Conspiracy to incite subversion with panty liners – NatSec police pounce

Riveting live action from Sunday’s improved Election Committee ‘election’, with a whole 4,000-odd voters. Some of them had to wait more than an hour to cast their vote, and counting the ballots somehow took 13 hours. An HKFP op-ed on Hong Kong’s new political era (‘non-political’ might be a better term).

Most media continue to say ‘the oh-so powerful EC will elect/choose 40 LegCo members and the next Chief Executive’. At the very least, shouldn’t they say this is ‘the official definition of its function’ – or just use the trusted phrase ‘rubber-stamp’? Why do editors present the official fiction as fact?

The latest NatSec police round-up is of Student Politicism members on suspicion of ‘conspiracy to incite subversion’. The cops carry off big boxes of M&M chocolate, wet wipes and panty liners (prisons-compliant supplies for inmates) as evidence.

The CTU, being smeared by Beijing-run press as an agent of foreign forces, begins to disband. Hong Kong local officials suddenly find the body plays a role in employee training and must now hurry to make alternative arrangements. Several minor unions are also dissolving themselves before the NatSec police come to round them up. Hong Kong Journalists Association next.

Holmes Chan at Vice reports on the ‘surreal trial’ of Tong Ying-kit, complete with scoop-of-the-month quotes from a judge…

[Tong] didn’t do much of anything—he didn’t commit murder or arson,” the judge said wryly. “He is the most benevolent terrorist in the world.”

…the judge said that, before Tong, they had never heard of jury-less criminal trials at the High Court. It was standard to have a jury even in cases involving triad bosses or violent sociopaths. If the government wanted to protect jurors, the judge said, “There must be some other way apart from abolishing the whole system.”

At Hong Kong U, academics say

…they are more cautious about what they say in class, afraid that their own students could report them to authorities

…rumors circulate among professors and students that a student who got a grade they didn’t like reported their lecturer to the National Security Hotline, set up so the public can inform authorities about breaches of the national security law, according to two lecturers.

Such fears are also affecting primary and secondary schools, though so-called officials deny it…

“The allegation by the so-called departing teachers is totally biased and unfounded on evidence,” the Education Bureau said in a statement to Reuters.

Charles Mok on how the overdue updating of Hong Kong’s privacy laws has morphed into (politically motivated) restrictions on doxxing

The government may only want to weaponize the privacy law to arm itself with yet another tool against expression of dissent, rather than genuinely protecting people’s privacy…

The chilling effects will be immense, leading to even more self-censorship and further erosion of Hong Kong’s freedom of expression. It will not only be another brick in the territory’s new great firewall of internet censorship, but also leave Hong Kong’s privacy protection regime further behind the rest of the world.

A non-pro-Beijing column sneaks into the SCMP: getting a taste of life under Communism, where everything is about ‘patriotism’…

The more accurate reading is that a patriot is someone who accepts Communist Party rule of Hong Kong and will unquestionably do as they are told. That’s a tall order for people trained as academics or journalists among professions whose job it is to research, analyse, strive for accuracy and point out what’s good and bad.

Juxtaposition of the day: a 2017 quote from Anne Stevenson-Yang about Evergrande – ‘biggest pyramid scheme ever’ and a 2017 quote from Morgan Stanley on why Evergrande’s use of leverage is ‘a positive’. In a similar vein, the Asia’s Best Companies awards picked up by Sinic Holdings earlier this year. That’s the one that fell 87% yesterday.

An essential holiday culinary tip from the SCMP: how you can make mooncakes at home.

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An early start to the week

Today is the day Hong Kong ‘elects’ an enhanced and supposedly more representative – but also all-patriotic – Election Committee. Some weird stats: 99.92% of adults can’t vote; in other words, there are fewer than 4,900 voters – a larger number of police are dedicated to ‘election’ duties. And of the EC’s 1,500 seats, only 364 are contested.

Why are some 6,000 cops needed? The authorities say it is to ensure protesters don’t disrupt the exercise – though they are flattering themselves to imagine anyone even cares that much.

Keep seeing references to the Election Committee as now ‘super-powerful’, as if its members have some major political influence the rest of us do not. They don’t. The CCP is a Leninist institution and does not share political power. What will make the 1,500 EC members different is that they are happy to go along with a ceremonial charade that makes them look superficially like insiders. Worth bearing this in mind when reports call the EC – or subsets of them like property tycoons – ‘kingmakers’ or some such. The CCP does not delegate serious decisions to local ‘elites’, or anyone. The EC 1,500 will not choose the Chief Executive next year. Even the Legislative Council members they appear to elect this December will no doubt be those on ‘recommended’ lists Beijing officials circulate beforehand.

