Chaos worsens as crowds diminish (somehow)


Signs that things are getting back to some sort of ‘normal’: the South China Morning Post carries an op-ed piece from a minister in the State Council Information Office SCMP-Xi-Lavannouncing the first publication in English of the Thoughts of Chairman Xi Jinping. At first glance, the fawning description of the collection of speeches is embarrassing. Xi acknowledges the existence of Belgians, we learn, and is therefore of unsurpassed worldliness and wisdom. Reading between the lines, however, it becomes clear that the writer is in fact issuing an urgent warning to the international community of the emergence of an egomaniacal personality cult in Beijing.

In the letters on the opposite page, one Christopher Lavender writes to suggest that Beijing’s proposed nomination system for Hong Kong’s 2017 Chief Executive election is no different from that for UK parliamentary candidates, who (he says) have to be approved by their party HQs. This is obviously bilge. First, the UK has multiple parties, while Hong Kong’s nomination will involve just one. Second, in the UK independents are free to put themselves on the ballot – giving voters a choice of freaks and weirdoes – which will not happen in Hong Kong (unless you count Regina Ip).

It is quite common for the Chinese Communist Party’s faithful followers in Hong Kong to produce garbled explanations of how Western countries’ democratic systems are somehow no better than or comparable to the rigged structure proposed for this city. The US Electoral College, they insist without having a clue what it is, is basically no different from functional constituencies – or something along those lines. True-born leftists can be excused ignorance of Western structures. But the educated and cosmopolitan instant-noodle patriots and shoe-shiners just make themselves look silly by making such feeble analogies; there are more robust and indeed convincing apologetic approaches if you need to grovel to Beijing.

(This brings to mind another cliché re-hashed to death recently: “The British didn’t give Hong Kong democracy for 155 years, therefore [insert whatever point this is supposed to prove].” In fact, Britain did try. First in the late 1940s as part of London’s decolonization policy (local officials cited floods of refugees among excuses not to implement it), and then of course starting from the 1980s, by which time Beijing was in a position to veto the idea with blood-curdling threats, leaving the Brits having to play the role of Big Bad Denier of Universal Suffrage. Not that it’s of any relevance to today.)

Only a few hundred activists are still sitting on the streets as part of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella/Occupy movement. Yet to read the Standard, the mayhem-nightmare is getting even worse. It is true that bits of Chater and Queens Roads in core Central are still sealed off by multiple rows of barriers across them, giving the place a touch of Ypres, perhaps, or at least Gaza. But no protestors. Aside from lighter traffic and cleaner air, life is normal. Yet the government declares kindergartens closed and the Legislative Council – to our great distress – postpones today’s session. In short, the government is creating inconvenience to the public as a way to make Stan-TrafficMayhemthe Occupy movement look bad. Could Beijing’s locally based officials be behind this sort of ‘collective punishment’ tactic? The students may be naïve, but at least they’re not this childish.

They are certainly being a bit guileless if they think that discussions with the government will lead to any substantial change. Sitting down with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam is not my idea of boycotting lectures. Beijing has made it clear that it will not give way to demands and offer Hong Kong a less-rigged electoral system for 2017.

How different things might be if the protesters, Occupy, and the whole pro-democracy camp had focused on more earthly and practical concerns. For a hint at what they could have done, consider the news that developer Cheung Kong is producing Hong Kong’s tiniest apartments – at 165 square feet. This should cause outrage, but won’t.

Imagine if the pan-dems had obsessed less about nomination committees and more about grasping tycoons and government collusion. Imagine if they had zeroed in on the highly visible and recognizable symbol of everything that’s wrong: Li Ka-shing, billionaire owner of the aforementioned Cheung Kong. And imagine they had organized a citywide boycott of Li’s consumer businesses, which essentially means Park N Shop, Taste, Fusion, Watsons and Fortress retail outlets. A 10% drop in revenues would have caused the old man unbearable anguish (if his chains’ usual reaction to being undercut by the tiniest independent competitor is any guide). True, other cartelists would pick up market share – but this would heighten the pain for our uber-tycoon as the world’s media got interested, the stock price fell and officials clutching the latest Economic Freedom award awkwardly wondered what to do as the city’s consumers snubbed Xi Jinping’s favourite Hong Kong plutocrat.

But instead, the government can cast the students as deliverers of traffic chaos and string them along with futile discussions about the Basic Law. What could have been?

Further to yesterday’s update on the Lyndhurst Terrace retail scene: one of our city’s many critics of and sufferers from property hegemony writes in defence of Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe, pointing out that the company sources from many small independent suppliers, and mentioning the magic word ‘chocolate’. Will monitor closely.

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15 Responses to Chaos worsens as crowds diminish (somehow)

  1. Oneleggoalie says:

    …if we had had the advanced tech of todays social media and info…might England have been pressured to consider granting a democratically elected government…
    …surely her opposition would not have run to such extremes as China’s…NO.

    …Regina doesn’t look like a freak…not anymore…a Tsang Yok Sing & So Bar Tau one two would make a good election ticket…if they don’t re-elect CY.

  2. Gooddog says:

    I think the students should have occupied government buildings instead of Mong Kok and Causeway. That would have been fun to watch…

  3. Gooddog says:

    Also, I always think these letters to the SCMP are simply elaborate 50 centers – they are so stupid that no one in their right mind would put their name and reputation to them.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Is this the “Chris Lavender from Mid-Levels” that is betraying the students and his fellow Hong Kongers? Is this our Benedict Arnold?

