More silence, more noise

Another patriotic assemblage joins Hong Kong’s ever-growing pro-Beijing and anti-pro-democracy line-up. It is hard to tell how many of these little organizations are straight astroturfing fronts for the Central People’s Government’s local Liaison Office. Some look a bit more like genuine, spontaneous and enthusiastic gatherings of folk who love the motherland, or – more to the point – really, really hate the effete, smarmy, coffee-drinking, Anglophile professionals of the opposition. Others seem to have been created pre-emptively by shoe-shiners seeking Communist party approval (and no doubt reward).

However, some sort of common aural theme seems to be emerging, at least in the English names they give themselves. Thus we have the Voice of Loving Hong Kong, the Silent Majority and now the Sounds of Silence. These are, respectively, though not all exclusively: supporters of Chief Executive CY Leung; opponents of the pro-democracy Occupy Central campaign; and opponents of Occupy Central now demanding National Education in schools to instill in Hongkongers a sense of national identity. (Others include the thuggish pro-CY/NE Caring Hong Kong Power, the anti-Falun Gong HK Youth Care Association and the anti-teachers-who-swear-at-police Parents’ Association.)

Fans of Simon and Garfunkel will protest that the correct title of the famous 1960s folk-rock song was The Sound [singular] of Silence. The patriots planning tomorrow’s meeting in Statue Square tomorrow would be justied in pointing back and jeering at these so-called experts on pop culture: Paul Simon originally named the track Sounds… (Pedants scratching their heads wondering how silence can make either single or plural noises may instead consider the possibility that another S&G song suitable for a pro-Beijing group could be The Boxer.)

After years of muteness and inaction in the face of the sprawling and squabbling pro-democracy movement, the appearance of so many pro-Beijing fronts in barely a year is obvious proof that the Liaison Office has ordered a change of tactics. This might be due to frustration at incessant and obsessive opposition to the CY Leung administration; it could be part of a career move or power struggle within the Chinese bureaucracy; it could be both. Beijing’s emissaries here have clearly increased their efforts as part of their amusingly panic-stricken reaction to the prospect of a pro-dem civil disobedience movement.

But we can see why the Communist regime kept its local supporters, retainers and crowds muzzled for most of the time since 1997: once unleashed, they are hard to control. They are, for the most part, less coherent than much of the pro-dem brigade, and in some cases so unpresentable as to be embarrassing. The most sincere activists seem to be driven by spite towards the opposition rather than warmth and love for the nation. Some are not above using violence. On balance, they run the risk of driving the sympathies of the supposed undecided or uninterested majority of Hong Kong people towards the moderate and well-mannered mainstream pro-dems. And, of course, the proliferation of different associations, movements and groups with overlapping causes and roughly similar names muddles and weakens the message. Whatever it is.

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14 Responses to More silence, more noise

  1. You have to hand it to them. They know where Occupy Central is coming from. The Sixties. We sussed them first.

    I of course am one of the few who remembers the Sixties. I was out in Hartlepool wearing a paper hat for the Labour Party. Remember them?

    I still can’t avoid the impression that your attention to the minutiae of insect life makes you overlook the big hobnailed boots that are going to cave in the ant heap. It took the Japanese just a few days to bag Hong Kong. It will take a revolution or the PLA much less than that. My money’s on the Revolution.

    Meanwhile, another wannabe Chief Executive gets his elfin features into the SCMP talking about where to create flats.

    I have an idea. Let’s try the IFC Mall.

  2. maugrim says:

    A good article. The last paragraph nails it. I am however, confused by this; “The aim of the assembly at Statue Square is to give recognition to those who were willing to speak up for national education. He hopes to gather more people who share the same beliefs.” I thought they were silent? Or is silence what they want to do to others who may also wish to ‘speak up’? Either way, these astroturf groups are pretty transparent and may, in the longer term as was said, alienate those yet to make their minds up. In this, Beijing has missed the point, its not the number of groups you may have, its not the noise they make, but the collective support or collective voice that sways Governments

  3. PropertyDeveloper says:

    So, Bela, you don’t remember Suez or Lonnie Donegan? You do have a point, though, even if it’s slightly paradoxical to comment critically on a blog, when your own, which incidentally is often identical to your entries here, precludes comments.

    Hemlock gave up openly espousing a political position some time ago. While his heart is undoubtedly in the right place, he adopts a safer and weaker stance, of arguing, convincingly and often brilliantly, that the more the forces of darkness act or speak, the greater the probability they’ll alienate the waverers and agnostics and floating voters.

    Just for the record: combining opposites (deafening silence, burning ice) is a well-worn literary trope, as indeed is converting an abstract noun, usually uncountable, into a new plural (hungers, nothingnesses, gravities), as practised notably by the Naturalists.

  4. gweiloeye says:

    Maugrim, you beat me to it. What is with their misunderstanding of the word “silent”. Give them an English and Chinese dictionary – maybe that will help.

    And as to the so called land shortage being commented on by the “self preservation” mouthpieces – I know 2 places where there’s plenty of underutilised land with village house sized buildings on it that could become nice high rises and public housing – The Peak and Kowloon Tong.

  5. ( . ) ( . ) says:

    Do the Sounds of the Silent Majorities fall on deaf ears ?

  6. reductio says:

    @now demanding (once again powerful, punchy in depth reporting from the Standard)

    “The group believes the lack of national identity causes political crises in Hong Kong” . No, it’s because the government is crap.

    ” “Through retrospections and discussions, we hope to extend our love for the nation in Hong Kong,” Man said.” Bit disappointed that there is no mention of workshops here. Can’t beat a good workshop for raising consciousness and getting people on the streets. Also, a I am definitely going to use “retrospection” more often when speaking. “After retrospection we have decided to sack you”.

  7. Regislea says:

    Silence is the sound of one hand clapping.

  8. reductio says:

    I think what would be truly “groovey” [sic] would be if the Chinese national anthem was replaced by John Cage’s epic 4’33”. Whole crowds standing to attention as the sounds of the natural world float over them: MTR service announcements, belching, gobbing on the street, piledrivers, dripping air cons, fast n’furious boy racers. Majestic.

  9. Bela Bukharin says:


    There can be no commenting on the inevitability of history.

    We do however sometimes reply to adoring emails.

    Hemlock’s political stance is clear as day.

  10. jing says:

    That poor little boy. If he’s the spokesman, this will end in tears.
    Silent tears.

  11. ulaca says:

    The 60s? Wasn’t that when they were selling hippy wigs in Woolworth’s?

  12. Mjrelje says:

    What poor little boy? If you mean the one that had his eyes gorged out by his aunt, then I seriously doubt it will end in his tears. What are you trying to say Jing?

  13. Real Tax Payer says:

    “Fans of Simon and Garfunkel will protest that the correct title of the famous 1960s folk-rock song was The Sound [singular] of Silence”

    Hemmers – you are actually wrong on this trivial point.
    It is indeed SoundS of Silence. Do a google images search of S & F

    (But wasn’t it / isn’t it such a fantastic song : both musically and lyrically ? Why is it that most of us lose our creativity after 30 ? )

  14. Incredulous says:

    As for the teachers demanding National Education maybe the students against it (Scholarism?) should all be learning to sing Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”:

    “We don’t need no education
    We dont need no thought control
    No dark sarcasm in the classroom
    Teachers leave them kids alone
    Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
    All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
    All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”

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