A quick film review…

Saw Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Tony Leung. It starts off with some quite absorbing mayhem in a bus and dangling off a Macau skyscraper, but then lapses into mostly tedious wushu fight scenes and an exceptionally tiresome bout near the end between two dragons. It has some funny moments, mostly thanks to a hitherto unheard-of actress called Awkwafina. And some impressive special effects, such as the surreal landscapes and animals of a magic village – of which we get only a brief glimpse because we must move on to yet more fight scenes.

Apparently, the film is noteworthy for its authentic representation of Asian-ness in a Marvel Comics Universe genre context (karaoke, a pushy grandmother, etc). Some critics detect an allegory whereby Leung is ‘hegemonic, patriarchal imperial China’, the village is ‘cultural China’, and the young Asian-American hero played by Simu Liu is the Chinese diaspora. A totally different interpretation rests on the (supposed) similarity between Simu Liu and a youthful Xi Jinping. There are doubts that Beijing will let it be shown in the Mainland, though not for either of these reasons.

I would rate it maybe 4 out of 10. It would have been better if the combatants just shot each other with guns, which would free up more time for amazing CGI scenic shots, if not plots or characters. But I guess feeding the teenage boys and incels their whirling-in-circles wushu battles is where the money is. 

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By ‘mess’, we mean ‘pointless and vile crap’

Still enough of the week left to squeeze in a few more NatSec horrors…

The HK Alliance deletes its Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram material on orders from the police. 

The government rejects seven pan-dem district council members for making ‘invalid’ loyalty oaths. The affected pan-dems say they don’t know why they are being ejected, but the government says they do too so there yah boo. 

That person sitting opposite you on the MTR might look like a nobody, but did you know anyone could turn out to be a designated NatSec judge – even prosecutors don’t know who is one…

During a District Court hearing for a sedition case, the prosecution asked that the proceedings be transferred to a judge designated to hear national security cases.

Presiding judge Kwok Wai-kin then announced that he himself was designated and had the right to hear the case.

In news-you-probably-didn’t-miss-but-here-it-is-anyway: Macau reports a record low 42% turnout at its little legislative quasi-election. Mainland immigrants account for around half the Macau population versus maybe 15% of Hongkongers (forget the exact figures – but it’s roughly like that), and the place never had more than a small democracy movement. Plenty of scope for Hong Kong to deliver an even more decisively and impressively underwhelming turnout in December. 

HK Free Press visits Hong Kong’s latest attempt at heritage conservation and rather politely declares it a ‘gentrified mess’

I can think of two things to say in the project’s defence. First, it’s brighter, airier and much better-smelling than it was when it was an actual market (I used to buy veggies there, back in the days when were poor but happy). Second, it is so tacky that you save valuable time in your busy day – and get some exercise – by rushing through it in your haste to enter the relatively authentic and traditional ambience of IFC Mall. Otherwise – yes, it’s nasty.

Antiquary types are complaining loudly about the hand-rails bolted onto the original stone ones on the stairs, which are indeed weird (why not put new stairs on the stairs too?). But the really sad thing about this renovation is that the bureaucrats could easily have created a great indoor park-cum-food court themed zone, with just tons of no-frills seating, whatever potted plants the public dumped, stalls selling curried squid balls, a kids play area, and basic stores like newsstands, book shops, groceries, whatever). Indeed, with the Mid-Levels Escalator on one side and major ferry/bus terminals on the other, it would – ironically – be an ideal location for a plain old food market where commuters could buy fresh produce on the way home after work.

Instead, the Make Everything Shit Dept has to do this almost-pastiche oh-so high-class exclusive luxury sophisticated thing, probably designed by a developer’s daughter, where the outlets are not merely pretentious and pricy, but selling carefully selected crap nobody wants – ugly or boring fashion stuff, peculiar glitzy household goods no-one needs, artisanal herbal aromatic blah-blah, trendy hand-crafted trinkets and so on. As I say, I hurry through to avoid looking at it. 

And then, of course, there’s the barrier tape. They spend zillions on making the place shiny and perfect – and then put red tape everywhere to keep the humans in line… 

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Standing up

Albert Ho, Figo Chan, Cyd Ho, Long Hair, and Yeung Sum and others are sentenced for illegal assembly and, in some cases, ‘incitement’ (attracting sentences of 8-10 months) over the Tiananmen vigil assembly last year. Judge Amanda Woodcock…

said the defendants had “wrongly and arrogantly” believed their cause was more important than protecting the community from a public health crisis.

