Street-less demonstration attracts 600,000

Oh to be a fly on the wall of the Resolutely Safeguarding National Security Office this morning as the Mainland goons ponder why – after whiny foot-stamping threats and oh-so original police raids of a pollster – 600,000 people turned out to vote in pro-dem camp primary polls. (Hint: it’s not the mainly-inconsequential primaries – it’s the chance to say Screw You CCP.) 

The lack of police and other harassment of the polling stations was surprising. Did the sheer number of premises confuse the cops? Or did someone higher up the chain of command have enough brain cells to realize the authorities had already messed this one up enough?

Today is taking place over here

(Struggling to find anything new to say on all this. From now on, this is an experiment in (re)colonization by a regime that, it seems clear, is as deluded and clueless about the outside world – including Hong Kong – as the most insular Ming and Qing emperors. If there is a clean way to curtail a community’s longstanding rights and freedoms, it would involve stealth, subtlety and patience. You can be sure the CCP will use none of them.)

For the next few days I will be on vacation. After considering various options – from exotic Cheung Chau to the Sai Kung riviera – Mongkok it is! Hotels are cheap. Huge range of restaurants. No tourists. Glorious mountain views to both the north and south. 

Something to listen to…

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How a PR company damages your PR

Is it Friday? One of the strange things about retirement is that you don’t track these things.

Your weekend treat: a juicy PRovoke piece on the Hong Kong government’s new PR company, Consulum. Reading between the lines, it seems the firm lives largely off its Saudi government account. It is also extremely secretive, in an industry whose practitioners are nowadays increasingly aware of the need for transparency and ethics in general. (You learn something new every time you read this mag.) Consulum – a PR company, remember – makes a point of not answering reporters’ questions.

Hong Kong needed a PR agency far more than a PR firm needed Hong Kong.

…If Hong Kong really wanted to build a more positive narrative, hiring a firm that carried [Consulum’s] kind of baggage … seemed like an odd way of going about it. 

One communications guy says… 

“…by selecting Consulum, the Hong Kong government has indicated it’s in the same boat as Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Bahrain…”

Reuters on the Hong Kong Police under Commissioner Chris Tang. Shortly to be re-titled Commissar. Some more about his New Territories connections might have been interesting, but we understand. I’ve said it before: prepare for him to be Chief Executive (not that it matters who sits in that chair).

Times Higher Education on academics avoiding Hong Kong quoting Steve Tsang of the SOAS China Institute…

“This law is extraterritorial, which means it applies to anyone writing about China, whether they are in Hong Kong or London,” said Professor Tsang, who added that he would no longer feel safe travelling to Hong Kong. “I would absolutely consider it a risk,” he said.

While Professor Tsang maintained that his academic output on China was “critical commentary” as opposed to “advocacy”, which could be prosecuted under the new law, he said he was not confident that Chinese authorities would see the situation in the same way.

Pro-democratic party activists are grateful to Constitutional Affairs Secretary Erick Tsang for publicizing their otherwise low-key ‘primaries’ to decide candidates in the LegCo elections in September. Maybe if they called it a ‘survey’ it wouldn’t get officials so agitated – as with ‘referendums’. The idea of course is to ensure a multitude of tiny pan-dem parties don’t split the vote. Here’s the details. And a stand-up offers a zippy explanation.

Given that many candidates will likely be disqualified, it will probably send a louder message if pan-dems boycott the election. Let Beijing explain a 20% turnout.

New Republic on the Left’s aversion to criticizing China’s human-rights violations in Xinjiang. (I’m in the who-cares-what-they-think camp, but it would be nice if the article did more to explain why the tankies think like they do.)

At the other end of the spectrum – just because John Bolton says – it doesn’t mean it’s nuts. A proposal that the US recognize Taiwan. Yaay.

A bit dated now Canberra has done the deed, but why Oz (and anywhere) should scrap HK extradition arrangements.

Atlantic on collaborators and why they do it – from East Germans devoted to the Soviets to Republicans going along with Trump. 

…“voluntary” collaborators [were placed] into two additional categories. In the first were those who worked with the enemy in the name of “national interest,” rationalizing collaboration as something necessary for the preservation of the French economy, or French culture—though of course many people who made these arguments had other professional or economic motives, too. In the second were the truly active ideological collaborators: people who believed that prewar republican France had been weak or corrupt and hoped that the Nazis would strengthen it, people who admired fascism, and people who admired Hitler.

Insert the names of the Hong Kong CCP shoe-shiners of your choice.

And the perfect gift for the man who has everything except a 10-year prison sentence for possession of illegal secessionist materials, the Glory to Hong Kong music box.

