Hong Kong’s leader announced Friday that it will postpone legislative elections for a year because of the coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision, which has the support of the Chinese central government, drew international criticism, with commentators like Gordon Chang concerned Beijing is using the pandemic to increase its control over the city.
Chang told The Cats Roundtable that it was in China’s best interest to stop an election that was expected to favor democratic candidates.
“I think what they’re doing is just using the disease as an excuse to avoid an event that they really didn’t want to occur,” Chang explained, adding he fears the postponement is a death knell for democratic elections in Hong Kong.
The Friday announcement comes on the heels of a sweeping national security law that went into effect this year, which caused President Trump to strip Hong Kong of its special trade status.
Chang believes China’s interest in disrupting democratic elections doesn’t stop at Hong Kong. With the US-China relationship at an all-time low coinciding with the approaching US presidential election, Chang told The Cats Roundtable he expects “illicit” Chinese meddling in the coming months. He pointed to the recent disinformation campaign by the Chinese Foreign Ministry that falsely claimed President Trump would sign a nationwide lockdown order.
“Beijing has been propagating narratives that it knows are false, through social media feeds and text messages,” Chang told The Cats Roundtable. “It’s made it very clear that it intends to get involved in our campaigns to try to affect the outcome.”
While Chang said China’s “toxic” system was its own Achilles heel and questioned if the Chinese model would “resonate in many societies,” he said a President with a strong position against China was more important than ever.
Specifically, he believed that China would prefer Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to another Trump administration, in part because of Trump’s skeptical position on Beijing.
“He has had a robust program countering Chinese interests,” Chang said about Trump. “Biden has made it clear he has pro-China views.”
According to Chang, the soft stance the Democratic party has traditionally taken towards China, along with Trump’s attempts to renegotiate trade relations, has Beijing poised to do it all can to keep Trump out of the White House.
“You put all these reasons together, you’d have to be concerned that a President Biden would not have a policy that would defend the US from Chinese malicious disinformation campaigns, and the other things it’s doing to undermine our society.”
Listen to the interview below