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China prefers suppression of Hong Kong to fighting virus

With huge allocations for special-purpose materials and equipment, the policing budget has increased threefold

Elizabeth Lam

Elizabeth Lam

Published: February 27, 2020 08:56 AM GMT

Updated: February 27, 2020 09:17 AM GMT

China prefers suppression of Hong Kong to fighting virus

A police officer walks past placards of detained rights activists taped on the fence of the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong on Feb. 19 in protest against Beijing’s detention of prominent anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong, who had been criticizing President Xi Jinping’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak. (Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP)

The determination of the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) to suppress the struggle for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong has become evident in the budget announced on Feb. 26.

The budget for policing has increased nearly threefold from last year, an indication of the role of the police in the territory's conflict. 

A significant change came two weeks ago when China’s "cross demolisher" Xia Baolong was appointed as director of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

The HK$25.7 billion (US$3.3 billion) budget for 2020-21 proposes to expand the administrative establishment to more than 38,000 people, hiring more than 2,500.

It also proposes to buy six armored vehicles with huge allocations for special-purpose materials and equipment under the policing budget of HK$612 million, up from HK$210 million last year.

Do we need such a budget to police some 7.5 million people in Hong Kong? Maybe China believes the semi-autonomous region needs stricter treatment.

Robust policing is believed to be a suggestion coming from central government to deal with the pro-democracy protests that have shaken the city-state for more than nine months.

Xia was put in charges of the office that links the administrative and cultural policies of Beijing with the governments of Hong Kong and Macau after its former director was demoted for soft handling of the protests.

Xia orchestrated a state-sponsored scheme against Christians in Zhejiang province, which houses many Christians. That helped him rise in the party hierarchy to become vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political, legislative advisory body.

In Hong Kong, millions of pro-democracy protesters have been up in arms since last June against a now-abandoned proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China. Despite Chinese President Xi Jinping’s best effortsthe rebellion lingers on.
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President Xi has taken it as a personal loss of face and handpicked Xia, who served as his deputy in Zhejiang from 2003 to 2007, to bring Hong Kong “closer to mainland China.”

The 67-year-old Xia became notorious after he demolished more than 2,000 crosses, several churches and prosecuted many Christians when he was heading affairs in Zhejiang.

In entrusting the affairs of the former British colony to a person like Xia, President Xi has sent a clear message to protesters that life will not be same in the coming days. And that change finds some expression in the budget announcement. 

The worry among Hong Kong Christians is this: will Xia extend the policies he implemented in Zhejiang even in Hong Kong? 

Xia’s anti-Christian demolition activities in Zhejiang were conducted under the pretext of bringing down illegal constructions from 2013 to 2015. Later, it became the norm when Xia introduced the “Zhejiang religious building code” that stipulates the size and location of crosses and churches.

Under Xia, many Christians were jailed, while many clergy and lawyers who supported the Church were rounded up. Whenever Christians registered complaints, they were suppressed.

Xia was also reportedly worried about the spread of Christianity in Wenzhou, dubbed "China's Jerusalem." 

President Xi needed a bold and hard-working person like Xia to handle the Covid-19 outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,500 lives in China. But he has appointed him to oversee Hong Kong. That shows Xi’s priority — suppressing Hong Kong is more important than fighting the deadly coronavirus.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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