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.