China does not have a PR problem. I mean China does not care how the world’s public opinion regards it. Pretending to be a democracy is not a concern because everyone knows it isn’t one. And China is convinced —not without reason— that its economic, political and military might, the mesh of interests that surrounds it, will shield it from anyone’s effective reproach, no matter what actions it might engage in. In Tibet and Hong Kong.
Therefore, China doesn’t mind if the images of the violent police crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations get out. It doesn’t even attempt to conceal them because it knows they will bear no consequences. The pictures —which are so familiar to us in more than one way— are nasty, but China is prepared to pay the price of nastiness because, deep down, China believes it can afford to. It believes that achieving its goals (taking down Hong Kong’s opposition movement and edging towards the broadest political uniformity) more than offsets the costs incurred. Therefore, China will go to any lengths necessary to attain these objectives. The most dangerous states in the world for their own citizens are the ones like China, whose might allows them to get away with anything. And those who wrongly believe they can.