SCMP’s pants burst into flames again

The fake panic about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign seems to have died down in recent weeks, as if the United Front spin-doctors were taking a break for the holidays. Few have missed it. Establishment groups’ contrived and orchestrated alarm about the sit-in leading to violence and billions of dollars in damage was unconvincing and served mainly to highlight Beijing’s paranoia and even exaggerate the local pro-democrats’ clout.

Occupy Central is parallel to the other pro-democracy sects and crusades, but it could end up being the focus of the movement’s deep divide. Where will it stand in the (probable) event of a complete split between idealists demanding open nomination of Chief Executive election candidates, and realists who accept that Beijing can only accommodate a screening mechanism? In theory, we could end up with, say, the radicals barricading off and defacing Chater and Des Voeux Roads, while the moderates sit and strum guitars on Queens Road and Peddar Street.

So along comes a Hong Kong Transition Project survey to examine public opinion in three areas: the political consultation exercise’s fairness, Hong Kong identity and Occupy Central, all broken down by age, education and so on. It’s a big, detailed thing. The second of the three issues is actually the most interesting (essentially, it asks respondents to choose between ‘international’ Hong Kong and ‘national’ Chinese identity, with most people except the ancient and/or stupid choosing the former). But the media latch on to the third subject.

The South China Morning Post interprets the survey as showing that the majority of people oppose Occupy Central and fear it might damage the economy. It buries the details that the Standard highlights – namely that the majority of younger/educated people support the movement, while the majority against rises in older/uneducated brackets. In short, the SCMP twists the emphasis of the story enough to give a seriously misleading account.

As so often, this bias is so blatant that the readers are bound to notice (and quite possibly wonder why they are paying HK$9 when they can get something more objective for free). This laughably distorted version of the story did not appear in the expectation or hope of fooling you. It appeared so the editors could take it to the paper’s tycoon-owner to show how obedient they are in slanting stories to Beijing’s presumed liking; this is so the tycoon-owner can in turn take it to Beijing – if ever necessary – to show how ready he is to shoe-shine and kowtow to the Communist imperial court. The rest of us just look on in pity, and indeed in wonder at how easy it can seem to make Standard/Sing Tao owner and mogul-scion Charles Ho look like a newspaper proprietor of integrity and backbone.

One interesting finding in the opinion survey is that the young/educated supporters of Occupy Central are also the most worried about violence and mayhem breaking out. What does this mean? It could be that the kids are the only people in town taking the pro-Beijing forces’ propaganda about themselves as a threat to civilization seriously. It could be that the youthful idealists are swept up in the romance of martyrdom and self-sacrifice. Maybe they are simply calculating that no amiable compromise is possible in the struggle for political reform, and the way the wind is blowing points to harsh police action and an inevitable tough reaction (the opinion survey suggests that official oppression of Occupy Central will boost public support for the movement). Or perhaps the poll’s samples or methodology are at fault, and it means nothing. The only thing we know for sure is that you won’t find out in the papers.

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9 Responses to SCMP’s pants burst into flames again

  1. maugrim says:

    This is an interesting topic. Who, during the protest will light the flame to the touch paper? Publicity seekers such as Chan Ching-shum, who, by their usual provcation, will then turn around and say ‘we told you so’ or the more aggressive members of the pro-dem camp such as Wong Yuk-man, whose supporters feel they are sexually inadequate/inadequate as protestors unless they are bigger and badder than the other pro-dems in (insert civil disobedience stunt here) providing good TV footage?

    Either way, its not hard to see the young and educated feel as if they are going to be the meat in the sandwich. Idealistic and caring about the issues behind the protest, its hard to see them not being ‘used’ in some way. The lack of slack given to protestors from Scholarism of late and the addition of a few pent up feelings on the part of the police, fueled by management and others, creates a sense of foreboding that I don’t think is misplaced.

  2. PropertyDeveloper says:

    The young are just more honest — not having had time to be browbeaten and cowed by the system.

