The Wall Street Journal Asia editorial page is covering the uptick in verbal attacks on Hong Kong individuals and institutions by Chinese Communist officials and their official press. So far, the list includes pro-democracy politicians and their supporters, the Catholic Church, and the top U.S. diplomat in the territory. Now, the Wall Street Journal editorial page notes, “Beijing is turning up the Cultural Revolution rhetoric again” in a “rectification campaign” aimed against two academics.
The “struggle session” targets are Robert Chung, a professor who does independent polling at Hong Kong University about the civic identity of the people of Hong Kong. According to the Journal, the number of people saying they identify as Hong Kong citizens is at a 10-year high, while the number who identify themselves as Chinese has hit a 12-year low. Chung gamely stood up for himself, and the feelings of the Hong Kong people, by rejecting "Cultural Revolution-style curses and defamations,” which had been lobbed by pro-Beijing newspapers. These, he wryly pointed out, are “not conducive to the building of Chinese national identity among Hong Kong people.”
The Journal speculates that the second target of the campaign, Dixon Sing, fell afoul of Beijing for supporting the decision by leading pro-democracy politicians to resign their posts in the partially elected legislature and use the resulting elections in 2010 as a makeshift “referendum” on full democracy. When that happened, the pro-democracy politicians were reelected.
In attacking both Professors Chung and Sing, Communist Chinese officials obviously see a connection between the pro-democracy movement in the territory and the way Hong Kong’s people see themselves. In Taiwan, a distinctly Taiwanese identity has developed that is to Beijing's great frustration irrevocably committed to democracy. But for Beijing, Taiwan and Hong Kong are not simply territorial issues but also, and perhaps more importantly, ideological and even existential ones. A Hong Kong civic identity tied to democracy is a huge problem for Beijing and it is responding by attacking all of those who are willing to defend it.