Dave QC drops out

Not much of a surprise given the criticism: David Perry QC has dropped out of the prosecution of Jimmy Lai, Martin Lee, Margaret Ng for the CCP’s Hong Kong regime. Funny how the government can write a relatively short whiny press release when it feels like it. Looks like the days when overseas lawyers took on such work are over. With the outgoing Bar Association head warning that the NatSec regime has diminished judicial independence, overseas Court of Final Appeal judges will be under more pressure to quit.

The Hong Kong government is meanwhile planning to let the Immigration Dept bar people from exiting the city. This is ostensibly an amendment aimed at asylum-seekers, but it could easily be applied to would-be emigres, BNO passport holders, or anyone.

Here’s a clue. Uncle Bob – a cockney-speaking Hongkonger who does some amusing food/lifestyle vids – detected suspicious Gestapo-types lingering at the airport, as if to monitor who is leaving town for LHR. Given that many pan-dems (and other) people have a range of documents to use (BNO, HKID, HK/Portuguese/Canadian/other passport), perhaps the Immigration Dept computer system can’t keep track of everyone, so they want to do visual IDs of faces. 

The UK hits back at Beijing’s threats to take action against BNO passport holders moving to Britain. HKFP looks at one family that’s leaving.  This is early days.

As if the Brits aren’t annoying enough, a London borough is thinking of renaming streets to piss off the newly relocated Chinese embassy. While wondering how to pronounce ‘Xiaobo Road’, local residents may also be able to admire the Tibetan flag flying from the town hall.

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Weekend things we haven’t heard the last of

Following the New Year Purge, the US puts sanctions on pro-Beijing stalwart Tam Yiu-chung, three members of the NatSec Police, and a couple of Mainland officials overseeing Hong Kong. Reuters report here.

Tam has presumably been included because he is the only Hong Kong member of the NPC Standing Committee, which issues Beijing’s imperial edicts that override the Basic Law/local legislative process – notably the one imposing the NatSec Law. 

Tam is a veteran CCP loyalist who came through the local United Front hierarchy – thus more than a mere shoe-shiner from the tycoon/social-climber brigades. But he doesn’t have any input into serious high-level CCP decision-making. The Standing Committee, like the whole NPC, is just a rubber-stamp. He has also been a member of the CPPCC and the local Executive Councils – both essentially ceremonial ‘advisory’ bodies. 

So, unlike the cops and officials on the list, he does not hold actual executive authority or wield power. All he does is strut around obediently reciting the party line – as he has done on NatSec issues. In his zombie-like way, he is innocent. Unfazed Tam’s inclusion in the sanctions should worry other ‘heavyweights’, as the SCMP calls them.

It certainly worries someone. The HK government goes beyond whiny and bursts into some of its most brain-exploding freak-out ranting yet in its press statement, which starts with ‘insane, shameless and despicable’ and ends with ‘deplorable … totally illegitimate and violates established principles of international law’. The extreme ‘utmost’ ‘so-called’ panty-wetting – and the insistence that the sanctioned are ‘discharging an honourable duty’ – are presumably for the benefit of Tam and the NatSec cops as they adjust to life without personal bank accounts and credit cards. Apart from that, the CCP will take their continued slavishness for granted, and one day they will be of no further use.

The HK government rolls out its loyalty oath for civil servants. The pledge is brief and inoffensive enough to convince most – probably all – civil servants to sign and return it within a month. But it is also vague, and subject to NatSec Regime definitions of words like ‘allegiance’ and ‘obedience’. Tam Yiu-chung will be happy to explain more about what this means in practice to your freedom of expression and action. The days when civil servants could attend protests or sign petitions are over.

Bureaucrats will have more declarations to fill in if they have to state that they do not hold a BNO passport. The SCMP article mentions the UK’s policy of offering residency as ‘overreach’ in China’s view, but perhaps Beijing is the one trying too hard. Large numbers of Hongkongers – including many oh-so-loyal pro-Beijing folk – hold BNOs, Canadian or other passports, even though China does not recognize dual citizenship. Having to come clean about, or even sacrifice, their hard-earned overseas right-of-abode would be a serious test of their love for the CCP. 

The Law Gazette on the rights and wrongs of David Perry QC prosecuting people like Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai. Sympathizers argue that he must take on clients regardless of their ‘morality’ – as advocates have always done to ensure (say) heinous murderers do not go unrepresented. This sounds fair and noble when you are defending an individual. But does the principle apply if you are asked to prosecute on behalf of a repressive (foreign) state or thuggish regime trying to keep itself in power by assaulting citizens’ rights and freedoms? (Some learned comment here, and in the Guardian.)

(As commenters have pointed out, to get around the current ban on travellers from the UK, Perry would have to do 21 days in – say – Dubai, then another 21 days in quarantine here. So how will he make it for February 16?)