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Taking a break from my piece for HK Free Press…

…to highlight a report on how conservative media outlets accepted op-ed pieces by fake writers with Twitter accounts. (Middle East connection – not PR firm Consulum’s work by any chance?) Complete with an interesting Hong Kong angle that doesn’t reflect very well on the SCMP’s (mainly) awful op-ed pages. 

I assume that SCMP doesn’t pay for opinion pieces from non-staffers. At the same time (for Alibaba’s sake), editors have to avoid having too many spicy or punchy columns. So they’re particularly receptive to contributions that are both free and bland. Is there a better explanation for the Alice Wu ramblings, and the barrage of David Dodwell in the Business section?

But that’s the strangest part of this story, judging by phony contributions wisely rejected by HK Free Press: the phantom writers’ output – while pushing particular agendas – is so boring. Still, better the world has fake journalists than fake brain surgeons or airline pilots.

If you want to make one at home – here’s how.

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Correction – it’s Mainlandization of the minute…

Today’s supply of Mainlandizations de l’heure are mostly in the Implementation Rules for Article 43 of the NatSec ‘Enabling’ Law. Searches without a warrant, freezing/seizure of assets, intercepts/surveillance, removal of online materials and compulsory disclosure of information. 

One thing it says is this:

Anyone who knows or suspects that any property is property related to an offence endangering national security is obliged to make a disclosure to the Police Force as soon as is reasonably practicable, and must not disclose to another person any information which is likely to prejudice any investigation which might be conducted following that first-mentioned disclosure. 

This sounds like your roommate or landlord is liable if they do not inform the Stasi (behind your back) of the presence of (say) Joshua Wong books in your home. If ‘property’ includes money, then it applies to banks with accounts in the name of (say) Joshua’s publisher.

The parts about on-line information or messages is as creepy as it’s predictable. One potential/obvious outcome is the banning of social media sites. Which is of course why it’s called ‘Mainlandization’. Facebook is already resisting.

But wait! There’s more! Schools are now being purged of books containing dangerous ideas. And stop going on about the independent judiciary – there is no separation of powers in Hong Kong.

I’ll be working on a piece for HK Free Press over the next few days.

Some reading…

An annotated copy of the NatSec Law from Human Rights in China. 

Activists ponder a Hong Kong government in exile. Sounds like a joke at first, but maybe not. Could it have less legitimacy than the current administration? (And of course it would drive all the right people totally Panda-tantrum nuts.)

Kevin Carrico sums up the new regime in Apple Daily (not sure if link will work)…

What can one write to live up to this moment? … what actually is there left to say?

How about, who cares?

After thinking it over, I have decided that the most authentic possible stance that one can take on this pseudo-law is to simply look down and laugh at it as the farce that it is. 

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New! Mainlandizations de l’heure

The management have announced that Mainlandizations du jour are being phased out in favour of Mainlandizations de l’heure. And pre-emptive kowtows will henceforth be pre-emptive repressions. 

Hong Kong’s public libraries suspend loans of books by Joshua Wong and Tanya Chan in case the works are subversive. Special librarian sniffer-dogs are nosing through the pages as we speak in search of prohibited thoughts. The HK Police – who make Cultural and Leisure Services look amazingly subtle – have arrested a teenager for possession of stickers that might threaten national security by bearing the word ‘conscience’, a passage from the Bible, a cartoon of Xi-as-coronavirus and – weirdest of all – a quote by Chris Patten.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government issues a ‘solemn’ statement on the slogan 光復香港, 時代革命. Protesters’ flags usually bear the translation ‘Liberate HK – revolution of our times’. The official release does not explicitly say it is an offense to use the slogan, just that it ‘connotes’ vaguely defined illegal acts. The second paragraph condemning law-breaking and reminding you to obey the law does not actually follow on from the first, though you are supposed to infer that it does. (The cops’ warnings use this trick.) 

Teresa Cheng warns against using the slogan, as does poor Matthew Cheung.

This is an invitation to broadcast it even more. It obviously infuriates someone up there. (It goes back not just to Edward Leung but the anti-Qing movement.) My local scribblers waste no time in adorning our neighbourhood protest palimpsest zone. Rebels are creating Rhyming, punning or coded versions of it. The more you try to ban the words, the more you’ll see them.

A thread from Christopher DeWolf on how a HK graffiti artist – and the media covering her story – would be treated today with the NatSec Law.

A fetching Winnie vs bees cartoon.

And remember those jokes about how New Zealand has more sheep than people? Now it seems to have more CCP United Front creepos than sheep.

This just in: Orwellian has been cancelled; from now on, things are Kafkaesque.

