KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) — The seventieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China was supposed to be a moment of great celebration and a chance to highlight the country's progress and power to the world.
It is almost certain that, inside China, that is how it is being perceived. But to outside observers, it appears to have been little short of disastrous.
The democracy protests in Hong Kong have stubbornly refused to go away (to the enormous credit of the protestors) and are a constant thorn in the side of China's leaders at the moment. But the ongoing international media interest means that the regime is unable to crush the dissent with force in the same way they undoubtedly would back home.
This has clearly left them bereft of ideas. They can’t openly send out the military because the international community would undoubtedly react. But they also can’t give in to the demands of the protestors for fear that people in China might start standing up to their oppression and demanding a few basic rights of their own.
The regime is powerless, and in a totalitarian regime where power is everything, this is clearly a deeply uncomfortable position to be in. The solution they appear to have arrived at is to fall back on their default position of using brutal violence to suppress dissent while pretending it isn’t them doing it.
Responsibility for the mindless violence that we see being meted out on the protestors in Hong Kong is being placed squarely at the feet of the Hong Kong police by both international media and the protestors themselves.
But is this the whole picture? Numerous reports of police officers not wearing the required identification have come back from protestors on the streets. Why might that be?
Recent images taken of the People’s Liberation Army garrison inside Hong Kong might provide the answer. They have shown Hong Kong Riot Police uniforms laid out on the ground as well as men wearing them.
The implications are clear. It is not just the Hong Kong police which are brutally beating up innocent young democracy protestors on the streets of Hong Kong, it is People's Liberation Army soldiers too.
It makes sense when you think about it. While the Hong Kong police have to obey orders, they are also Hong Kong citizens, and many will no doubt sympathize with the protestors' cause.
They are duty-bound to patrol the protests and enforce the law. But the violence we have seen goes far beyond the call of duty, and it seems highly unlikely that so many of Hong Kong's police officers would be willing participants in such behavior.
It makes far more sense that it is Chinese soldiers, brainwashed with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda, who are attempted to beat the protestors into submission.
While the evidence indicating Communist Party collusion in police brutality grows, it is also being reflected in the rhetoric used by senior CCP officials.
This is somewhat unusual because, while it is far from uncommon for them to spout the CCP’s standard nationalist rhetoric, it is less common for them to openly espouse the use of violence.
Yet that is exactly what no less than CCP leader Xi Jinping himself did last weekend in Nepal. His words are well worth quoting in full.
He said, “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones."
Just read those words again and let them sink in.
This is the leader of Communist China threatening to brutally murder anyone who opposes his regime.
Just imagine what would happen if Donald Trump made such a threat to his critics — or Boris Johnson, or Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)! This is a global leader openly threatening to slaughter his opponents.
Now, these words won’t surprise anyone who is familiar with China’s Communist regime. They haven’t got the blood of their victims on their hands so much as they are setting free-diving records in it. A conservative estimate of the numbers that have died at their hands stretches into the tens of millions.
But what is surprising is seeing a CCP leader openly making such a blatant threat. The question we should be asking ourselves is why.
Hong Kong was undoubtedly at the forefront of Xi's mind, but such threats are not news to the protestors and will not undermine their determination to stand and fight for their rights. The words are more likely to resonate with the domestic Chinese audience.
It chimes well with the CCP’s nationalist rhetoric and will further stoke that agenda which the party has relied so heavily on to maintain its grip on power in recent years. But it also serves as a threat to those who may oppose Xi’s leadership closer to home.
Getting accurate information about the true state of the CCP outside of Beijing is notoriously difficult. But there have been rumors of dissatisfaction with Xi’s leadership of late, especially in the wake of the impact the U.S.-China trade war has had on the economy.
Talks of rifts and divisions in the upper echelons of the party are growing, and Xi’s choice of words could well be aimed at dissenters in his own ranks in addition to those in Hong Kong.
Whatever the motivation behind them, Xi’s comments and the increasing evidence of CCP involvement in the police violence being witnessed in Hong Kong shows that Communist China’s mask is finally slipping.
No longer can the world continue to pretend that Communist China is a normal country that can be engaged like any other. The longer the Hong Kong protests continue, the more the pressure on Beijing's leadership will grow, and the better chance we will have of removing this brutal regime — and the threat it poses to international peace and stability — once and for all.