Unless something interesting happens during Hong Kong’s latest cold snap, I’ll probably be hibernating for a few days.

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Weekly round-up of weekly round-ups

Can’t have a whole week go by without a round-up – 11 people arrested in connection with the HK12’s attempt to escape to Taiwan. Or an interesting court case: RTHK’s Bao Choy pleads not guilty to ‘making false statements’ when checking Yuen Long attack vehicle details. Also on an RTHK/transport theme, the broadcaster wins Headline of the Week Award for the story on a (pro-Beijing) lawmaker doing a video conference call while driving

An ornament that had previously been spotted hanging off his rear-view mirror also swung into view every now and then, and the lawmaker looked around far more often than one would be expected to during a video conference, in a manner more consistent with someone cruising around on the roads, not online.

Will he get prosecuted?

In other legal affairs: does this guy need the money this badly? David Perry QC from the UK prepares to do the NatSec Regime’s dirty work by prosecuting the likes of Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai. A commentator asks about his quarantine arrangements – is the Hong Kong public paying for the highly remunerated barrister to spend 21 days in a hotel?

Some links…

A profile of US-born lawyer John Clancey – one of the arrestees in the New Year Purge.

China Digital Times with details about the HK Police’s blocking of HKChronicals.

Asia Times on Beijing’s plans to eliminate pan-dems from Hong Kong elections (yes, they’re already eliminated – but the CCP doesn’t take chances).

Reuters on the number of Hongkongers likely to leave for the UK in the coming year – specifically, how much money they’ll take with them. The economy can handle the capital outflow, but will it miss the skills of some 300,000 (presumably middle-class) people in their 30s-50s?

Younger/poorer Hongkongers are moving to Taiwan, and many seem attracted to the Qingshui coastal suburb of Taichung. I prefer the downtown area myself, but the new district is cheaper.

The US Consulate in Hong Kong is keeping a (melodramatically named) list of everyone arrested – and those charged – under the NatSec Law.

Interesting thread on all the Covid-came-from-outside-China theories.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom reviews books on the CCP’s campaigns against Hong Kong and the Uighurs. 

An Atlantic story on Epoch Times, the pro-trump Falun Gong paper aimed at readers for whom one cult isn’t enough.

Protest artist Harcourt Romanticist does Raft of The Medusa.

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After deciding to drop several US-sanctioned Mainland stocks, the HK Tracker Fund (managed by a US institution) is going to include them again. Maybe. But wait! There’s more! Maybe they will reverse the reverse. 

Judge Ernie strikes back. The Chief Justice says you can wear anything in court. Ernie says no.

The HK Police deny – in that oh-so-convincing tone of maximum righteous wrath – a report that they are sending arrestees’ phones over the border for data extraction. The reporter responds that the denial does not address the actual content in the story. The press-statement equivalent of parking your van on a hill and not using the handbrake.

And, perhaps most perplexing of all – after maintaining that the Covid pandemic is serious enough to warrant beach closures, travel restrictions, etc, the Hong Kong government suggests that it won’t rush vaccinations, as it has the ‘luxury of time’ to sit back and wait and stare in the air while doing nothing. (There might be a scientifically sound reason for this. The epidemiologists’ ‘sit back and stare in the air’ strategy. Nasty suspicious minds wonder if the aim is to drag out the social controls for as long as possible to keep a rebellious community in check.)

Some deaths to announce. RIP: Melvis, who brought pleasure to at least dozens of inebriated Central pub-goers; Sheldon Adelson, who brought happiness to the Macau money-laundering sector, if not to gambling addicts; and (reputationally) mildly amusing comedian ‘Uncle Roger’, who has kowtowed to the Almighty Panda so profusely it would shame Kenny G. (More here.)

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The unimportance of being Ernest

Judge Ernie gets slapped down by the new Chief Justice – you may wear yellow underpants in court, after all.

Otherwise, it’s the usual grimness. Activist Frances Hui in The Diplomat looks at how Beijing is pretty much criminalizing pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong. 

The Hong Kong government could not afford to let the democratic candidates demonstrate their substantial base of support … any center of influence or power outside of the CCP’s grasp is seen as a potential vulnerability that has to be eliminated.

And – you will be amazed to hear – Beijing is just starting. A mystery source tells Reuters that Hong Kong’s election system is not rigged enough, and the current clampdown-purge-rectification has a long way to run…

Among the next steps authorities could focus on … are disqualifying hundreds of democratic “district councillors” who dominate the grassroots political arena; entrenching loyalty to China within the civil service; squeezing businesses whose bosses explicitly support the democratic cause; and creeping censorship of the internet and media under the auspices of national security.

A reminder that the way to make your voice heard from now on in Hong Kong elections is simple – boycott. Can’t wait to see what infantile methods the government dreams up to try to lure people to polling stations if and when they open for business again.

