And the non-stop jollity continues… Hong Kong’s former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui says he got HK$11 million from a top Mainland official (the Chinese government, in other words), apparently to help him overcome his excessive spending and encourage him to stay in office. He did neither, but received/took (blew) the money anyway, while, according to prosecutors, acquiring yet more in bribes from property tycoons. At least, this is so far as I can tell from the South China Morning Post report, which puts the chronology of events through a blender. It’s hard to get worked up about the details in a story that is basically Overpaid Scumbag In Unfathomable Murk, but you have to wonder whether he left Beijing officials feeling short-changed, and – if so – whether this contributed to his current predicament.
What we can be sure of is that Beijing’s micro-meddling is behind the emergence of yet another supposedly popular but pitiful-looking group trying to sound reasonable in opposing the pro-democracy movement. This one’s called the Protect Central Working Group. I think. (Grabbed a pic of the front page from the office’s batch of free unsolicited China Dailys before the cleaner came to take them away to be pulped for toilet paper read avidly. Otherwise coverage is a bit thin. A valiant news editor at RTHK managed a few mind-numbing lines before dozing off.) The vaguely interesting angle here is that the United Front is getting into the business of rebranding. Robert Chow’s tawdry Astroturf for Peace and Democracy gimmick backfired with paid-for demonstrators and a creepy phone hotline to inform on schools involved in the pro-dem boycott. This substitute purports to be all professional and serious and businesslike, inviting us to feel grief-stricken for the retail sector. Yes, really.
The pro-democracy Occupy Central civil disobedience sit-in love-and-peace fest looks set to go ahead under the banner of a ‘banquet’ on October 1, the National Day holiday. With the following day being a grave-sweeping festival, that means the action will take place when the central business district is pretty empty and the prospects of damaging the precious retail sector – landlords’ profits, in plain English – are tragically reduced. The decision to go for a low-inconvenience sit-in followed Beijing’s heavy-handed final word on the political reform package for 2016-17. The Chinese government obviously hadn’t heard that they were supposed to get bogged down in a long drawn-out struggle over the structures and mechanisms of universal suffrage with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists.
Nonetheless, Beijing can’t stop itself from encouraging support for the Occupy Central camp. On top of news of financial aid to Rafael and the formation of another lame, fake anti-dem movement, we have been treated to the ridiculous sight of dozens of Hong Kong’s richest tycoons shoe-shining and kowtowing to China’s leaders. What a bunch. Average age, what – 65, at least? Gender: not one woman, so far as I could see. Entrepreneurs or innovators? You must be kidding. To say they’re unrepresentative of Hong Kong is beside the point: they’re not remotely representative of Hong Kong business.
And finally, a perfectly timed reminder of the nature of the Communist regime, in the form of Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti’s life sentence. His crime was to point out that China could consolidate and guarantee its rule over a stable Xinjiang by treating the people there decently. The totalitarian structure becomes a cornered rat when confronted by such dangerous truth. Presumably, if he had said “1 plus 1 equal 2” they would have shot him on the spot.
It is unlikely anyone needs to manage Occupy Central’s expectations any more now, but this should dispel any lingering illusion that they are facing a force that is rational, reasonable, confident, flexible, image-conscious, sensitive to overseas opinion, capable of being shamed, or bluffing as part of some negotiating tactic.