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A quick set of NatSec law links for reference…

The NatSec law in English.

From HKFP, a basic explainer covering all the main points.

NPC Observer goes through the legal horrors, not least of which is the lack of definitions for phrases in a large number of proscribed acts, such as ‘provoking by unlawful means hatred among Hong Kong residents towards the central government or Hong Kong government, which is likely to cause serious consequences’, plus the extraterritoriality clauses.

As Donald Clarke writing in the China Collection says, the real issue is not the words but the new institutions and processes – unaccountable NatSec bodies, secrecy, vetted judges, direct Mainland jurisdiction and so on…

Language matters only if there are institutions that will make it matter. This whole law is about avoiding the involvement of such institutions. 

Reuters on Beijing agents’ immunity from local laws…

Significantly, the law allows Beijing to create a new national security agency in the city able to take enforcement action beyond existing Hong Kong laws in the most serious cases.

It even specifies that local authorities cannot inspect agents’ vehicles.

A QC notes, among other things, how the CCP’s ‘foreign forces’ conspiracy theory has been written into the law.

Amnesty’s take.

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HK govt, PR company finally snare each other

Best news since the Hindenburg Airship Corporation announced its supplier of fire extinguishers – the Hong Kong government has found a PR agency. PRovokeMedia reports that the lucky winner is Consulum, a Bell Pottinger offshoot specializing in Middle East governments and sovereign wealth funds, and one of many agencies hired by Saudi Arabia. Juicy bit: the company cobbled together a Hong Kong office with hours to spare in order to qualify to bid for the account. You might think it sounds like both client and agency are scraping the bottom of the barrel – but I couldn’t possibly comment.

In true consultant fashion, Consulum will start with ‘baseline research’ to tell Hong Kong officials what they should already know – that the city’s international reputation is a pile of steaming wombat doo-doo. They will then, with a totally straight face, present a slick strategic plan to fix it. All parties concerned will know damn well it can’t possibly work, because, to the CCP, the very features that made the city great are a regime threat and must be destroyed.

Forget biased foreign media – the messaging reality is that both client and agency will be conflicting with Beijing here. It’s a futile mission.

For a one-year gig, then zip off back to Dubai, it looks like a pretty easy US$6 million.

(Pure guesswork on my part, but I’m wondering what the profit margin will be. A Hong Kong government contract is like taking candy from a baby. Say: office at 19/F Two IFC = US$0.5 million; housing in Mid-Levels for two suave expat shysters = US$0.1 million each; salaries for same plus a few local staff = US$0.5 million; sprawling off-the-peg survey from market research company = US$0.3 million? The Grand Relaunch visionary campaign plan = a bunch of PowerPoint templates. That’s a 75% margin – assuming implementation of the subsequent stomach-churning publicity/ad/press activities, which must extend beyond mid-2021, have a separate budget.)

This unfortunately spoils a HK Free Press opinion piece on the government’s search for PR help by a contributor who is an English writing coach. If you think that’s an easy target, the author also – as a public service and/or teaching aid – critiques SCMP chief editor Tammy Tam’s columns for substance and style. This is like reviewing a night-old puddle of vomit in Lan Kwai Fong as if it were a signature dish at Gaddy’s. Get your literary tips here and here. (She’s a severe task master – doubt if I’d come out with any more than a C minus.)

Inspired, I can’t resist checking the latest Tammy-gram. In precis: 

Hong Kong’s financial secretary is giving every resident a HK$10,000 handout; he might be wondering how people will spend it, as will they; even more, he must be wondering if this (Coronavirus-related) handout will become a regular thing; meanwhile, we don’t know whether Beijing will support Hong Kong as opposed to Shanghai as a financial hub in future.

That’s it. A non sequitur comes to a point (albeit it illogically), but this doesn’t even have one. 

Some links for the next few days. Don’t gobble them all up in one go – they will have to last until next week, when I settle down, log-in from home, and resume…  

The US starts downgrading Hong Kong’s export license status.

SCAD, a very pricy US design college’s Hong Kong campus and cornerstone of the Creative Industries Hub-Zone Vision, closes

Uwu’s collection of protest art. (Gone in pre-NatSec Law shutdowns. Try here.)

Some districts in Hong Kong did better at fighting the Coronavirus than others. What sets them apart?

Yesterday, I airily mentioned McDull as proto-HK Localism. Behold – the thesis.

A group of UN human rights experts’ statement on China.

Definitions of genocide have grown fuzzy over the years, but here’s depressingly creepy chart of the week. Also this. Starting to hear a few voices calling for a boycott of China’s 2022 Winter Olympics. 

