Seeing an extradition agreement with mainland China as a critical juncture for Hong Kong to remain free from the communist state, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents have been continuing their protests against the government’s bill.
But political insiders have told The Epoch Times that political infighting in Zhongnanhai—China’s “White House” and central headquarters of the CCP—has also been responsible for further fueling tensions in Hong Kong.
The extradition bill would allow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) the power to extradite people in Hong Kong to the mainland for trial. Though Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam proclaimed on July 9 that the extradition bill was “dead,” she has yet to withdraw it as demanded by protesters.
“Withdrawal” as a non-option for Lam has confirmed for many Hong Kongers that she is a proxy for Beijing, according to former Hong Kong Central Policy Unit advisor Simon Lau Sai Leung.
“Carrie Lam doesn’t have the capability or authority to take control of the situation in Hong Kong. She has been ‘kicking the can down the road,’” Leung said.
He added that Lam’s insistence on not using the word “withdraw” and not resigning from her position as the city’s top leader was executing the orders of the CCP.
Meanwhile, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has asked high-ranking CCP officials to “grasp the right political direction,” “prevent political risks,” and “improve political capabilities” in an article published on July 16 in Qiushi or “Seeking the Truth” magazine. The magazine is the CCP’s official periodical for political theory.
Xi also stated that persisting in the central Party’s authority and leadership were the top priorities.
Zhongnanhai Infighting in Hong Kong
Political insiders from among the Second-Generation Reds, or people who are the second generation to the high-ranking CCP officials who took over power China in 1949, have revealed to The Epoch Times that Hong Kong’s situation is a reflection of the infighting between Xi and the remaining CCP forces led by former party head Jiang Zemin.
“Beijing is very unhappy with the Hong Kong chaos, but it doesn’t want any big changes in Hong Kong. Beijing won’t remove Carrie Lam unless it’s absolutely necessary,” a source from among the Second-Generation Reds told The Epoch Times. “They would like to support her until the situation in Hong Kong stabilizes.
“Over 10 officials in the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and other CCP agencies in Hong Kong have been penalized. Some have been removed from their posts.”
Xi, playing the card of anti-corruption to solidify his power, has upset a lot of “nobles” in the CCP. Many proteges of the former CCP leader Jiang Zemin were also affected. Therefore, Xi has created a lot of enemies within the Party.
Another CCP insider told The Epoch Times that the anti-Xi faction is trying to leverage on the situation in Hong Kong.
“Some want to use the Hong Kong movement to corner Xi to making mistakes,” they said. “They hope that the situation will evolve as a ‘June 4th’ (Tiananmen Massacre) for Hong Kong. Therefore, advocating resolving the Hong Kong issue with military or put Hong Kong under military control is not helping Xi.”
According to the source, Xi is aware of the plot and therefore has asked for “no bloodshed, no guns, and no use of the Chinese military in Hong Kong” under any circumstance.
Zeng Qinghong, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee and a close protégé of Jiang Zemin, had recruited a lot of underground CCP members in Hong Kong prior and after Beijing taking over Hong Kong in 1997.
The source said that these people are still active and under Zeng’s control. They were among both the Hong Kong police and protestors during recent events, with their intervention adding further complication to Hong Kong’s situation.
“The complex situation of Hong Kong lies in the infighting of two factions within the CCP,” the source said.
Chinese Communist Regime in Crisis
So far, Xi’s response to the Hong Kong situation has been to demand loyalty from party officials and the execution of policies.
At a party-building meeting in Beijing in early July, Xi asked the high-ranking CCP officials to “firm up political positions” and protect the authority of the regime. He told CCP officials, “Do not use anti-corruption as an excuse of no action.”
In the July 16 article on Qiushi, Xi stated that the positioning and actions of high-ranking officials would determine the CCP’s future.
Well aware that he is facing a power crisis amidst China’s economic decline and escalating civil disobedience in Hong Kong, Xi wants CCP officials to take a firm stance and unite, according to Dr. Feng Chongyi, Associate Professor in China Studies at University of Technology, Sydney.
A party-building article prior to this March’s annual “Two Sessions,” or lianghui plenary sessions, emphasized a prohibition of “saying yes but disobeying orders, engaging in two-faced approach, engaging in pseudo-loyalty.” China observers have said that these statements are all signs of the power crisis that the CCP and Xi are facing.
During the U.S.-China trade talks at the G20 summit in late June, a propaganda article published on June 26 claimed that some Chinese were throwing grenades backwards. Another source in the Second-Generation Reds said, “‘Throwing grenades backwards … this points to infighting.”
According to this source, high-ranking CCP officials are now quite fragmented. Some want to set up traps for Xi. Some are for the trade war; some are against.
For example, China’s Harvard-trained Vice Premier Liu He chaired trade negotiations with the United States from December to April, and reached a draft agreement with Xi’s authorization. Yet a Politburo Standing Committee meeting at the end of April negated the agreement, and a subsequent Politburo meeting supported that decision. Liu’s work was negated by the party overnight and he was almost labeled a “traitor.”
Hong Kong Residents Persist With Their Demands
Hong Kong police used tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets to disperse protestors in Admiralty on June 12 when protestors gathered to prevent the Legislative Council’s second reading of the controversial extradition bill. This was the first use of batons and rubber bullets since Hong Kong was returned to China under the “one country, two systems” policy in 1997.
Lam responded by suspending the bill on June 15 but this only resulted in larger-scale protests.
A record-breaking two million people peacefully marched through the city’s streets on June 16 with five demands: the withdrawal of the extradition bill, an independent investigation into the use of force on protesters by police, a retraction of the labelling of the June 12 protest as a “riot,” the acquittal and release of arrested protesters, and Carrie Lam’s resignation.
At the same time, the CCP propaganda department blocked all news about the events in Hong Kong. Instead, it repeatedly showed footage that claimed that protesters were thugs supported by “foreign anti-China forces.”
Then in July, some Hong Kong protesters decided to change their approach. They expanded their protest marches out of Hong Kong Island to many other locations, including those visited by mainland tourists. They explained their demands directly to mainlanders and urged them to support Hong Kongers to stand up to the communist regime in China.
Protests have also been seen in Hong Kong’s suburbs of Sheung Shui and Sha Tin.
About half a million people took to the streets in protest again on Sunday, July 21. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters from the streets in the late evening. Shockingly violent clashes were also reported in Yuen Long where triad gangsters were seen physically beating protesters who were returning home by train.