On September 16, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken criticized the disqualification of seven Hong Kong local level politicians in a tweet pledging, as he has in the past, to “stand with the people of Hong Kong.” The district councilors had fallen afoul of a new loyalty test to the Chinese Communist Party. China has already demolished Hong Kong’s partial democracy, reducing the number of elected seats in the citywide Legislative Council and exerting even more control over the process of installing Beijing’s pick for the city’s chief executive. December elections for the Legislative Council will give Beijing a rubber stamp body, much like the one it has on the mainland.
Blinken’s tweet was accurate and unremarkable, but soon the State Department took it down and posted a new, less forthright one, apparently after the Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized “irresponsible comments from certain US politicians.”
The State Department explained that it intended the tweet to come from spokesman Ned Price’s account and not Blinken’s. (And Price’s version of the tweet is still live.) Still, it’s worth looking at the differences between the original and the watered-down replacement. In addition to dropping the “stand with” pledge, the new tweet omitted support for “fundamental human rights & freedoms.” Instead Blinken offered the anodyne “government should serve the people they represent.” Of course, Chinese Communist cadres will have little beef with that. Since Mao’s time, it has been routine to emphasize that “the party serves the people.”