Teargas debacle sums up Hong Kong’s dysfunction

The deployment of riot police at Admiralty on Sunday is a fine illustration of Hong Kong’s malaise. The evidence is that this single decision, more than any amount of urging from Occupy or Scholarism, drove people onto the streets.

By 1am, the riot police were withdrawn. The question is: whose idea was it to put them there?

Bao Pu, the son of Bao Tong, the former secretary to Zhao Ziyang, who now lives in Hong Kong, says Beijing sources have told him police “have all sorts of plans to put down” the protests:

“Hong Kong police were prepared for the use of force; the escalating use of force is all according to the plan.”

Reportedly, Beijing authorities considered but rejected making use of Shenzhen garrison troops, but in any case under-estimated the size of the crowds.

CY Leung himself has form on this issue. During the 2012 CE ‘election’ campaign two years ago, rival Henry Tang claimed Leung had advocated the use of force on the peaceful July 2003 rally against national security legislation.

And so it goes. We don’t really know, although it’s hard to believe professional police officers created this fiasco. History will show the Communist Party and the CY Leung government had 18 months to prepare for Occupy and that their strategy collapsed within hours.

For Hong Kong people, almost every government decision has the qualities of furtiveness and ineptitude displayed here. We assume Hong Kong civil servants are doing their best to please their Beijing clients, who in any case are pulling rank.

But the lesson here is that when Hong Kong people talk about democracy, they are not just talking about voting. They are talking about the right to have an open and accountable government that puts their interests, and not those of the Communist Party, first.

UPDATE:

More views on who’s calling the shots.

Regina Ip, high-profile pro-Beijing lawmaker, told Reuters:

The leadership in Beijing appears to have shifted the onus to him. “The central government did not pressure Hong Kong to disperse the protesters,” said another source with ties to the leadership in Beijing. “The Hong Kong government was proactive because it did not want to be perceived by the central government to be weak.”

The Financial Times reports Alan Leong, head of the opposition Civic party, saying “there were hints of disagreement within the administration over the decision to use tear gas amid rumours that Mr Leung had not informed Carrie Lam, his chief secretary, in advance.”

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