Desperately dishing dirt

We already know that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy Central movement has unnerved the mighty Chinese Communist Party. But just in case anyone didn’t get the message, here’s a big clunky smear campaign to bolster the looming civil-disobedience campaign’s improbable image as a threat to the entire People’s Republic, if not global civilization.

One victim is pro-democracy academic Joseph Cheng, who speaks out after being targeted by Beijing-funded Wen Wei Po for not filling in an Immigration Department form correctly 12 years ago, and for failing to credit a co-author in some learned paper. What is interesting here is how the propaganda sheet got hold of the information about the passport application, which could only have come from Cheng’s family, his lawyer – or from within the Hong Kong government.

Wen Wei Po goes ballistic today over the extent to which media owner Jimmy Lai bankrolls the pro-democrats. Other pro-establishment papers, including the Sing Tao/Standard, join in, re-hashing the stuff about Lai hobnobbing with Burmese officials and with former US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. This follows Beijing officials’ denials that their diplomats in Burma had invited Lai and Wolfie to dine. The Burmese government’s opening to the West and distancing from China in recent years is no doubt connected to all this. It’s hard to say whether the whole thing is murky or just childish.

Presumably, we are supposed to infer that US interests fronted by the discredited comb-licker are funding or manipulating Hong Kong’s pro-democrats via Lai, with a view to taking over Hong Kong as the first step in its plot to topple the regime in Beijing – perhaps with the aid of a secret squad of Rangoon-controlled killer pythons. The extensive information on the donations was mysteriously emailed to everyone yesterday. It seems that the South China Morning Post is (as of this time) among the media outlets with better things to do than be used so blatantly by Beijing’s less-than-subtle operatives.

Perhaps the most outstanding thing about the smears is their lameness. Is this the worst China’s dirty tricks specialists have on the pro-democrats? Presumably there’s a lot more tucked away for real emergencies. Either that, or they’re seriously amateurish.

Meanwhile, the extensive flattery of Occupy Central continues with Robert Chow’s ‘Peace and Democracy’ signature-collection extravaganza. (This campaign also revolves around a smear, with its constant innuendo associating Occupy with violence.) With Mainland visitors helping to ramp up the numbers, the organizers are beside themselves with excitement at the possibility of matching the 800,000 people who voted in the pro-democracy ‘civil referendum’. Pro-Beijing forces loudly dismissed that opinion poll as meaningless, invalid and even illegal – yet they are clearly possessed by it.

None of this changes much, except to remind Hong Kong’s pluralistic and tolerant people that they are not immune from Beijing’s current desperation and fear, as displayed in oil rigs parked off Vietnam and the purging-by-corruption-charges of ever-wider circles of officials. China believes it has a formula for giving Hong Kong a choice of Chief Executive candidates in 2017, which will get through the Legislative Council, not subsequently be boycotted by voters, and most of all not compromise the Communist Party’s absolute control. The smearing passes the time while we wait for it.


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