    This survey is exemplary in its presentation of both the results and the “background”: code of course for commentary eg the throwaway remark that Carrie’s use of the word “selection” of the CE in 2017 says it all.

    But one can’t help feeling that the methodological foundations are built on rather sandy cement, that surveys ultimately fail to get to the heart of the matter, that social science research must also include some synthesis.

  3. Grog says:

    @ maugrim
    You are right. With everyone so pissed off with the government over a whole host of things, the old traditions of peaceful protest may be chucked out.

    Also, while it is tempting to see conspiracy in everything the SCMP does, I think that most of the time when the paper misses the mark it is just plain old incompetence.

  4. Probably says:

    Forget Occupy Central as a force for disruption. For some of us our lives are already blighted by an “Occupy CWB” movement. Any day of the week the footpaths, lifts and excalators around Elizabeth House are chok-a-blok with people speaking putonghua who then seem to ongregate on the 2nd and 5th floors where from the outside one can only hear raucous North Korean style chants.

    And then there are their tour coaches blocking all of Lockhart Road from end to end with impunity, and don’t let me get onto the subject of them fouling the air with their second hand cigarette smoke. I doubt occupy Central can cause as much disruption as this Occupy CWB crowd and I’m sure any survey would be unanimous in which of the 2 it would rather eject from HK.

  5. Stephen says:

    @Property Developer

    Unless I’m mistaken the Government has put up posters publicising its “consultation exercise” and yet again it’s that word “selection”

    So Carrie thinks it’s a selection, Rimsky has made up his, oh so legal, mind that there must be a nominating committee, because its in the Basic Law (?) and the bald has been rather bland.

    You can see the way this is going and it’s not going to end well. Good luck to the Occupy Central Movement because I think they are going to have to make good on their threats.

  6. PropertyDeveloper says:


    At the risk of seeming to parody (the then) RTP, let’s agree to meet up in situ if (when) the OCM happens.

  7. Ex Tax Payer says:

    For those who are interested, there’s a very perceptive article by Alice Wu in today’s SCMP.

    This is the first half:


    There’s a certain thrill in gawking at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye. What is rare, however, is to have someone call attention to the plank in his own eye. This happened last week at a forum on leadership and public policy.

    A member of the Basic Law Consultative Committee of a bygone era, Dr Vincent Lo Hong-sui, admitted that when he and his colleagues wrote an executive-led political system into the law, they had “naively” counted on Hong Kong people’s political apathy post 1997. Today’s Hong Kong, he said, shows up their “ignorance and poor understanding of politics and democracy”.

    It’s not the first time someone has pinpointed the flaw in our system: namely, that the office of the chief executive has no real political base because it is constitutionally required to have no political affiliation. This makes its relationship with the legislature fraught. Worse, its small-circle election method gives it the sovereign’s mandate but not the people’s.

    No doubt the arrangement was made to ensure a smooth transition in 1997. Now it is exacerbating political strife.

    These problems became apparent even in the days of Tung Chee-hwa. Tung was a man broadsided by unlucky breaks: the Asian financial crisis and the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, for example. He paid the ultimate political price – as a scapegoat for the Article 23 disaster.

    He proved the impossibility of an executive-led system that has been put into a political straitjacket. His allies – the pro-establishment camp – either sank with his ship or they jumped.

    This same system has made opposition – even radical opposition, for some – the only way to gain political traction. Other than obstruct, the legislature has little power to do much.


    I think she may have a point…..

  8. Local Tax Payer says:

    “No doubt the arrangement was made to ensure a smooth transition in 1997”: no. The arrangement was surely made because the Chinese side, who had no understanding of, or sympathy with, democracy, insisted on it.

  9. Dr Doo-me-a-little says:

    Does Peddar rhyme with cheddar ?

    Something else: doesn’t the charter of the United Nations -endorsed by the PRC- explain clearly the right of self-determination ?

    Don’t we, the people of Hong Kong, have a right to determine our own government and fate ?

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