The Reuters story suggests that the NatSec Regime will go further beyond ‘lawfare’ (like disqualifying candidates) into the realm of intimidation (enforcing loyalty in the public sector) and thuggishness (‘squeezing’ – a la mafia – pan-dem businesses). Missing from the list but certain to come: greater surveillance and data collection. Were you on anyone’s contacts list?

In the spirit of everything falling apart, the Tracker Fund is now going to be the Tracker Lite. Having dropped constituent stocks China Mobile and China Unicom, it will deviate from the Hang Seng Index it is designed to follow. Fund-manager types point out that it could underperform the HSI. But of course, it could outperform. They could even market it as a new sexy socially-responsible ETF concept – ‘Hong Kong ex-creepy Commie state-military complex’.

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Yellow socks to be banned in law courts

The new Chief Justice is sworn in. Andrew Cheung Kui-nung will have been heavily vetted by the CCP. His first public comments as head of the judiciary are the familiar warnings against saying nasty things about judges – who, he says, must be ‘impartial, free from bias or prejudice’. 

This is just after District Court Judge Ernest Lim orders that anyone wearing yellow facemasks in the courtroom be taken down to the cells and flogged. Some may consider Lim a bigoted jerk, and his comments (English graphic here) borderline obtuse. I couldn’t possibly comment. But who needs dangerous unpatriotic radicals to bring judges into disrepute when we have Judge Ernie?

From the SCMP report on the new Chief Justice…

People who have met Cheung describe his reserved style and knack for keeping a low profile. Others say he is a devout Christian…

As a former appeal court judge, he is known for some conservative decisions…

Human rights lawyer Mark Daly said: “…I have concerns, given some of his early judgments with respect to refugee and migrant rights and LGBT+ rights, which were thankfully put right at the Court of Final Appeal.”

No more of that ‘putting right’ nonsense from now on – Cheung will of course be on the Court of Final Appeal.

Meanwhile, to ensure a steady stream of enemies of the state for the courts to convict, the HK Police are pleased to announce their latest purge – tennis players.

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A quick quiz to start the week

So the HK Police have convinced ISPs to block a site that doxes their men. (Apple Daily story here.) Pretty sure they’ve done this before. It’s something they are hypersensitive about – presumably a reflection of concerns over morale in the ranks. Not strictly the same as a Great Firewall. The ‘GFW this year’ prediction stands.

Tim Hamlett in HKFP on the NatSec Gestapo’s brazen bullshit reasons for arresting candidates in the pan-dem camp’s primary elections. Expect a Basic Law ‘interpretation’ to declare a new meaning to the relevant part of the BL – and make the innocent guilty. 

On the subject of bullshit, this week’s Quiz… Which of these two SCMP contributors is spouting more of it: lawmaker (sorry, “lawmaker”) Regina Ip attacking Hong Kong people’s divided loyalties/dual citizenships; or the Colliers International boss waxing orgasmic about the Lantau Tomorrow Mega-Sandpit Vision as a huge boost to property prices? A tough question (of course, we’re not talking cumulatively, or Reg would beat even a real-estate salesman hands down). 

A parting gift from the Trump administration – assuming no last-minute unspeakables: the US State Dept ends the no-publicly-talking-to-Taiwan-officials (more or less) rule it has long imposed on itself out of outdated/naive/unrequited deference to Beijing. (Official statement here.) An avalanche of ‘likely to anger China’ headlines ensues, as does the inevitable Panda-tantrum. Sorry for not being distressed at the thought that it might tie Joe Biden’s hands (more here). 

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CCP to deliver ‘laam chau’

Even parts of the Hong Kong establishment are nervous after what we can call the New Year Purge, until we have a better name for it. The SCMP worries about the fate of the 53 arrested in an analysis piece and an editorial reflecting what we all know – that there is nothing to convict them for.

Of course, the NatSec Regime is more interested in crushing the individuals publicly with dawn raids, searches of premises, arrests, seizing of passports and freezing of assets. And if the courts throw the cases out, it will provide the CCP with a pretext to ‘reform’ the judiciary. That would further tarnish Hong Kong’s legal system, and the city generally. And in a way, Benny Tai’s laam chau plan will indeed be carried out.

The HK government begs to differ with skeptics, issuing one of its over-long, over-whiny tantrum-statements in response to overseas criticism of the Purge. Among the official panty-wetting is a claim that the pan-dems’ plan to win and exploit a majority in LegCo would have ‘undermined’ the government’s performance. Like we would notice.

Has the HKChronicles website been blocked? It seems there’s some other sort of problem. But we can expect the NatSec Regime to start on a local Great Firewall – before the year’s end. Seems a pretty safe bet.

