Beijing had warned that its tolerance of protests in Hong Kong, now entering their 16th week, should not be taken as weakness. Thanks to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Beijing’s hand has been revealed and Hongkongers – and the world – know Beijing cares, quite rightly, about its international reputation too much to intervene by force.
Instead, large contingents of mainland visitors have come in recent days to Hong Kong to sing the Chinese national anthem in shopping malls, with Chinese national flags occasionally used literally as weapons in brawls with protesters and residents. Some of these visitors came with post-dated receipts for medical treatment. In turn, Hongkongers have embraced every opportunity to sing Glory to Hong Kong.
Putting aside the question of whether something as solemn as the Chinese national anthem or flag should be used in this manner, singing duels are unlikely to resolve the crisis engulfing this city. An international financial hub is not a kindergarten playground.