HK lawmakers on the warpath

According to Godwin’s Law, the longer an online debate goes on, the higher the chances that someone will make a comparison to Hitler and the Nazis. You can probably liken the regimes of Stalin or Mao to the Third Reich in terms of the magnitude of death; otherwise the simile is invariably inapt. If anything, it is a sign of rhetorical desperation.

During the disastrous public consultation over the hyper-sensitive Article 23 security law in late 2002, Hong Kong Security Secretary Regina Ip attributed Hitler’s rise in Germany to democratic election. It was an early hint that she was losing the argument. Now she finds herself once again engaged in a clash of ideas that has reached the stage of accusations about Hitler.

The 2010 Manila bus shooting tragedy, in which eight Hong Kong tourists died, should be history by now. Instead, a few unscrupulous pro-democracy legislators have exploited the survivors’ suffering in order to promote themselves. They have shamed a weak administration into adopting a crude populist stance of demanding an official apology and compensation from the Philippines. This could only happen with Beijing’s blessing: the Big Lychee’s threats of sanctions tie in neatly with China’s policy of bullying the Philippines and of nurturing nationalism in Hong Kong.

So far, so silly and pretentious. The sight of Regina Ip (and other lawmakers) proposing grand-sounding ways for Hong Kong to punish the Philippines would be faintly amusing were it not obnoxious. She almost seems to enjoy the prospect of harming Filipino men and women working here in finance and performing arts (though not those doing our domestic chores). Obviously, we won’t stoop to hinting about fascistic tendencies, but you do wonder whether as a small child she used to pull the legs off insects.

Now we are getting into deeper waters. China’s claims to own the whole South China Sea haven’t, as the international community has long quietly hoped, gone away. Instead, China is ratcheting up its presence and the firmness of its claims. (It is quite possible that the Chinese military is making the running, and the civilian leaders in Beijing are being forced into an increasingly aggressive posture.) President Benigno Aquino’s allusion to Hitler, the Sudetenland and pre-World War II appeasement might not be sound history, but it’s certainly grabbing attention (and in Beijing’s favourite newspaper, the New York Times).

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had to let Germany annex bits of Czechoslovakia in 1938 because the UK needed time to re-arm. The US already outguns the rest of the planet put together. It refrains from openly refuting China’s basically ludicrous territorial claims for understandable reasons: Beijing can’t seriously insist on owning an entire stretch of ocean; they wouldn’t be crazy enough to use violence; there’s too much trade and investment and general prosperity at stake. Right?

Now Hong Kong is being roped in. Fingers crossed, Beijing will be sensible and/or rein in rogue military elements. But if things get worse, we could see trans-Pacific or intra-Asian trade disruptions or other forms of non-military international conflict. And where once Hong Kong could have plausibly been neutral and standing to one side, it would be heavily partial and involved, and its interests damaged – no thanks to a bunch of childish lawmakers pandering to shallow public instincts for a few minutes on TV.


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15 Responses to HK lawmakers on the warpath

  1. It is obvious that the best strategy for the countries around the South China Sea would be to quickly negotiate a settlement of any areas still disputed between them, sign a treaty mutually recognising each other’s claims, then insist that any claim by China should be negotiated with them all collectively. This is exactly what China doesn’t want – but will it happen, or will petty differences prevent it?

  2. Headache says:

    And of course the North Korean regime likened Japan to Hitler earlier this week.

    I hope war in the region isn’t inevitable. I don’t particularly want to leave.

  3. det1mark says:

    Regarding: “Beijing can’t seriously insist on owning an entire stretch of ocean; they wouldn’t be crazy enough to use violence; there’s too much trade and investment and general prosperity at stake. Right?”

    It’s worth having a read of this:

  4. gweiloeye says:

    I have been away for a few weeks and haven’t been keeping up to date with the goings on in the Big Lychee. Unfortunate to see that it is much of the same (if not even worse).

    Politicians need to learn to shut the fuck up sometimes.

  5. reductio says:

    Cock of the Week award is already hotting up. Regina Ip and James To are going head to head at the moment.

  6. C Law says:

    As Steve Vines pointed out on the radio this morning, the foul-up which resulted in the tragedy in Manila was caused by the Manila Metro Police and the current Mayor of Manila (who is also a past President of the Country) has apologized. While I share the view that the President of the Philippines should apologize too – for various reasons – it has been obvious for a long time that this is just not going to happen. The HK Govt had a perfect face-saving get-out, and if they had accepted the Mayor’s apology a bit more quiet negotiation would probably have resulted in some more money for the victims. The whole thing could then have been put decently to rest. Yet another cock-up from this inept HK Govt.

    Private Beach, you are quite right, but I share your fear that the other countries will not be so sensible. Being sensible usually takes a back seat to nationalism.

  7. Maugrim says:

    If a western power had created a similar restriction on HK passport holders, how long would it be before the accusation of racism was heard?

  8. PropertyDeveloper says:

    det1mark, Nice link!

    China’s claim of virtually the whole of the South China Sea is clearly ridiculous, but I think the overwhelming mass of Chinese sincerely can’t understand this — nor even understand how it appears to every other nation on earth (except N Korea?).

    Hemlock, I beg to disagree. The basic principle of appeasement by militarily less well-prepared nations across Europe in the 1930s is similar to that of the countries of SE Asia today. And even America’s understandable reluctance to get involved has echoes with WWI and II.

  9. Oneleggoalie says:

    Shoes make the…er…man…

    …witness the law enforcement Charlies in Bak Fan Yues…or Giordano equivalents…

    …their armed forces wear a darker coloured version…and that says everything about the state of their effectiveness…

  10. J. Froy says:

    If there’s one thing Aquino is good at, it is his ability to deliver the message (a gifted communicator even if she didn’t get her sister’s charm).

    This debacle only proves that HK politicians are petulant; seem to have not received the memo to stop using passe commie propaganda tricks; worst, using the listen-to-us-because-we-are-rich logos when 60% of the population live in glamorized slums in the sky. Too bad HK people can’t end their political careers in the ballots like most of the civilized world would do; always found it amusing how supposedly rich and educated people talk tough and yet allow a basic human right (to suffrage) be deprived of them. But of course, they are rich.

  11. probably says:

    How can HK, which is not a sovereign state, demand an apology from another nation? A city yes, for it’s obvious police ineptitude but not a whole nation. That would be the job of Beijing and I can’t see them lifting a finger on this matter.

    If HK felt it has the power to dictate who should be able to enter our city or not can we start with the 150 per day immigrants from the mainland draining the taxpayers purse. Maybe if this was addressed then we could also end the debate about supporting an ageing population by spending money on HK retirees rather than mainland immigrants.

  12. Joe Blow says:

    When is the CCP -forever demanding apologies for the Nanking massacre- going to apologize for the tens of millions who were starved or murdered during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution ?

  13. Pie-chucker says:

    Re-education for you, Joe Blow.

  14. Gumshoe says:

    This made me laugh out loud at work:

    Looks like ol’ Rimsky bit off more than he can chew. Then other big mouths attempt to pick up all the pieces of face left after it just got blown apart.

  15. I visited Manila on a business trip a couple of weeks ago. Despite the Hong Kong government’s black travel warning, everything looked more peaceful than Lan Kwai Fong on a Saturday night. One of our hosts told us the reason the Manila police screwed up the bus case so badly is because there are so few such incidents there that they have no practice in dealing with them.

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