For whom the national security bell tolls


By Chris Yeung —

Ching Hoi Hau (靖海侯) is not his real name. He is said to be a former journalist at a mainland official media based in Hong Kong. Although his background remains hazy, his political blogs on social media on the mainland have had a good number of followers across the border. In a recent blog, he asked, “What kind of Hong Kong do we really need?” Ching fears Hong Kong risks losing its uniqueness if the way the national security law is currently executed remains unchanged. Not surprisingly, it has caused disquiet in the political scene.

His blog was widely circulated within the pro-Beijing and pro-establishment camp, winning some applause for telling the plain truth of the overkill of the Hong Kong national security law. It did not take long, however, for hardliners to fight back through a signed commentary published on the mainland-funded Ta Kung Pao on Wednesday (19/7).

Without naming Ching Hoi Hau, the article said it is wrong to say “excessive” implementation of the national security law will damage Hong Kong’s uniqueness. Worse, saying so will give more impetus to “soft resistance.” The major current tasks, it said, are to step up crackdown against “soft resistance” and to preserve and enhance the city’s uniqueness. Both are complementary to each other, not mutually exclusive, it said.

In his blog, Ching Hoi Hau warned a small number of people including officials and lawmakers have “overstretched” the use of the national security law as a tool to promote their own policies and to use it as a shield to protect themselves from being criticised when they failed.

Those people appeared to be enthusiastic in executing Beijing’s policies, he wrote, adding but what they did were basically aimed to shirk responsibility and phone it in. Ching cited as cases in point the pulling of books written by renown Chinese author Lu Xun (魯迅) from government libraries and the ban of showings of non-political films.

Admittedly, Ching is not the first to ridicule the decisions made by officials in charge of culture to remove a long list of books deemed as unsuitable for public borrowing, which include novels written by Lu Xun and travel books penned by ex-journalist Allan Au.

While making the Government look silly and naive, the moves have laid bare the danger of the overstretching of national security in the name of countering the so-called “soft resistance” by people against the regime.

Incidents such as the “books-off-the-shelves” saga have emerged as indisputable evidence of a case of overstretching of national security that even Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, the Government’s top adviser, found it difficult to defend.

Citing the case of Lu Xun’s classics, Ip said in an interview government officials should be able to distinguish between literature and seditious writings. She warned of an overkill of the implementation of the national security law.

Warnings of the national security law being turned into a weapon to curb dissenting views have been raised days after it came into effect on July 1, 2020. They have been greeted by denials by officials, followed by repeated claims that only a small number of people were arrested, being prosecuted and convicted under the law since then.

In the name of beating “soft resistance”, the pool of suspects of threats to national security grew bigger including netizens, journalists, artists, filmmakers and cartoonists. The list goes on.

The overstretching of national security has precipitated a climate of fear, or unease to say the least, in the society, intoxicating the overall atmosphere and damaging the city’s international image.

Judging from his background, Ching Hoi Hau does not seem to have penned the article with officials behind it. His article, however, has reflected one line of thinking in the political circle close to the central authorities about the need for a change of tact towards narrowing down the scope of crackdown in the nation’s anti-subversion battle.

The rebuttal of Ching’s blog by Ta Kung Pao through a signed commentary within days after it started getting more eyeballs and some echoes from the pro-establishment force shows the likelihood of a softening of the clampdown against “soft resistance” remains remote in the foreseeable future.

If there are two voices within the pro-Beijing circle about the national security battle, the calls for keeping the fight going as it is have clearly prevailed.

Last week’s appointment of a former top national security official from Beijing to head the central government’s national security office in Hong Kong is yet another sign of the enduring battle against what they deem as threats, both known and hidden, and resistance, be they hard or soft.


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