Hong Kong is now silent – Corona 19 has achieved what the Hong Kong police together with People’s Liberation Army massed on the border, could not. Face masks have replaced masked vigilantes hurling Molotov cocktails. Weeks of rioting, blazing bonfires, thick tear gas and the screams of bloodied civilians are no more.
During the riots, 7,300 people were arrested and 2,600 injured. The police fired 10,000 rounds of tear gas and 3000 rubber bullets. They stamped on the heads of protestors. Rioters sent a severed pig’s head to a police officer’s wedding banquet.
All that physically remains are smashed up buses at Kowloon station and the vandalised entrances to MTR Stations but the social scarring remains viceral. Deep divisions have opened up between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing activists with members of the same family refusing to eat with each other.
A big cloud still hangs over Hong Kong’s political and economic future. Despite Covid 19, President Xi has not been idle and reshuffled officials, appointing two Beijing loyalists to liaise with the Hong Kong government. A mainland Chinese court sentenced bookseller Gui Minhai, a critic of the Chinese Communist Party, to ten years in prison. These actions do not bode well for the pro-democracy effort.
The Hong Kong economy, even before the virus had collapsed. GDP shrank by 2.9% in the third quarter. Carrie Lam, the governor, announced an economic relief package – seven million permanent residents are to receive £985 each.
Whilst a few million Hong Konger’s might be able to be bribed into submission, it might prove rather more difficult to bribe a billion and a half on the mainland if the Chinese economy goes into freefall and riots start.