Home / Articles / Beijing’s Hard and Soft Repression in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s new Police Commissioner Chris Tang announced in Beijing on December 7, 2019, that he would use “both hard and soft approaches” to end the anti-government protests. This article argues that such “approaches” amount to physical and non-physical repression—hard power, but employed by Hong Kong, rather than mainland, forces, combined with sharp power exercised by both Beijing and the local authorities. These measures are responses to the limits on what Beijing can do under the “one country, two systems” model. As Beijing cannot send the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), it has subverted Hong Kong’s once-respected civilian police force to act like the mainland’s public security. And as Hong Kong’s judiciary is relatively autonomous and many of the arrested would not be convicted or sentenced, the police have resorted to a decapacitation campaign to inflict direct violence on protesters. Moreover, as the city’s freedom has allowed the public to support protesters in various ways, Beijing has launched a program of dismissal of pro-democracy individuals in both public and private sectors. To zoom in on Beijing’s hard and soft repression, this article examines in closer detail the other “frontliners” at protest sites who provide professional services vital to the sustainability of protests: medics, firefighters, lawyers, journalists, and educators.