Money talks

I spoke to someone involved in managing Hong Kong family wealth – of the serious, fairly old, US$100 million-plus variety. The investment philosophy for the dynastic fortune concerned is apparently passive, boring and very long-term. Then, last Monday, they suddenly pushed the panic button, selling just about all their local stock portfolio and switching their HKD cash into US dollars.

I declare the weekend open with a bumper selection of recommended reading…

Erin Hale in the Independent checks out Hong Kong protestors’ guerilla-style tactics and the dismal (and apparently only) responses that the police have to offer …

One civil servant, who attended the rally and did not want to be named, said afterwards that he thought the police had become “drunk with power” as Lam’s administration had lost control of the force. He was also angry that police had been filmed in riot gear without identification, making disciplinary actions impossible.

“They just make arrests any time – even of people who did nothing but just shout at them,” he said.

The cops’ strategy (no doubt Liaison Office-ordered) has become ‘arrest and tear-gas everyone into obedience’. One of the SCMP’s bosses surprises readers with an interesting column asking where this leads: how can the courts and jails handle all these cases, and what happens when you have thousands of political prisoners?

In Newsweek, David Zweig of HKUST provides a concise how-we-got-here and what-might-be-next

Only if both Beijing and the Hong Kong government understand the young people’s determination, and stop the continuing march toward greater authoritarianism, can the current crisis in Hong Kong be resolved.

Understand the people and lay off the authoritarianism – so that’s a ‘No’, then.

The Jamestown Foundation has done a series (linked) of how the CCP has extended its influence in Japan and Singapore, and now it’s the turn of Hong Kong

For the CCP, Hong Kong represents an imminent existential threat: it is a part of China, but it is not under full PRC administration … CCP influence operations appear to be…far less successful with the current mainstream of Hong Kong society … Beijing’s strategy has obtained influence in Hong Kong, but not affection.

Antony Dapiran reviews Richard McGregor’s book Xi Jinping: The Backlash from a Hong Kong angle, including a quote that sums it all up so well it deserves extra special emphasis in loud glaring underline…

… for all the talk of extradition laws and universal suffrage, for all the hand-wringing about rocketing property prices and social inequality, there is a largely unspoken subtext to the recent protest movement — and perhaps to the entire history of protest in post-handover Hong Kong — and that is that the protests are really only about one thing: Beijing. As Gideon Rachman, writing in the Financial Times, put it succinctly, “The essential dilemma is that ordinary Hong Kongers have no desire to live in an authoritarian one-party state.”

Geremie Barmé translates Lee Yee’s column in Apple Daily on the rise of the ‘Revolution of Our Times’ idea, which is about…

…a fundamental change in the political direction of the city that is presently being imposed by the Beijing and Hong Kong Communist authorities.

There’s something about the tone of this – or maybe I’m imagining it: echoes of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. This page also has links to similar recent columns, classified under ‘Hong Kong Apostasy’.

For a really cheery read, Kerry Brown proposes that the CCP sees the decline and breakdown of Hong Kong as desirable – as it ‘proves’ the Mainland system of governance, uncontaminated by Western capitalist democratic nonsense, is superior.

From within this worldview, Hong Kong absolutely reaffirms the long-term impracticality of Western capitalism … it also proves that democracy and Chinese culture don’t go together.

In a strange way, the fact that Hong Kong seems so riven by problems will be taken by Beijing not as a criticism of anything it has done but as proof that the political and administrative legacy of British rule was always unsustainable. This is just a matter of fate, China’s leaders believe; all they have to do is to see that the old Hong Kong breaks down in a managed way.

This idea will come as a shock to the old-style 1990s-era optimists who blithely assure us it is in Beijing’s interests for Hong Kong to thrive. To anyone who recognizes the CCP’s agenda as the gradual absorption of Hong Kong into the Mainland, it will come as no surprise. To those of us who live here and feel the deterioration in basic quality of life (let alone the institutions), it’s obvious.

In a twist, the author adds that the opposite might be happening – that Hong Kong-style political awareness and dissent are bubbling under the surface in the Mainland.

An Atlantic article casts Carrie Lam as one of Moscow’s puppet rulers in Cold War Eastern Europe. This sets us up for the 1981 Poland solution, in which Beijing would…

Prompt the Hong Kong authorities to declare martial law, deploy their police forces with greater brutality, arrest the protest ringleaders, grant a new round of cosmetic concessions, and hunker down until the crisis passes.