The Marxists who tried setting up a union at the Jasic factory in Shenzhen.

From the Spectator, a Dummy’s Guide to the CCP. The US National Security Advisor offers his version.

Remember when new songs entered the charts with a bullet? Here’s the Chinese national anthem – with several

A thread on a town in Gansu that tried to claim a link with ancient Rome to boost tourism.

Great moments in the history of fruit: China’s mid-1960s outbreak of mango-worship

Wang Xiaoping, an employee at the Beijing No 1 Machine Tool Plant, received a wax replica. The fruit itself was destined for higher things.

“The real mango was driven by a worker representative through a procession of beating drums and people lining the streets, from the factory to the airport,” says Wang.

The workers had chartered a plane to fly a single mango to a factory in Shanghai.

A bus I could understand – did factory workers in Cultural Revolution China charter planes often?

Back to wiping the office PC. Til next week…

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Countdown to July 1

Will Hong Kong’s National Security law be retroactive? Will Anson Chan, Joshua Wong, Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai be arrested on Day 1? Will you be jailed for waving a foreign flag? Will the maximum sentence be life? Not even the Chief Executive knows. To be safe, read the government Gazette carefully before you open your mouth or even get out of bed on Wednesday morning.

Whether the law’s chaotic presentation is skillfully planned expectations-management or Beijing-style last-minute chabuduo, you are obviously supposed to feel ‘shock and awe’. The CCP thinks it is showing everyone how tough and decisive it is, while the Hong Kong public perceive only primitive thuggery.

I can’t think of a precedent in modern (say post-WW2) times (this?) for a free and pluralist society with a developed economy to have authoritarianism forced upon it. Can China’s leaders comprehend that the more superficially effective their clampdown is, the greater the broad underlying hatred of the CCP will be? They haven’t thought this through – but then, it’s a Xi Jinping policy.

No-one is spared. The NY Times notes that in assuming direct control, Beijing is sidelining Hong Kong’s ‘elites’, who are reduced to publicly cheerleading a law they know nothing about. The amount of humiliation the shoe-shiners will take never ceases to amaze.

An Apple Daily column makes a sort-of case for Hong Kong independence…

If the joint declaration was void, or, as China contended, no longer valid, then there would not be any legal basis for China to continue to rule over Hong Kong, given that the Treaty of Nanking and the First Convention of Peking – which the Joint Declaration superseded – stated very clearly that Hong Kong and Kowloon were ceded to Britain in perpetuity. This will be a good place to start the construction of a theoretical framework for Hong Kong independence.

[Above links not working – but the articles are out there somewhere.]

Sebastian Veg on the “neo-statist” academics and officials who see the NatSec law as a restructuring of Hong Kong (including its governance and its relationship with the nation) in which the PRC assumes genuine sovereignty, in line with the Xi-era’s drive for full CCP control of the state. The coming repression… 

…should undoubtedly be viewed within the same political, legal, and philosophical framework, in which sovereignty and party ideology (friend/enemy distinction) take precedence over liberal definitions of legality…

(With reference to this guy, if you’re keen.)

For a taste of what’s in store in the education world: the LA Times on the silencing of academics in China, and Bitter Winter on how Mainland students must hero-study Xi to get ahead.

Quick answer to a little cascade of questions: yes, this website will continue. Meanwhile, time to rip a few DVDs (which seems harder to do these days) before I finally abandon the Company Gwailo’s PC with its CD drive. My Life as McDull (2001) – a founding work of Hong Kong localism? And the Scorsese Dylan bio. Four months after this photo was taken, I, as a little kid, was at this exact spot. My father wanted to drive through the place one last time before it closed. Memory is hazy, but I think the weather was better.

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No, you don’t want the books

Just a few days before I officially retire. Given his existing low workload, the Company Gwailo will have no more time in the day to be idle – so whatever I do, I am likely to be busier. This website will probably be updated less frequently, but rest assured there will be no obvious increase in quality.

People are understandably shocked at the thought that I am throwing out lots of books. Trust me – you don’t want them. Random examples: a volume of speeches by a tycoon, published and given to friends to celebrate his honorary doctorate; a visionary new-age business guru’s thoughts on saving the planet through sustainable mutual lovey-dovey; and pro-Beijing think-tank booklets on Belt and Road. The world will be a better place once they are recycled into toilet paper. To put them in perspective, ones I am leaving in case they are of interest to my successor (yes, we found one) include 500 years of Italians in Hong Kong and Macau, Regina Ip’s 2002-3 Public Consultation on Article 23, and Carrie Lam’s ‘election’ manifesto.

