The Wall Street Journal laments the increasingly ugly tactics of political interference by the Mainland in Hong Kong, where Beijing has abandoned its hands-off approach in favor of smear campaigns during recent elections:
Hong Kong may still be far from full democracy, but there’s enough uncertainty about the results to give Chinese officials sleepless nights. So in recent months they have ginned up a fresh campaign to accuse pro-democracy politicians of being stooges of foreign powers.
Publications controlled by Chinese officials and their allies are publicizing the donations of a local media entrepreneur, Jimmy Lai, to local pro-democracy parties as well as to the head of the local Catholic Church, Cardinal Joseph Zen, who supports pro-democracy causes. These donations were legal, but the writers allege Mr. Lai is a conduit for foreign money and influence and that the recipients are unpatriotic or even traitors. References to a “gang of four” and a rally of 2,000 people outside the headquarters of the pro-democracy Civic Party calling its leaders “black hands” recall the struggle sessions of the Cultural Revolution.
Eastweek magazine, which is owned by a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), suggested that Mr. Lai does not have the resources to make $5.4 million in donations over seven years, and that the funds came from the U.S. government. Considering Forbes magazine estimated Mr. Lai’s wealth at $660 million in 2009, this doesn’t make sense. He denies the accusation and is suing Eastweek for libel.
The piece notes suspicious patterns of people registering fake addresses in order to vote in tightly contested races, and today the Hong Kong government charged six people with vote rigging in districts in which pro-Beijing candidates performed well. From AFP:
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said the suspects were among 22 arrested Sunday on suspicion of lying to electoral officials about their residential addresses ahead of last month’s vote.
The vote rigging allegedly took place in the King’s Park constituency of Yau Tsim Mong District. The case is the first to go to court but the government says it is investigating a number of similar irregularities.
The ICAC alleges the six defendants gave “false information to electoral officers that a flat of a building in Yin Chong Street, Mongkok, as recorded in the final register, was their present residential address”.