Now they’re coming for the health-care workers.

Security Secretary PK Tang prepares to take down the HK Journalists Association by ‘reflecting public concerns’ and suggesting the press folk come clean over their finances. They hit back at his accusations and (as he likes to say) ‘smearing’. On the finances: David Webb identifies sponsors of the organization in the past and shows that, like the Professional Teachers Union, the body has long been on perfectly good terms with the establishment (not least the more obsequious parts of it). Now, under your friendly neighbourhood Leninists, the group must be demonized as a threat to national security.

The HKJA are not alone in standing up to intimidation. American lawyer Samuel Bickett did a Q&A last night on Reddit. A mainly geeky Anglo audience, but powerful stuff worth reading for his intro and some incisive views on the judiciary and the treatment of prisoners. Lawyers would usually tell clients awaiting an appeal to keep quiet, but this one has decided he has nothing to lose by going down fighting. The police will no doubt see his high-profile commentary and criticism as ‘smearing’ the NatSec regime. A few excerpts…

…My case was unrelated to any political protests or activism, and in recent months the government assault on civil society has expanded well beyond political activists, targeting among others the oldest and largest teachers’ union, the Bar Association, and the Law Society. Most recently, they have been going after organizations that provide basic support for prisoners, such as helping with legal expenses or providing things like letters from pen pals or shampoo, as well as the Hong Kong Journalists Association, which just today the Security Secretary said may be violating national security—and these sorts of statements are nearly always the first step in intimidating them to shut down or have the leadership all be arrested…

In my experience, the professional classes are overwhelmingly supportive of the protest movement.

…I think the most critically important thing Westerners can do right now is to reach out to local organizations in your city helping to integrate the flood of Hong Kongers escaping to other countries … to the extent anyone can offer support to these orgs, some of their time to meeting the new arrivals and helping them to feel welcome and at home, that is a huge help…

…I don’t fault anyone who has taken a guilty plea … In my case, the decision to plead not guilty was easy–I, my lawyers, the public, all naively believed that there was simply no way I’d be convicted of the charge. The alleged cop falsely accused a kid of a crime, committed six criminal assaults that we know about, and denied on camera that he was a police officer. It wasn’t a difficult case…

… I can now say that some of the kindest, most decent people I’ve ever been able to call friends are former drug dealers, societal rejects, the hated of society. I write them still and will do so for as long as they are in prison.

… knowing I was innocent made it harder emotionally. I’m a person of faith, and what really helped me when I was feeling down was telling myself that while I didn’t commit this crime, I had done plenty of bad things in my life, and that I should see this prison time as atonement for those other bad things. That sounds messed up, but inside prison that’s what got me through the day. As Martin Luther King said, “unearned suffering is still redemptive.”

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Regina sees ‘beautiful sight to behold’

Great news for anyone who badly wants to vomit right now but for some reason just can’t: Regina Ip says…

Last weekend, Hong Kong’s billionaires stood on the street in the sweltering heat and visited low-income families to help publicize the new electoral system.

It was a beautiful sight to behold billionaires showing care for poorer people – even as a political posture. It drives home China’s requirement that all those who hold political office must be part of the people and accountable to the people.

While Reg goes to absurd I’m-not-a-freak lengths to prove herself fit to be next Chief Executive, the incumbent Carrie Lam runs off shrieking to slash her wrists over a typo in the backdrop at a press conference about Mainland something blah blah stuff. (It should be ‘zhong hua‘. Even I can see that. I almost feel sorry for those Beijing officials who complain that Hong Kong civil servants are ignorant of the motherland.)

National Carceral Week continues with Hong Kong’s authorities fighting the chocolate-and-hairpin prison rebellion by pressuring inmates’ support group Wallfare to disband.

The announcement came a week after Security Secretary Chris Tang said some groups were giving prisoners treats such as chocolate to recruit them to endanger national security.

The NGO helps channel letters and basic supplies to prisoners. One grateful beneficiary describes its fate as cruel. A previous HKFP piece on such work.

And the HK Journalists Association puts on a brave face as rectification draws near.

But wait! We’re just getting started. Hong Kong needs more NatSec offences

National security offences are treated differently than other crimes. 

In Hong Kong, only handpicked national security judges can adjudicate trials, bail is usually denied to those who are arrested and juries are not a requirement, despite offences carrying up to life in jail.

We need more NatSec laws to counteract – among other dangers lurking in our midst – espionage. (What about Evergrande? Doesn’t Evergrande seem a bigger threat right now?)

