It would be quicker to list the people NOT wetting themselves about Occupy Central

Blasts from the past hit Hong Kong today. Tung Chee-hwa, the tragic failure as Chief Executive who doesn’t seem quite so bad looking back, is appointed to the board of Mainland e-commerce company Alibaba. Like most Hong Kong leaders, Tung blathered away endlessly about technology (and gave Li Ka-shing’s son Richard the luxury apartment ‘tech-hub yeah right’ Cyberport project-scam). But we always had the impression he could barely master a toaster. The report indicates that they are after his ‘strategic vision’ and – reading between the lines – his Kissingerian go-between shoe-shining string-pulling avuncular-to-princelings skills.

Then we get Xu Jiatun, who was Beijing’s top official in late 1980s Hong Kong before defecting (or ‘going on vacation’) to the evil Barbarian West after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. He let slip a few things in memoirs, such as the fact that there were around 4,000 local Communist Party members in Hong Kong, but it seems he never succumbed to the decadence of American life. Check out the grim Mao-era antimacassar. He now joins in the railing against the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, saying it will ‘destroy’ Hong Kong.

The 99-year-old also insists that Hong Kong ‘focus on the economy’, echoing Tung’s nonsensical and tiresome old exhortation to shut up about political reform. It was Xu as much as any Chinese official who ensured that capitalists rather than Communists should run post-1997 Hong Kong and that the tycoons should be made welcome to stay (see Christine Loh, among others). So he at least helped establish the (apparent) policy of tilting the post-1997 Hong Kong economy ever more in favour of the tycoons at the expense of the rest of the population. That’s the reason we have so much disaffection now: the radicals, activists, opponents and masses of plain disgruntled today are in fact ‘focusing on the economy’.

Xu’s successor in Hong Kong, Zhou Nan, has also of course just done his part in the anti-Occupy Central chorus. They’ll be exhuming people next. (They’ve already got CCTV News ready to report on the Big Lychee’s chaos, which is bordering on the surreal: you’d have thought they wouldn’t want to give Mainlanders ideas.)

Mention of Xu has me digging through a long-unopened bag of ancient doodles, and voila! There it is in all its faded glory: one of some photocopy-cartoon things that I think appeared in a trendy venue’s exhibition in the days when you could walk in off the street and just hang stuff up (nowadays you’d have to pass an elaborate arty screening committee). Interesting how Xu has lost none of his finger-wagging potency.

The Gauleiter lookalike is of course Helmut Sohmen, anti-democrat shipping guy who married a daughter of YK Pao, as did property tycoon Peter Woo (different daughter), who has – surprise surprise! – also just been bleating about Occupy Central.

The writing on the sign says ‘Work makes you free’ (‘Arbeit macht frei’) in Chinese and ‘Gulag Yakult’ in Russian (yes, that Yakult). It was so easy to be an edgy Bohemian in those days…

Meanwhile, even serious people are pondering what Occupy Central might mean for them. Security consultants Steve Vickers & Associates have included the potential civil disobedience protest in their latest Asia Risk Assessment. Among the points sent to clients…

The White Paper has deepened angst welling up from daily frictions over mainland Chinese visitors, worries about press freedom, and fears for civil liberties. A Hong Kong government public consultation on reforms permitting the election of a Chief Executive in 2017 is now channelling discontent. Attention is correspondingly on Occupy Central, an umbrella group that espouses seizing Hong Kong’s central business district so as to oblige Beijing to abandon use of a nomination committee to screen candidates, a mechanism that arguably contravenes promises made by the National People’s Congress in December 2007 to allow elections under universal suffrage.

It then lists four scenarios, culminating in ‘Police lose control and the PLA move in’ (considered highly unlikely). The third says…

…violent elements around Occupy Central could create disorder, scuffling with police, breaking windows, threatening commuters and forcing their way into buildings, as have anti-capitalist rioters in London or protesters opposed to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Pro-Beijing groups might respond, resulting in some violence…

Which is what a lot of businesses are worried about (it doesn’t help that they pay people to worry about things). The risk assessment suggests that, among other preparations, they get materials on hand to treat employees exposed to tear gas (does anything work?).

To put in into perspective, their first scenario essentially says: ‘Beijing scares people into keeping their kids at home and it all fizzles out’. If Xu Jiatun doesn’t put the fear of God into them, what will?


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