Dear Subscribers & Friends
 
An Analysis of Beijing Strategy
 
Beijing has a strategy to circumscribe Hong Kong's debate on constitutional development through using speed and surprise to gain a strategic advantage.
 
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (SCNPC) is expected to issue more guiding principles yet for Hong Kong on political reform.
 
A. Every step you take ...
 
As events proceed [Newsletters 26/3, 7/4, and 16/4] it is now possible to analyse Beijing's strategy:
 
1. First signal: President Hu Jintao's message to Hong Kong on 3/12/04 was that Beijing was "very much concerned" with the development of Hong Kong's political system and Beijing had a "position of principle".
 
2. Provoke "patriotic" skirmishes: Immediately afterwards, Beijing's network began to emphasize the "principle" of China's sovereignty over Hong Kong, and the "legislative process" in the Basic Law (BL) that involves the SCNPC in political reform. On 20/2/04, the first patriot missile was fired to say that only "patriots" could govern Hong Kong. This was Beijing's vanguard action to draw the battle lines on the key issues.
 
3. Feint softening of tactics: By easing off firing patriot missiles around 7/3, and with senior officials arriving in Hong Kong on 11/3 with the message that they wanted to talk to more people, it appeared that Beijing was softening its tactics. This was a feint - the gun was in fact being reloaded.
 
4. Second strike: As Hong Kong was recovering from the patriot missile attacks, on 26/3, Beijing announced that the SCNPC would interpret two provisions in the BL relating to political reform. The announcement left Hong Kong stunned. No one expected the timing of this move. Beijing had managed to keep quiet about it to gain the advantage of surprise.
 
5. SCNPC in the vanguard: By 5/4, the SCNPC had concluded its work and the intrepretation was released on 6/4. Senior officials arrived in Hong Kong on 7/4 on a "charm offensive" to explain Beijing's action. In the meantime, the gun was being reloaded once more.
 
6. Surprise again with speed: The SCNPC interpretation added a new step to the BL requiring the CE to give a report to the SCNPC on whether there is a "need" for reform in Hong Kong. While Hong Kong was trying to understand its meaning, Beijing had already reloaded and on 15/4, the CE gave its report much earlier than expected to the SCNPC. The CE's early reporting must have been part of the attack plan. 
 
7. Move quickly to consolidate gains: The SCNPC usually meets every 2 months with its last meeting ending in early April with the interpretation as its primary work and the next one set for June. The SCNPC notified HK's NPC and CPPCC members on 16/4 of a special consultation meeting on 21/4 in Shenzhen to discuss the CE's report and is likely to approve it by end month at a special session.
 
8. More to come: Mainland legal experts have now said that the SCNPC will likely set out more guiding principles on political reform to guide the HKSAR Government in drafting legislation relating to electoral reform.
 
B. Observations
 
1. Expect more guidelines to tightened/eliminated reform options.
 
2. The CE and HKSAR Government are conduits for Beijing's decisions - Donald Tsang, head of the government's Task Force on reform, made a Freudian slip last week describing its work as a "tool". 
 
3. A good strategist must be able to predict the outcome of its strategy - this we need to wait and see.
 
CHRISTINE LOH
Civic Exchange - HK's independent think tank
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