Although, as Beijing knows, this produced Solidarity and ultimately the fall of Communism under Gorbachev. Another historical precedent the authors consider would involve the use of criminal gangs to eliminate opposition – the classic example being in China itself when the KMT employed ‘white terror’ against… the Communists. They see this as unlikely, too, despite the karmic logic.

On a badly needed brighter note – Little Adventures in HK looks at some of the amazing Hong Kong Protest Movement poster designs.

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11 Responses to Money talks

  1. Big Al says:

    For those of us who consider ourselves Hong Kongers it seems far-fetched that current events are the work of foreign governments trying to destabilise the Glorious Motherland. Surely, it’s just the next generation pissed off with shit government and high property prices, right? But, if another country (e.g. one with some South American and Middle Eastern experience in such matters) wished to destabilise a regime from within to effect a change in leadership (or effect bigger concessions in a “Trumped-up” trade war), then I guess it would look a lot like this. Just saying …

  2. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Very interesting re: family office liquidation.

    The timing of that decision coincides with other big wig meetings/phone calls that have been happening this week, with people (who, among other things, have access to spooky information) telling a few other people that things may not be as rosy as they appear in the mainland, that the trade war (and who knows what else) may be having a bigger impact than it may otherwise seem, and maybe, if you’re a systemically important financial institution, you should be doing some forward thinking about managing your China-facing risk.

    Of course, representatives of the hostile foreign forces would say that, wouldn’t they? As an Mi6 operative, you’re likely a part of the whole conspiracy.

  3. Knownot says:

    ” the deterioration in basic quality of life”

    This would be an interesting subject for a post.

  4. Chinese Netizen says:

    “From within this worldview, Hong Kong absolutely reaffirms the long-term impracticality of Western capitalism … it also proves that democracy and Chinese culture don’t go together.”
    I’d say the Free Nation of Taiwan disproves that, mostly.

    “In a strange way, the fact that Hong Kong seems so riven by problems will be taken by Beijing not as a criticism of anything it has done but as proof that the political and administrative legacy of British rule was always unsustainable. This is just a matter of fate, China’s leaders believe; all they have to do is to see that the old Hong Kong breaks down in a managed way.”
    But mostly its the simple fact that if you’re used to a mostly free, well oiled way of life and then suddenly some goonish thugs that have no clue on your way of life step in and almost overnight decide you’d be better off brutalized under their system of non freedom, it would cause you to, understatedly, chafe.

  5. Bob Barker says:

    This is all very sad. I’m going home and watch Bloodsport to remember a Hong Kong that never existed.

  6. Cassowary says:

    Beijing’s vision for us is basically a less hygienic Singapore. A quiescent, dull, culturally irrelevant machine for the laundering of vast sums of money, where our children will grow up to either be financiers or sellers of baby formula, and like it. And that’s the “nice” version they’re trying to sell us.

  7. Guest says:

    @Bob Barker: what a coincidence. I was just over at YouTube watching a few Bloodsport clips including the one of JCVD being chased by a couple of American agents as the 80s music played. The comments section featured one user who said he wanted to go back in time to the Hong Kong that used to be.

  8. Mr Miyagi says:

    Engaging in meaningful dialogue with this government is kind of like engaging with gorillas in the mist. I hear there is a movie about Carrie Law planned: Enter the Baboon.

  9. Mary Melville says:

    So now it has been revealed via arrests in Causeway Bay that the ‘agents provocateurs’ are actually police men in disguise. PLA are spotted riding around in ambulances while cops are using unmarked cars. Professor has revealed that around 2,000 PLA are ‘assisting’ the police. Five Fujian ‘uncles’ at a time are allowed to agitate. Gas bombing of MTR stations regardless of who is inside and despite international regulations on their use is acceptable to the authorities, and presumably MTR management. The plot thickens. As mentioned previously, we are being ‘played’.

  10. Bagesty says:

    @Mary Melville
    I think you and I are similarly outraged by the weekend’s events.
    And there is reason enough to suspect the ‘being played’ angle.
    The protestors have thus far proved themselves smart enough to outfox the police most of the time, albeit that I certainly don’t condone molotov cocktails (as seen live on Now TV last night) or deliberately winding up the rozzers by throwing stuff at police stations. No doubt the ‘being played’ angle is being animatedly discussed on LIHKG, Telegram etc… I just wonder what they will come up with next; frankly I hope it is not just more violence.

  11. Mary Melville says:

    The issue now is that it is unclear which side is lobbing the molotovs. Is it in fact the protesters or agents creating justifications for more brutal crackdowns? The police have now created doubt as to who is responsible.

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