If a political astroturfing exercise becomes so elaborate that publicity stunts vie for media attention, you have to ask what its real purpose is. As if they weren’t sufficiently in-your-face, anti-Occupy Central activities continued to proliferate in Hong Kong over the weekend. Petition stations collecting (or not) signatures against Occupy remain open in the unlikeliest of places.Without looking, I found one squeezed under the stairs in the entrance to a Federation of Trade Unions office block, and another sweltering beneath umbrellas beside a largely deserted bus terminus. No wonder Ebola has no chance of nudging its way into the city.
Someone in the Chinese government’s local Liaison Office is working overtime on a list of establishment figures who must be seen to sign the petition against the planned pro-democracy protest. We are working our way well down the list by now, with Vincent Lo, second-tier property tycoon and Airport Authority chairman, signing for the cameras and sheepishly explaining that he would have done so earlier but for pressure of work; wife Loletta meanwhile looks on in a sort of socialist-realism dream-state (or maybe that’s just the sunlight).
Meanwhile, out of nowhere, an Alliance for the Support of Our Police Force appears, marching to show how much they like stability and prosperity, just as the regular Anti-Occupy folk love democracy and peace. As opposed – needless to say – to those in the faintly horde-like minority of academics and troublemakers who want mayhem, poverty, dictatorship and violence.
Amid the bewildering activity, big newspaper ads declare that we have 12 hours to support peace and renounce violence. The good news is that the 12 hours are two weeks away. Organizers are calling for 10,000 people to join a ‘Run to Central’ from Victoria Park on Sunday after next. That’s the number, of course, that the pro-democracy campaign hopes to take part in its civil disobedience sit-in. I assume that by finding 10,000 supporters strong/stupid enough to jog such a distance, the United Front effort will be proving some sort of superiority of willpower over the puny radicals fit only for sitting in the street (I could be reading too much into this – but the number can’t be a coincidence). If an urban summer marathon doesn’t grab you, there’s a walk for peace and democracy on the same route. And if you’re pushed for time (like those many pro-democrats who join marches for an hour before splitting) there’s some rather sickly thing involving flowers and cherubic kids in Chater Gardens, which will take a few minutes.
It’s all here. Signing on-line seems pretty undemanding. They seem a bit touchy about the possibility of multiple signatures; I guess they will start to lose credibility after the 5-million mark.
As well as dutifully reporting all this, the Standard tries to do its bit for the cause today with an editorial suggesting that the recent strength in the stock market is due to evil speculators preparing to short the Hang Seng Index in the event of Occupy Central causing chaos and financial collapse; the paper then un-suggests the idea as a conspiracy theory.
Because… you can overdo it. And the anti-Occupy orgy is sending out too many messages to be effective. That suggests that the Liaison Office’s operatives behind this are not trying to persuade the public that Occupy is bad, but determined to convince masters and controllers, ultimately far away, that they are sparing no effort. At times, it looks like an exercise to intimidate. But it’s the United Front minions stage-managing it who are feeling intimidated.