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Problems with political prisoners

A juxtaposition of SCMP headlines shows how, in just 11 short months, Hong Kong’s prison service has changed. What had been a confident and manly institution embracing rapid-fire guns and expanding shields has become a panic-stricken wreck, petrified of chocolate and hairpins. The city’s justice and penal system is still learning how to handle prisoners of conscience.

The Washington Post highlights the plight of American lawyer Samuel Bickett, convicted of assaulting a police officer who had refused to identify himself while beating a young man in an MTR station… 

“To commit this crime, you have to have actual knowledge that he’s a police officer,” Bickett said. “And there’s a video of this guy saying he is not a police officer.”

Among other subjects in the (possibly paywalled) WaPo piece: the likelihood that prisons will become less transparent and fair as they clampdown on their own ‘civil society’ of political prisoners (often seen by other inmates as heroes); the extent to which the police are now in practice above the law; and the hypersensitivity of the police and Justice Dept in response to press queries.

The NatSec regime faces a challenge in calibrating how harshly to deal with the American (not the first US lawyer it has arrested and bailed). If it thought Bickett would keep quiet and let things slide when he was let out of jail to appeal, it was wrong. The system has picked on someone who takes a stand (like Chow Hang-tung or the ladies at Lo Wu Correctional Institution)…

I feel such a responsibility to speak out. Many of my fellow Hongkongers will never get this sort of attention for their case. If the Police are doing this to me, despite all my privilege, then what they’re doing to the powerless and voiceless is much worse.

(Link to YouTube video of the incident. )

The NatSec scriptwriters now have to make a choice: back off and admit the cops were in the wrong that day in the MTR, or do the classic Crush Without Mercy psycho-Leninist thing on this guy and have it all over the US press.

Meanwhile, it’s time for the NatSec regime to come for the charities.

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Judges’ unpatriotic pasts exposed

A minor amusement – or at least a curiosity – as Hong Kong’s NatSec regime prepares to prosecute HK Alliance and other activists for their past calls for an end to China’s one-party state. Several current judges, including one at the proceedings for Chow Hang-tung last Friday and three NatSec judges, signed a petition in May 1989 supporting the students in Tiananmen Square. A reminder that some of today’s leading pro-Beijing figures did as well.

A few other things… 

Some more details on the prison authorities’ horror upon finding that jailed activists might engage with and win support from fellow inmates. Could the Correctional Services management avoid ‘rebellion’ over chocolate and hairpins if they updated their obsessive and petty restrictions on what items prisoners may receive? 

Denise Ho’s concert goes ahead online from an undisclosed (and apparently sweaty) location.

Professor Michael Davis’ testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Among many gems…

It seems only in Hong Kong does trying to defeat the government in accordance with constitutional requirements amount to subversion.

And more on Beijing’s use of social media – the YouTube foreign legion.

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NatSec regime comes for the museums

Another ‘no clampdown on civil society’ day. NatSec police raid the Tiananmen Massacre Museum, because obviously they’re going to do that straight after rounding up members of museum organizers HK Alliance. Then they charge Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung with incitement to subversion (Chow almost welcomes the challenge). And a dozen pan-dems plead guilty to unauthorized assembly and incitement at last year’s 6-4 vigil.

Yet to be raided: Hong Kong’s M+ Museum, due to open in a couple of months. Aiming to keep themselves raid-free, the curators have pulled a work by Ai Weiwei from the online gallery to ‘await government review’. However, as Artnet News reports, some other artists’ potentially controversial pieces in the modern art collection remain on the website for now. This apparent discrepancy is easily explained: the pro-Beijing shoe-shiner-legislators and the government’s own bureaucrats have actually heard of Ai.

Some (OK, a lot) weekend reading…

Jerome Cohen on the Hong Kong crackdown on civil society.

Timothy McGlaughlin at Atlantic on the role Ta Kung Pao plays in creating the CCP’s narrative about Hong Kong and in triggering intimidation and persecution of pro-democrats ‘and others who land on Beijing’s ever-expanding list of enemies’. Stick around for the final sentence.

A week late (not good at anniversaries): a mega-thread on the 8.31 Prince Edward attack.

Yuck – the amount of vehicle tyres thrown into Hong Kong landfill every year.

A recent emigration and property exhibition in Wanchai last month attracted 28,000 registrants. Some findings.

How Hongkongers are settling down in the town of Reading, England.

A lengthy but readable paper on Hong Kong as a society stuck in a ‘late colonialism’ state. Perhaps tries too hard to wedge the city into some academic theoretical framework – but not a tanky thing.