  4. Funster says:

    Waiting for the students to mock up a 165 Sq ft apartment on one of the roads in Admiralty with a big sign saying ” HK$4m. Is this our future?”

  5. Kinch says:

    Regina Yip: Gift which keeps on giving! Giftig, too, come to think of it.

    Slightly OT:

    Recent events have made one more aware of HK’s Finest in our midst going about their duties. Normally one just sees the blue uniform and notes it. Recently, however, I’ve started paying more attention to faces.

    Now I lived in Hong Kong back in the 1990s and then returned here again in 2012… so I may be imagining things… or I may be able to see something which long term locals don’t notice because lived through a long period of change… (frog in the pot syndrome). SO, is it my imagination or is a significant proportion of the police lower ranks now one-way permit immigrants (or children of same)?

  6. Real Tax Payer (Retired) says:

    @ Gooddog

    Excellent idea ! They should have started with Revenue Tower in Gloucester Road, and also barricade the IRD’s post box ( what is that hateful PO box number … 28800 ? And don’t forget to affix a stamp when yous end in your cheques !)

    But as per Hemmers’s proposal , barricading all P&S and other LKS outlets would have been a better idea than blocking the buses and tram lines. At least that would show some inkling of what is really at the root of all this dissatisfaction.
    LKS certainly has the ear of BJ, so a heartty kick to his wallet and share price would quickly send some pretty big reverberations up north

  7. Stephen says:

    The discussions with the government aim, as I understand it, is to reverse Beijing’s decision on 2017 elections and CY Leung’s head. The latter is possible after an appropriate delay (e.g. CH Tung 2005 for health reasons not for his bungling which caused half a million on the street on 1/7/2003). However it’s difficult to see what Carrie can do about the former. I think all the Government has up their collective sleeves is a tweak of the nominating committee which, may have caused Ronnie, Frederick and the three others they need to waiver prior to recent events, but not now. However the Students one bargaining chip is that “we’ve shown you what we can do and we can do it again”.

    Will Carrie ask the Central Liaison Office whether she can do something substantial with the nominating committee ? Perhaps the CLO can give the nod that if ‘An Audrey’ shuts up about China and concentrates on Hong Kong the nominating committee (which will do as its told) will give her the 50% needed to run – far-fetched?

  8. doug r says:

    I like the idea of leaving before Bejing rolls in something really nasty, keeps everyone on their toes.

  9. I think we will all be hearing a lot more about the Thoughts of Chairman Xi. A recent SCMP report said the easiest way to get a grant for research in the Social Science faculties of mainland universities is to propose a study of them.

  10. I thought LKS didn’t care that much about Watsons et al after selling the big chunk of it to Singapore’s Govt/Temasek. (that’s owned by Richard son of Ka-shing)
    :::Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress Rita Fan Lai-tai said the NPC is unlikely to change its decision on the arrangements for the 2017 election in Hong Kong unless there are new and powerful reasons for doing so, Ming Pao Daily reported on Wednesday.:::

    Fan also says she thinks CCP wants CY to finish his term, but wouldn’t comment on her personal feelings on the matter.

  11. Grablow Kickasso says:

    The police inactivity in breaking up the protests is clearly calculated. I went to Mong Kok yesterday 8/10/14 to see what was up. I picked up a few bits for work from Shanghai St and Reclamation St which are probably the most important commercial streets in MK as they supply the construction industry and trades.

    Speaking with shop owners the protests haven’t had a great deal of an effect on them but the perception is different. Blockading the intersection at Nathan Rd and Argyle St looks like a massive inconvenience.

    This works well for the authorities as it helps to transfer the negativity on to the protesters. The trouble is that the protesters have invested a lot of time and emotion into the protest and to just give up will feel like a defeat to them.

    They need a way out, if I had a voice amongst them I would suggest a symbolic midnight march to Hong Kong through the cross harbour tunnel to join the diminishing protests there.

    The protesters have achieved an enormous amount largely thanks to the incompetence of CY Leung and his crew. They need to maintain the upper hand and re group later more organised and more vocal than ever at the moment they are potentially losing some of the advantage they have gained.

  12. Chopped Onions says:

    Anything that needs the support of Broomhead, Tofu brains and the Triads has got to be very unpleasant indeed

  13. Shiver Me Timbers says:

    Imagine if the pan-dems had obsessed less about nomination committees and more about grasping tycoons and government collusion. Imagine if they had zeroed in on the highly visible and recognizable symbol of everything that’s wrong: Li Ka-shing, billionaire owner of the aforementioned Cheung Kong. And imagine they had organized a citywide boycott of Li’s consumer businesses,

    All you had to do was avail yourself of any one of the multiple megaphones that were in abundance, or better yet… step up and offer your pontifications at any one of the numerous rallies where speeches, teach-ins and declarations were being read to large crowds all week. But why bother. Just be a snide know-it-all hiding online and throw peanuts from the gallery.

  14. Scotty Dotty says:

    Agree with Hemmers. The protestors are starting to look like Muppets now.

    Surely they’re just a day or two from completely dragging defeat from the jaws of victory.

  15. Joe Blow says:

    When you say A, you must say B.

    The students have to see this through to the end, or until a satisfying conclusion. Because there will be a next time.

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