Photo by Sam Tsang, SCMP; Yuen Long on Saturday
Support for the demonstrations in Hong Kong is not waning, judging from this New York Times vox pop piece titled “We can’t give up,” with quotes from Hong Kongers. But the government in Beijing is not backing off. On the contrary, state media and propaganda organizations appear to be preparing to target and punish the instigators, real and imagined.
“The heart of Hong Kong’s business district was turned into a war zone on Sunday night as riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of protesters to chase them off the streets, after a day of defiance that saw them lay siege to Beijing’s liaison office for the first time in the social unrest over the now-suspended extradition bill,” reports the South China Morning Post. The government “issued a late-night statement to strongly condemn protesters for deviating from their mandated march route and challenging Beijing’s sovereignty by besieging the liaison office, where they vandalised the national emblem.” The statement promised an investigation.
Yesterday, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, the government organization in charge of Hong Kong, gave its first press conference since the handover in 1997 to condemn foreign “interference,” call for the punishment of “radical protesters,” and to emphasize that the central government supports the actions of the Hong Kong government. The South China Morning Post has a partial transcript, or see these reports from Hong Kong Free Press, the Guardian, and New York Times.
Chinese state media continues to dial up the paranoid rhetoric, blaming the enormous demonstrations on hostile foreign forces and the machinations of “traitors.” An editorial published today by the Party’s newspaper, the People’s Daily, “calls for ‘forceful’ police action to end Hong Kong unrest,” per the South China Morning Post.
“Traitor” is a word being bandied about in state media to describe supporters of the demonstrations. Publisher Jimmy Lai (黎智英 Lǐ Zhìyīng) and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee (李柱銘 Lǐ Zhùmíng) receive special attention. See, for example, this mouth frothing Global Times article (English, Chinese) for a description of the conspiracy theory:
As demonstrations by extremist forces in Hong Kong grow increasingly violent, the intervention of foreign forces has become more apparent. However, such intervention cannot grow in Hong Kong society without the cooperation and assistance of a group of traitors. Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and Martin Lee Chu-ming are representatives of this group of traitors.
From last year to this year, these so-called democratic leaders have had unprecedented levels of contacts with the U.S. government and Western parliaments, forming increasingly brazen collusion that has fueled the expansion of street politics in Hong Kong.