A new Beijing-friendly lobby group in the UK is asked whether it has funding from HSBC, and responds by offering a ‘case manager’ to ‘refine the focus and framing’ of the question. Their team includes a Huawei UK board member and various investment, higher ed and other interests.

Cybersecurity company Fire Eye presents research on the expansion of Beijing-backed social-media campaigns into smaller platforms in multiple languages, and increasingly aimed at spurring protest action on issues like Covid and anti-Asian racism.

Brian Hioe at New Bloom on supposedly ‘progressive’ Western far-leftists’ obsession with being anti-American/capitalism and ‘imperialism’ leads them to support oppressive regimes like that of the CCP, rather than (say) Uighurs, Hongkongers or Taiwanese as you would expect.

(Not sure how seriously we should take these people, though recent examples from an outfit called Code Pink like this campaign against Taiwan arms sales and their webinar about the US supporting ‘color revolution’ in Hong Kong make you wonder whether they’re just really dumb tankies or funded by Beijing. Otherwise – file under the same category as Scientologists, blockchain nuts and the Ivermectin crowd.)  

A thread on China’s looming or actual insolvencies and defaults – much more than just Evergrande. It looks like there are some vast holes that need to be filled in. Presumably, Beijing has some magic way (aside from letting idiot Westerners holding Mainland property corporate debt get burned) to shift it into state-run bad banks and avert a financial crisis. It really does seem the CCP has managed to rewrite the laws of economics in such a way as to make infrastructure and real estate grow on trees.

As well as private education, online games and numerous other social evils, Beijing is clamping down on ‘sissy men’ from Chinese TV. (What about masculine women?)

A look at the ‘Xi for Kids’ textbook in Chinese elementary schools. (Thread includes a link to this illustrated comparison of Soviet and Nazi propaganda portrayals of Stalin and Hitler as father-figures of children.) 

It took a while for the Catholic church to accept Copernican heliocentrism, but they got there eventually. Is it finally dawning on them that the Chinese Communist Party is not going to arrive at a warm-and-cuddly ‘win-win’ agreement with the Vatican over running the faith in the Mainland?

The current version of the Vatican-China deal is set to run through 2022. But, with it increasingly clear that the pope expects neither good faith in diplomatic talks or concrete results on the ground, it’s paradoxically hard to see it not being extended, or ever judged a success. 

If so, that leaves just Blackrock still deluding themselves.

Nostalgic escapism from Zolima City Mag: a look back at a time when Hong Kong was happier and optimistic, and government campaigns could be fun – Lap Sap Chung.

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HK Alliance gets NatSec treatment

Mightily miffed at the point-blank rejection of their demand to rummage through all the group’s files, the NatSec police rather predictably round up HK Alliance members, including Chow Hang-tung. 

The latter was due to represent Gwyneth Ho (in jail on suspicion of subversion-by-primary-election), whose request that reporting restrictions be lifted for her bail application was – predictably – turned down. By sticking to her principles on this, she of course has no chance of bail. (Ho’s statement is here. Holmes Chan explains it all here and here.) 

As the tone of related Security Bureau/police statements suggests, the NatSec regime is flustered and angry at the Alliance’s impertinence. The system will exact retribution for the perceived disrespect – notably dismissing the cops’ claim to have evidence that the group is a foreign agent. The authorities are also no doubt infuriated by these activists’ refusal to show fear, and will want to make an example of them. It won’t be pretty.

An analysis of the two overlapping cases here.

Probably a good time to consult HKFP’s guide to writing to people in Hong Kong prisons.

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HK prisons fight chocolate-and-hair-clips menace

Is the NatSec regime big and tough, or pitiful and petty? Security Secretary PK Tang freaks out over prisoners ‘building up forces’ and making inmates hate China, thus threatening national security, by (cue scary organ crescendo) sharing chocolate and hair clips supplied by an NGO. Or something. More here.

While authorities see a dastardly plot, it looks like some inmates and supporters – drawn from Hong Kong’s smart and resourceful political and social activists – are organizing small-scale mutual aid networks while they are behind bars. Maybe it would have been better if the government had left them at liberty, where they could focus their energy on district council work and helping local residents, while our top officials could maintain a dignified air of calm self-confidence.

But Leninists must always be paranoid. Chris Yeung looks at the cops’ claims that the impressively unfazed HK Alliance is working for evil foreign forces. And – just as you thought it couldn’t get weirder than chocolate and hair clips – cycling campaigner Martin Turner is arrested in a suspected plot to plant a bomb at the Legislative Council. Or at least check the bike-parking facilities. 

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