Some thoughts on China’s response to Hong Kong’s protests

Jerome A. Cohen

Chinese Government and media suggestions that the protests amount to “terrorism” are without foundation. They are as irresponsible as Chinese Government claims that many of China’s detained Xinjiang citizens may be actual or potential “terrorists”.

The PRC is increasingly mobilizing Mainland people against the protesters, as noted by several major U.S. papers this morning. Louisa Lim’s op ed in the NYT, The Battle for Hong Kong Is Being Fought in Sydney and Vancouver, is certainly worth reading in addition to news reports that themselves include some useful analysis.

As to the timing of possible intervention of People’s Liberation Army or People's Armed Police, should the airport or other transport continue to be disrupted seriously, the timetable might be moved up. Much depends on the success of Hong Kong’s new police commander in enforcing the new court injunction etc.

Choosing the airport was a brilliant move for the protestors to gain the world’s attention. Having made their point, they should stop interfering with departures or arrivals and avoid any acts of violence. This seems to have happened on Wednesday of this week. Future airport protests are likely to be fewer and easier to disperse because of the enforcement of a new court injunction that means arrested protesters will now face more severe punishment than earlier.  

If the HK Government’s injunction and other efforts to stop the protests do not succeed, AFTER the October 1st 70th anniversary celebration of the PRC’s founding, the Central Leadership may well feel it necessary to send in the army or the People’s Armed Police. This would be a disaster for China, Hong Kong and international cooperation and security.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s message asking Hong Hong authorities to exercise restraint and to investigate excessive use of police forces is most welcome and adds to international pressures cautioning the Beijing leadership and the SAR Government. I think it’s wonderful that tearful Carrie now says that she is not responsible for her own government’s  police operations! She certainly is not responsible for initiating the discussions and independent investigation that could ease the crisis!