White Paper Week comes to an end

Before we all toss our copies of Beijing’s ‘One Country Two Systems’ white paper into the recycling pile, let’s spare a though for the poor schmucks who had to dredge through all those statistics, like the number of live piggies China generously sends Hong Kong, to convince everyone that the Big Lychee’s indisputable constitutional role is to be an exotic but ultimately no less obedient part of Planet Communist Party than the rest of the Motherland.

They probably realize that less is more, but when you have a State Council to satisfy, you just lay it on with a shovel to keep them happy. It’s the overkill – the excessive earnestness as well as the glut of (approximate) facts – that dooms the white paper to failure in its mission to change minds, let alone win hearts. The international press and local pro-democrats have certainly noticed it, but the message they receive is entirely the wrong one. To the extent the document has an impact, it will be to heighten suspicion and hostility about Beijing’s intentions. Lacking an iota of subtlety or empathy, the Chinese leadership will then perceive this response as an increase in the evil foreign forces’ attempts to use Hong Kong to overthrow the Communist regime, and resolve to resist the supposed threat even more.

And so the whole sorry cycle will continue, since Occupy Central, passage of a political reform package and implementation of a slightly-less-quasi-more-semi-democratic structure for 2017 are still to come.

We could also spare a dash of sympathy – though we probably won’t – for the poor wretches caught in the middle: the Hong Kong government officials who have to assure us that the white paper doesn’t mean what it might seem to say, while appearing to assure Beijing that they are convinced it does. As we might expect, Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen barely scrapes a 4, while Chief Secretary Carrie Lam calmly scores at least a 7. Meanwhile, on the Security side, the police round up radicals involved in the recent storming of the Legislative Council over plans for new towns. What can the cops do? If Beijing says there are evil foreign-backed forces afoot, the cops have to be seen to pretend there are.

Beijing’s inability to finesse any response between ‘total neglect’ and ‘total clampdown’ is doing further damage at a time when it is least needed. The New York Times quotes a top Next Media executive as saying that Chinese officials told the biggest non-Mainland-owned retail banks in town to stop advertising in the press group’s anti-Communist Apple Daily (as some other big companies have). The banks have significant Mainland business (and possibly a ton of doubtful Mainland loans) to worry about, so comply. Clearly caught in the act, Beijing (via a China Daily mouthpiece) throws an infantile tantrum accusing the US paper of turning Hong Kong into a ‘giant political cauldron’.

The perils of trying too hard. They already run all three branches of the Mainland’s government, and its media, Internet, schools, religions, etc, etc – yet they just can’t stop themselves from trying to eliminate one trashy Hong Kong newspaper that won’t obey. It is a curious fact that the tighter the grip a regime has on the society it runs, the more paranoid, insecure and fearful it is. It’s a wonder they ever sleep.

I declare the weekend open with a plug for 759, a quirky chain of rough-and-ready supermarkets proudly targeting locals not tourists with an unpredictable and even entertaining range of Korean, Japanese and European products. Today’s South China Morning Post talks to the boss about how market-rigging by the existing supermarket duopoly remains essentially legal, and his plans for a chain of truly awful-sounding ‘Kawaiiland’ personal care outlets. On a recent visit, I noticed Black Sugar shower gel…

No need to rinse it off – you just get a close friend with a sweet tooth to lick you all over. The only problem is that you tend to get ants following you around all day.


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