For the last time – from the orifice, at least – I declare the weekend open with some recommended reading…

More thoughts from Jerome Cohen on Beijing’s plan to choose special judges to try National Security cases in Hong Kong, complete with nice dig at Grenville Cross in the opening sentence.

HK Free Press on Beijing’s thinking on the NatSec Law, starting from a little-noticed CCP meeting last October, and how to explain the contradiction in the idea that this radical and elaborate law will target only a tiny number of people.

The FCC writes an open letter requesting assurance that the Hong Kong government will not take a long list of specific actions against journalists. Foreign Policy fears the worst and anticipates the jailing of journalists, Internet censorship and regulation, and clampdowns on academia, media, culture and religion. If it sounds extreme, The Guardian looks at how China extends censorship and propaganda in independent developing countries.

The US Senate passes a HK Autonomy Bill, which we are assured is merely symbolic. It’s hard to imagine really serious North Korea-style measures against Hong Kong or Mainland officials or regime-connected companies. Our local tycoons, bureaucrats and other collaborators are not so far visibly wetting themselves. But we have yet to see what nastiness the NatSec law will bring – how will the world react to the jailing of Martin Lee, for example? More to the point, this is not about Hong Kong, but the South China Sea, the Indian border, the taking of Canadian hostages, wolf-warrior diplomacy and so on. The Diplomat speculates what the US could do…

U.S. financial sanctions on Hong Kong will break the financial lifeline for China … More plausibly the United States will resort to selective financial decoupling to contain the spillover to its own economy. A potent weapon could be a threat to impose financial sanctions on the Bank of China (Hong Kong), or BOCHK.

National Interest on how Xi Jinping is messing everything up

…the problem with Xi and his entourage is that they perceive China’s history and future trajectory from a Han-nationalist point of view … Success is “payback” for the two centuries of “humiliation” that China, the rightful leader of the world, and the Han people have suffered at the hands of the West.

…it is likely that history will remember Xi not as the man who restored China to greatness, as he so desperately seems to desire, but as a sort of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who instead of waiting patiently for the inevitable triumph of his own country, felt compelled to aggressively push that triumph down everybody else’s throat, and in the process brought ruin to his country.

Over the last few years, Beijing has tightened its grip on Hong Kong and progressively eliminated the possibility of a peaceful or constitutional way of accommodating public demands for better governance. HKFP on the parallel evolution of Hong Kong’s protest slogans.

Hong Kong looks set to enter a new era of protest art. Another look back at the genre from the Nation and from Uwu.

And China Daily’s clunky and idiotic graphic on the NatSec Law suddenly becomes elegant and profound, courtesy of LIHKG forum.

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What to do with 40 dozen laisee envelopes?

As his last day approaches, the Company Gwailo continues to clean out the orifice. I’ve filled up a huge (now immovable) box of books for disposal before the Illicit Publications Police come snooping. And there’s the inevitable stack of old business cards. Some will be donated to the HK Museum of Evil Radical Troublemakers…

Long Hair anticipating today’s radical trend and toppling a statue – of Tofu-for-Brains.

I also find an envelope of my father’s things – mostly photos of aircraft, but also a copy of a Singapore newspaper. Sin Chew Jit Poh was founded by Aw Boon Haw, and is related to Sing Tao (and thus the Standard) of Hong Kong. The date is Wednesday, November 20 in the 35th year of the Chinese Republic – 1946. In the news that day: Zhou Enlai walks out of the negotiations overseen by George C Marshall in Nanjing and goes to Yan’an – which led to the final full Civil War between the Communists and the Kuomintang…

A little Dragon Boat festival reading…

In Apple Daily, Michael Davies offers a good summary of the flaws and contradictions in basic principles in NatSec law…

…the crime of collusion seems aimed to stifle all international human rights advocacy.

Apple Daily has an English-platform app. (Also in media news, Now TV is being Mainlandized.)

Some detailed analysis of that disputed China-India border.

And for anyone who cares what overseas die-hard dogmatic leftists think about China and HK, New Bloom on the Qiao Collective. (I follow weirdo sub-cultures – far leftists, white nationalists, Salafi nuts, Jehovah’s Witnesses, survivalists, extreme terf/anti-terf freaks – for entertainment. Mentally unhinged = fascinating. This is about a curious subspecies of overseas Chinese tanky, who in addition to the usual struggle with contradictions (How can non-whites be imperialists? How can we defend the rights of Hongkongers when the evil boo hiss USA does it too?) have to grapple with an ethnic identity angle. The author sees this group as ‘a form of left-wing diasporic Chinese nationalism as a response to … right-wing white American nationalism’. For enthusiasts only.)

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