Liaison Office helps boost march numbers

Special deals on pre-owned handbags, dried seafood and meals from 2-5pm; a K-pop concert with cheap tickets sponsored by all the property giants from 2-6pm; a carnival in Tamar Park starting at 2pm… Establishment and pro-Beijing bodies are clearly attempting to divert people and attention from this year’s July 1 march on Monday week. In the interests of thoroughness, or maybe just paranoia, I can add a parade and display by the HK Classic Car Club – from (in case you hadn’t guessed) 2-5pm.

The Standard quotes City U’s James Sung as saying it all looks like a dummy run for next year’s planned Occupy Central. A Chinese U counterpart Ivan Choy notes how eagerly the establishment bloc is responding to the central government’s nervousness. Another academic, Dixon Sing of HKUST, says it is clear that Beijing will not be granting Hong Kong real universal suffrage and “There will be a ‘war’.”

It is impossible to rule out Liaison Office politics playing a role here. Beijing’s local emissaries have their careers to promote, and getting tough on Hong Kong’s counter-revolutionary, subversive enemies of the people is one way to do it. (Though this time 10 years ago, just before the massive Article 23 protest that ultimately toppled Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, local Mainland officials were doing the opposite and telling their bosses back home all was well.)

If we take it at face value, however, Beijing must be genuinely worried. Although the Occupy Central organizers are open about what they are doing, and even perhaps endearingly naïve, the methodical and structured nature of their campaign must look intensely suspicious. It follows a formula and is therefore replicable; if it can happen in Hong Kong, it could happen over the border. Indeed, with its workshops and efforts to reach out to the grassroots, it looks a little like something that did happen in the Mainland – in Shanghai in 1921.

The fewer messages and causes a July 1 march has, the more people turn up. The 2003 event was an obvious example. Since then, the annual demonstration has often been broadcasting a bewildering array of demands for everything from a universal pension to gay marriage to Indonesian maids’ rights, along with the inevitable calls for this official and that official to step down (never any suggestion as to who should replace them). Beijing’s local minders foresee a more united gathering this year. If they had shut up, they could have found they were mistaken; hapless Executive Council member Barry Cheung, a dozen people’s illegal structures, striking dockworkers, dividend tax and a host of other outrages and dreams could have led to the usual carnival of mixed messages. But the anxiety about Occupy Central and the silly stunts with pop concerts and shop discounts could instead yield a self-fulfilling prophecy: a sizable march relatively focused on political reform and governance.

Two reasons to, at the last minute, cancel that planned country park picnic or YouTube-binge-in-pajamas and scribble ‘Monday afternoon, Victoria Park’ into your diary: it could up the stakes in what is looking like the next confrontation between Hong Kong and Beijing, following Article 23 and National Education; it will piss them off that so many people don’t want 20% off a handbag.

On a less optimistic note, there is no reason to imagine that the central authorities will be as flexible on rigged elections as they were on symbolism like Article 23. The last thing a big demonstration will do is convince Beijing officials to open up the political system. It’s the last thing a small one will do, as well. Maybe Dixon ‘War’ Sing is on to something.

I hereby declare the weekend open.

Click to hear ‘I Predict a Riot’ by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band!

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13 Responses to Liaison Office helps boost march numbers

  1. No need to go shopping on special Fetid Breath Liaison Office special deal days. I merely smile and announce I am local to the few who don’t know me already, then get a 50% discount here in Stanley. Try it. It works.

    I have sent some carbon tablets and back-up adult diapers to the Liaison Office. There will be quite a few sackings after this one. The new lot will be much worse though – sort of Tony Blairs in real suits. You have been warned.

    PS: The best Bonzo track was “My Pink Half Of The Drainpipe” surely. But your suggestion is topical, yes.

  2. maugrim says:

    Scene: Chief Executive’s Office
    CY: (wrings hands) July 1 is approaching, I know it will be big this year, I can sense it. It wont just be those seeking rights for gay de-finned sharks either.

    You! (points to advisor), you’re my advisor, advise!

    Advisor: Well, in Roman times, they had a phrase ‘bread and circuses’. What we need is a July 1st diversion.

