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Why is Regina Ip so smug these days?
Paul Lin
7/27/2003

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On July 16, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa announced that he had accepted the resignations of secretary for security Regina Ip and financial secretary Anthony Leung. This was seen as another concession in response to the massive demonstration on July 1.

Beijing's approval was probably sought and obtain beforehand. It could even be that the move was made under Beijing's instructions to ease the public anger and pave the way for the center of power to back up Tung. After Tung was forced to postpone the anti-subversion bill, he said he would reject resignations from high-level officials in order to uphold the unity of his leadership team, and so on.

As an advocate of the Basic Law Article 23 legislation, Ip was unrivalled in her vigor, frequently engaging in wild talk and publicly exchanging abuse with legislative councilors and members of the public. She was called a "female Hitler" and "the Jiang Qing of Hong Kong." During the demonstration, she was the second-most-important target after Tung.

Because of her outstanding performance, her resignation was viewed by Hong Kong's communists almost like their mother's death.

Apart from expressing their "love" and regrets, some groups even organized a high-profile farewell party for her. She was also compared her to 13th cen-tury warrior and poet Wen Tian-xiang.

What's even more outrageous was the behavior of the Beijing authorities. Ip was summoned to Beijing last Wednesday, when Typhoon Imbudo was approaching Hong Kong. She returned to Hong Kong the next evening, when the typhoon was leaving the territory. She avoided the typhoon, but she was in the eye of another storm -- a political storm. That day was her last in office. She handled the takeover procedure not in her office, but in Beijing. This was unprecedented, and it requires special attention.

On her return to Hong Kong, Ip was wearing exactly the same clothing as she did on the day when she announced her resignation. This explains how good she is at scheming and how deep her emotions run.

It also reminded one of how Jiang Qing settled old accounts with her political enemies when she gained the upper hand during the Cultural Revolution. The bilingual statement (Chinese and English) Ip released at the airport said that her trip was at the central government's invitation, that she had met with Procurator-General Jia Chunwang, Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang and director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Liao Hui and that she thanked them for the many years of concern and support. She even said she had received many souvenirs during her trip.

The people who received her are not China's top leadership, but they are representatives of the Chinese Communist Party's "dictatorship of the proletariat."

Zhou is a confidante former president Jiang Zemin and is known for his ruthlessness. He is also a member of the Political Bureau of the party's Central Committee and a member of the party secretariat. On the surface, Luo Gan appears to be the top leader in the party's judicial and law enforcement work, but the real power is in the hands of Zhou.

What was the message Beijing wanted to send out?

The clearest message is that the central government supports Ip even as Hong Kong residents oppose her. "We must embrace whatever the enemy opposes." This is the party's logic during its class struggles. Now is the time to use it again.

The second message is that the party wanted to console Ip and promise her a comeback in the future. She is perhaps Bei-jing's favorite to be the next chief executive or chief secretary for administration.

When a reporter asked her about this, she smiled and gave no answer. She did not deny it. She even appeared to be pleased.

The third message is: Hong Kong's "patriotic camp" has been in disarray under the massive pressure from the demonstration. Some of them also sympathize with the call for popular elections for the chief executive and the legislative council. Beijing's move may let them regain composure, defend their conservative position and fight against the public's demand for democracy.

Indeed, Ip appeared to be in a very different mood upon her return. Immediately, she vented her dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong public at a reception held by local communists. Like a thief crying "thief," she criticized the "winds of aberration" in society that she said were confusing right and wrong. Her statements smacked of the thinking and language of the Cultural Revolution.

Facing the scheming and supremely cunning Communist Party, the good people of Hong Kong should stay alert so as to avert an unexpected disaster.

Beijing's brazen approach has once again torn off the masks of "one country, two systems" and "a high level of autonomy" for Hong Kong.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.



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