’s case has drawn huge global attention. As usual, their response has been refuted and dismissed by Beijing’s foreign ministry.
To maintain stability in Hong Kong and to justify the need to open a new security agency, the regime finds it essential to constantly stoke fear and make enemies in the city. It is less important whether the allegations of potential enemies are true or not but more importantly whether the social stability can be maintained in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Challenged by doubt and criticism, the regimes tend to choose the easiest way by eliminating what they deem as “non-patriots” and using violence, if necessary, to wipe out dissidents. The power vacuum will then be filled by a new group of “patriots,” whose left-leaning remarks will move “lefter” and keep questioning others’ loyalty. Some of them are unknown profit-seeking politicians; some are gross and despised by local residents given that they lack core values, dwarf themselves to be Beijing’s political tools and are keen to participate in developing and managing the new political order.
Lastly, the regime is tightening its control over teachers and the curriculum. On April 15, 2021, Hong Kong marked its first “National Security Education Day” in more than a century. Following the wall-to-wall campaign, even elementary school students had to put their hands behind their back and sing the Chinese national anthem in front of the five-star red flag in the classroom. Of course, teachers and students were not familiar with the content of “national security”, but they will soon be required to learn as General Studies in primary schools include the national security law.
Arguing for monitoring in classrooms to encourage reporting
Secondary school students were given “national security bookmarks” in four different forms as a reminder that everyone has the responsibility to protect their home. Some legislators and educators are urging to install surveillance equipment in university classrooms and encouraging reporting, arguing these can protect campus property and keep students from being poisoned by problematic teachers.
Moreover, Hong Kong police revealed a new goose-stepping march, the same style used by police and troops in the mainland. The public is constantly reminded not to believe rumors. Despite the promise of dual universal suffrage made in the Basic Law, news of reorganization and dissolution of political parties continues to spread…Does this evoke the memories of Taiwan’s gruesome authoritarian era? Oh, no, this is something to take great pride in! Yes, fellows, welcome to Hong Kong-style “animal farm,” where anyone who walks on two legs is probably a bad guy. Cheers to the prosperity of Hong Kong!
(Wu Si-bang, scholar )
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