    CY: But HK’ers dont eat bread, not unless they are bananas and circuses frighten me, its the clowns (shudders)

    Advisor: Highness, we give people the modern equivalent, free rice, discount handbags, discount coupons, we rope in a few entertainers, buils a stage and voila.

    CY: Will it work?

    Advisor: Well, think of what the DAB does with a few lunchboxes and a mini bus.

    CY: But how many will come?

    Advisor: Don’t worry, we can always get the police to say the protestors crowd was only around 5,000 while upping the numbers at our ‘love discounts, love the motherland rally’.

  3. Local Tax Payer says:

    If a threat is more powerful than the action itself, the Occupy Central movement and its 2013 rehearsal, despite its creaky mechanisms and outdated rhetoric, may yet provoke Peking into doing something rash.

    It may be clutching at straws, though, to believe that the blatant CP-inspired manoeuvres will sway the sitters on the fence, the notoriously fickle great unwashed majority. My dog rules great swathes of land by being slow to anger and using a proxy whenever possible.

    1921 was foreigner-inspired, and took place on devil-occupied land, but, apart from that, revolutions — by defintion?- — tend to be unpredictable.

  4. Big Al says:

    Surely the obvious solution to the July 1 march is to hold it on June 30, which is also a holiday. Then, everyone who wants to march AND get a discounted handbag/meal/concert can do both! Problem solved! Next?

  5. Regislea says:

    “The best Bonzo track was “My Pink Half Of The Drainpipe” surely. But your suggestion is topical, yes.”

    “No Matter Who You Vote For” anyone?

  6. Stephen says:

    @Big Al,

    No mate your missing the point. 1 July has now taken on special status between the ears of the Pro-Dems that even in the unlikely event of the CCP saying, as they did in 1996, that pace and level of democracy is within the remit of the HKSARG, and the local Government acceded, the Pro-Dems would still insist on marching on 1 July.

    It’s a bit like their cry of universal suffrage it’s not going to happen in a fair way that we would like but keep shouting and remain outside the sphere of influence rather than increasingly becoming part of it.

    In the last 16 years whenever the local government has proposed something daft (subjective as to whether it was bootlicking or under orders) they have always backed down in the face of sizeable opposition. This however is one of the CCP’s red lines which I cannot see them crossing so we may get into unchartered territory. One thing is clear this place will become increasingly ungovernable.

    But hey who gives a Feck the weekend is open, the sun is shining and nearly time to open up a cold one.

  7. aghast says:

    Once a month on a Friday there’s a man…

  8. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    I think one has to very careful when attributing actions and sentiment to Beijing and their local cohort. The two often don’t act in unison. Several studies of the 1967 riots have shown conclusively that local leftists, including officials, did not enjoy the support of Beijing for their actions. In fact, ZHOU en-lI admonished them insisting they cease their activities.

    The local leftists went beyond their remit and did untold damage to the reputation of the Communist Party, resulting in their isolation from mainstream Hong Kong society. Beijing would probably like to forget the events of 1967 as support for the local communist collapsed, taking with it the Mainland’s reputation. I suspect the wily people of Hong Kong will not be distracted by efforts to keep them occupied on 1 July: then again the vast majority of the population will not be taking part as they are disinterested.

    As regard causes. The silence by the pro-democrats over the fate of Mr. Snowden is deafening. I suppose that now China has moral equivalence with the USA it’s rather taken the wind out of their sails.

  9. pcatbar says:

    I doubt Snowden has much to worry about as he has been relaxing at Chez Vine for a while and still no extradition request appears to have been made.
    If this carries on much longer the silly posters of ‘support’ can come down, he will no longer be in the news and left to decide whether to ‘come out’ and seek to reside here, go elsewhere or return home. The last option involving of course instant arrest etc

  10. Real Tax Payer says:

    “As regard causes. The silence by the pro-democrats over the fate of Mr. Snowden is deafening. I suppose that now China has moral equivalence with the USA it’s rather taken the wind out of their sails.”


    ( except that I would have reversed ‘China’ and ‘USA’ )

  11. Nury O'Vines says:

    update: Ed has slipped into Guangdong.

  12. On Da Lo says:

    Another appearance by a former Professor of mine on these pages.

    Dr Sing does seem to have war on the mind. He was quite convinced in 2006 (when I was in HK studying) that the Mainland would invade Taiwan a couple of weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

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