Some links…

On the New Year Purge: Human Rights Watch; Asia Sentinel’s column (linked to yesterday); a Bloomberg op-ed foresees long- rather than short-term decline for Hong Kong as Beijing slowly suffocates the place; and in the Spectator, the Hong Kong Watch director asks how the UK should respond.

For light relief, Transit Jam on the Alphard menace

…there’s now an incredible 218,000 7-seaters in Hong Kong, 50 times more than the number of public minibuses, yet carrying a fraction of the 1.7 million daily minibus passengers.

The author proposes several remedies, none of them – sadly – involving streetside garrotings or explosives.

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Parallel government, parallel universe

The CCP has spent the New Year period intimidating human-rights lawyers, sentencing a tycoon to death, mystifying us over the fate of Jack Ma, and blocking WHO Covid investigators. Then comes the dawn arrests of over 50 Hong Kong activists (loosely defined) for trying to win an election.

Courtesy of Holmes Chan, a spreadsheet of all the arrestees. And here’s a series of brief bios for each one. A good summary from Atlantic.

One reason for the shock is the sheer scale of the purge. The cops grabbed pretty much every pan-dem you’ve ever heard of who isn’t in jail or exile – plus some relative unknowns.

Another is that the tougher the crackdown gets, the more inoffensive the targets are. The round-up includes moderate ex-lawmakers like Kwok Ka-ki, Helena Wong, Claudia Mo, and Jeremy Tam, academic Bennie Tai, unionist Carol Ng, social worker Jeffrey Andrews, lawyer John Clancy, and a campaigner for the disabled called Li Chi-yung – as well as regular arrestees like Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Long Hair. 

Most jarring, however, is the creepy Mainland/CCP-style reason given for the mass arrests: suspected ‘subversion’ as a result of involvement in the pan-dem camp’s primary election last July. The polling exercise was intended to maximise the pro-dems’ presence in the Legislative Council as a peaceful and legitimate opposition with a view to obstructing the government’s budget – which (according to the Basic Law) could lead to the departure of the administration. Benny Lai’s constitutional-if-wacky scheme is now regarded as a ‘vicious plot’ to subvert state power under the NatSec Law, punishable by life imprisonment.

There are ideas floating around that Beijing is trying to ‘test’ Joe Biden, or whatever. But the NatSec regime – a parallel government running Hong Kong alongside the local administration – has its own relentless bureaucratic and ideological momentum. The decision-makers are not following the invasion of the US Capitol, the Georgia US Senate runoffs, or even concerned about the pending trade deal with the EU. They only care about a supposed Western-backed conspiracy to use Hong Kong to topple the CCP from power. They are operating in a different world and a different reality to the one we inhabit. 

This dragnet has caught up moderates, an aging American lawyer, an ethnic-minority community organizer and a guy whose big thing is wheelchair access. It’s clear that Beijing’s locally based NatSec supremos are not so much dedicated to their mission as desperate to crush anything they can’t control or comprehend. Who the hell will they come for next?

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Prosecuting the victims

The old Hong Kong would have been horrified if the government prosecuted victims of a mob attack – to which the cops failed to respond – on passengers at an MTR station. But these days, the big shock is that RTHK is still clinging on, unrectified and able to put out no-nonsense news copy on the July 31 [21], 2019 incident…

Some mid-week links…

David Webb has a go at the Hong Kong government’s not-always-coherent anti-pandemic policies.

Jerome Cohen in the Diplomat on bail (notably Jimmy Lai’s) and personal freedoms in Hong Kong.

A chapter from a history of urban planning in Hong Kong in the 19th Century. Bureaucratic duplicity goes back a long way…

Using respect for the Chinese traditional culture as an excuse, the government neglected the management of public hygiene in Sheung Wan as the district gradually became a densely populated Chinese area. 

And – more fictional, perhaps – the first of a 66-volume CCP-friendly ‘definitely not political’ history of Hong Kong is published. (At best, an elaborate and absurd kowtow by tycoon backers. At worst, another leaden soft-power failure, if the length is anything to go by.)  

From Zolima Citymag – Hong Kong’s barking deer.

Kevin Carrico in Apple Daily starts a series on the theocratic origins of the modern Chinese state.

NPC Observer looks back at a weird year for the National People’s Congress – mainly imposing the NatSec Law on Hong Kong.

A quick summary by Michael Pettis of why the Chinese economy is apparently so strong.

Asia Times on the US sanctions against gangster-turned-Belt-and-Road-businessman ‘Broken Tooth’ Wan Kuok Koi. 

And a ton of pandemic items. Reuters on Beijing’s renewed Covid narrative. A thread on China’s efforts to manage Covid research and publication. The Sydney Morning Herald on Operation Anywhere-but-a-Yunnan-bat-cave – China’s search for the origins of the virus. Or should that be Operation Anywhere-but-our-biological-weapons-lab? Bloomberg looks at China’s struggle to win the world’s confidence in its vaccines.

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