HONG KONG - Beijing has sent a team of officials here from security and intelligence agencies, the foreign ministry and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office to ask local leaders and residents why they are so upset and to collect ideas for what to do next, pro-Beijing politicians said yesterday.
A march by 500,000 people here July 1, followed by the indefinite postponement early Monday of a strict internal-security bill, appears to have been a humiliating fiasco for Chinese intelligence. Chinese officials have repeatedly and publicly underestimated the extent of opposition here to the legislation, only to be quickly and visibly proved wrong, sometimes within hours.
Ma Lik, secretary general of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, the most pro-Beijing of the five main political parties here, said 10 to 20 officials had arrived.
"They have to assess the effect of the July 1st march. I think it's a shock to the central government," he said. "They are collecting suggestions first, and then there will be meetings in Beijing. I think these people will leave in a couple days and they will write their reports."
Shiu Sin-por, executive director of One Country Two Systems, a research group with close ties to Beijing and plush offices near the top of the Bank of China's downtown skyscraper, said a three-member delegation was visiting from Beijing's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. But he questioned whether the Chinese intelligence presence here had increased significantly, saying that "those people are always running around" in Hong Kong.
Shiu predicted that Beijing would discourage Hong Kong's chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, from resigning. "They will not submit to this political blackmail from what they see as hostile political forces," he said.
Beijing is likely instead to offer more economic and political support to Tung, Shiu said, not volunteering specifics. "Definitely they are going to take action to try to remedy the situation," he said.
While stopping short of predicting that Tung would reshuffle his Cabinet, as some pro-government officials are predicting, Shiu noted that many top officials are longtime civil servants unaccustomed to the need to interact with the legislature in Hong Kong's increasingly democratic society.
The Hong Kong Security Bureau and the Chinese government's liaison office here declined to comment on the visiting officials, whose presence was first reported yesterday by several Hong Kong newspapers.