Is Xi Mishandling Hong Kong Crisis? Hints of Unease in China’s Leadership – The New York Times

The government’s deepest fear now appears to be that the demands for greater political accountability and even universal suffrage heard on the streets in Hong Kong could spread like a contagion through the mainland. So far, there have been few signs of that.

As the crisis has grown, the government has dispatched thousands of troops from the People’s Armed Police to Shenzhen, the mainland city adjacent to Hong Kong, but the exercise was hastily organized and used an outdated plan drawn up after the protests in 2014, according to one official in Hong Kong.

Beijing also stepped up its propaganda, launching an information — and disinformation — campaign against the protesters and opposition leaders in Hong Kong.

Mr. Xi continues to barely mention Hong Kong. He has said nothing about the protests, even in his passing reference on Tuesday. He has not visited since 2017, when he marked the 20th anniversary of the handover from Britain.

After the traditional August holiday break, Mr. Xi’s public calendar of events has since betrayed no hint of political upheaval or threats to his standing. The media’s portrayal of him, already verging on hagiography, became even more fawning. State television and the party’s newspapers now refer to him as “The People’s Leader,” an honorific once bestowed only on Mao.

“The People’s Leader loves the people,” The People’s Daily wrote after Mr. Xi toured Gansu, a province in western China.

Mr. Xi’s calculation might be simply to remain patient, as he has been in the case of President Trump’s erratic shifts in the trade war. In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Xi also gave a possible hint of the government’s pragmatism.

“On matters of principle, not an inch will be yielded,” he said, “but on matters of tactics there can be flexibility.”

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