An academic and a veteran journalist say Beijing may be reacting to last year’s Occupy protests by increasingly interfering in local affairs.
Political scientist Ma Ngok from the Chinese University says he expects the central government to give more support to pro-establishment candidates in November’s district council elections, and the Legislative Council polls in 2016, to punish pan-democrats for their support of the Umbrella Movement.
“I think Beijing and the pro-establishment groups in Hong Kong have an extra incentive to wipe out the democrats in the upcoming elections,” he said.
Journalist Ching Cheong said a protracted campaign by pro-Beijing newspapers against pro-democracy legal scholar Johannes Chan is a clear sign of the central government’s increasing intervention in local matters.
Chan – who has been recommended for a top managerial position at the University of Hong Kong, but whose appointment has been delayed – has been the target of hundreds of critical articles.
Ching told RTHK he thinks Beijing is tightening its grip on Hong Kong because it “fears” the territory’s core values. “The problem is not that we have done anything to sabotage Beijing's regime, but simply because we advocate all these core values: things like press freedom, universal values, judicial justice, and in Beijing's eyes, this is contradictory to the interests of the party maintaining its rule,” he said.
However, Ma said he considers the row over Johannes Chan to be an isolated incident, and Beijing's efforts to intervene "could have been much worse".