One of the many remarkable things about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy/Umbrella movement is the number of times it has started to fade, only to be rejuvenated when its detractors do or say something idiotic and counterproductive. It happened with Beijing’s White Paper on political reform, with murky cyber-attacks on Next Media, with the police’s use of tear gas, with attacks on protestors by inbred-looking New Territories types, and with Chief Executive CY Leung’s declaration that below-median wage-earners are unfit to vote. Even predictable and silly anti-Occupy activity, like the helicopter assault on the Lion Rock banner, or Robert ‘Silent Majority’ Chow’s latest United Front fake-signature campaign, flatter the movement and give it an extra spring in its step.
But the pattern is becoming less pronounced. It is ironic: the authorities’ assaults on the movement become feebler, and Occupy Central’s tendency to flounder comes to the fore. Yesterday, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok showed a crass video portraying pro-democracy protestors as full of ‘hatred and violence’, and Occupy organizers offered to stand down if the government holds a non-binding referendum – overseen by flying pigs – and they plan an exceptionally lame-sounding 87-second period of silence (one for each tear gas canister, apparently). Everyone is exhausted and badly needs to go home and have a good long rest.
But how many times have we thought that? The Chinese or Hong Kong government’s latest shooting-in-foot, backlash-provoking Mega-Stupid can’t be far away.
In time, maybe as the icy Siberian winds sweep south and plunge Hong Kong into its three-week 15-centigrade winter freeze, officials will finally run out of ways to screw things up, and the remaining Umbrella protestors will pack their tents and withdraw. What then?
I was asked this question yesterday and had to come up with an instant, vaguely credible-sounding answer…
See this in the context of several waves of protest in response to poor governance: Article 23 in 2003; various heritage/infrastructure issues in 2005-10; National Education in 2012; and now everything comes to a head with Occupy in 2014 – provoked by a proposed political reform intended to resolve the underlying governance problems. After much foot-dragging, Beijing has accepted a need for change in Hong Kong but has underestimated (or not kept up with) the scale of discontent, especially among the young.
The political reform package for 2016-17 seems almost irrelevant now; it has ‘too little, too late’ stamped all over it. Ditto whether CY Leung stays or goes. The question is how Chairman Xi Jinping fits minor-but-pesky-irritant Hong Kong in with the development of his personality cult, the subjugation of all but correct art/culture/thought, the eradication of corruption/rivals, and China’s transition to a services/consumption-based economy while preserving the Communist one-party state.
A clampdown to punish Hong Kong and force it to obey is out of the question: you would almost literally have to put everyone in chains. So there are two options. One is that, given his capacity for hard work, Xi decides to get the issue off his desk sooner rather than later, and gives the Hong Kong government a clear mission to get its act together, stop serving tycoons only and start winning over hearts and minds – accepting that this means allowing the city a bit more of its own identity and space. I would give this a (let’s say) 30% probability, being the most foolish optimist.
Alternatively, as the Occupy dust settles, local and national leaders think the worst is over, and it’s time for a few Band-Aids. Financial Secretary John Tsang announces monthly coffee and French movie allowances for every household; the Home Affairs Bureau hosts a free Kenny G concert to promote happy healthy harmonious living; Benny Tai and Joshua Wong accept seats on the Official Serious Commission of Inquiry into Why Students Aren’t Happy; and everything seems to go back to normal, to the intense relief of the property tycoons and bureaucrats. And under the surface everyone goes back to getting more and more pissed off, until – probably when the 2016 legislative or 2017 Chief Executive elections are underway – it all blows up again, and it makes 2014 look like a picnic. That gets a 70% probability.
Or something different entirely.
I am bored of OC. Can’t we have an update on either Hemlock’s low-life Wan Chai-brothel-trawler mates or the hunter-killer secretary’s recently installed toy-boy?
Xi’s got much bigger problems than Hong Kong. Fighting regression to the mean, corruption, collapsing oil prices (which drove overseas demand for Chinese goods), white elephants foundering by the ton (CGNPC is preparing to list in HK, that’s a clear signal), all of this means China is likely to see growth well below, probably around 2.5 – 4.0. Any other nation would be happy, but China needed at least another decade and a half of 8.5% growth to absorb all the youth coming off the farms, til they find out even if they buy half the women in every SE Asian nation, it’s not enough to make up for China’s shortfall.
So the more patriotic/longer term thinking members of the CCP have tasked Xi with laying the groundwork right now for every kind of diversion that will be needed to keep the masses loyal. We can expect a trickle or flood of the following, depending on how badly the masses need diversion and/or Xi has control over the party.
Updated versions of…
The cultural revolution,
2nd Sino-Vietnamese War,
Great Leap Backwards / Juche ala CCP,
2nd Guangfu (restoration of Taiwan to the motherland)
3rd Sino-Japanese War with the US on the other side, just like the US backed Japan in the 1st one(God helps us I hope I’m wrong on this one)
and other storm, like a boarder war with India, what ever the CCP can dream up to sound the nationalist scam, with HK bobbing along in the wake. Will HK capsize or weather the storm? Safe bets are that Xi is almost grateful to have the potential one day, 5-10 years down the road, to point to HK as a heartland of traitors who need whipping.
I think one of the next battleground will be the HK government’s attempt to cut/eliminate liberal arts studies and possibly replace it with CCP propaganda. See http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1625287/teachers-union-slams-government-plan-review-liberal-studies . Yes, we’re back to that again.
Shurely the most obvious one…?
90% probability CY has a brain fart (he’s good at them) and clears the police to retake the streets with whatever means necessary – ie, what he told them in late September
A few accidental fatalities turns this into Kent State and the only way to calm everyone down is true universal suffrage for a Chief Administrator role.
On 1 April the heavens open and the great too-cold to too-hot cusp comes into operation, but by that time OC can surely build a few more NT-style “temporary” shanty towns, with all mod cons and only a few leaks. (Hint: make sure that the only path through is always the longest one, strewing a few dead-ends and “strange loops” (Hofstadter) at strategic points. Packs of dogs also help.)
Thanks, Hemlock and NiMBY, for the astute prognostics. The Mendacious Lupine One and the Cheshire Cat would indeed be best just sitting tight and hoping something turns up.
If the longed-for distraction has to be deliberately engineered, my money is on crashing the property market or infiltrating black people into OC then simulating Ebola symptoms in the vicinity. But ensuring civil servants don’t get paid might swing the balance.
Just wait until they roll out the new Patriotism, Confucianism and Filial Piety curriculum. I bet it will be full of thought-provoking essay questions such as these:
1. Please provide an example of a foreign ideology you have rejected and explain why it is inappropriate for Hong Kong’s society.
2. List the Five Confucian Relationships and using examples from your own life, illustrate how they should be correctly fulfilled.
3. Select a three patriotic role models and explain how their actions contributed towards a harmonious society.
Ha, love it! “Official Serious Commission of Inquiry”
Interesting article in today’s Int’l Herald Trib/NY Times about how the CCP threatened the Brits with invading HK should they introduce freedoms of choice/D word to the colony, lest the unwashed peasants north of Lo Wu get wind of the word.
I think what NIMBY is suggesting is all too possible . As to HK, I heavily suspect that most pro China mouthpieces have no and I mean no idea about what Beijing is thinking. Apparently, the conduit to find out what they think is a columnist in a Chinese language newspaper in HK, believed to be the voice of Beijing. As to the Government winning hearts and minds, they will fuck that up royally, leaning towards annoying indoctrination about the need to love the motherland with little listening going on .
and everything seems to go back to normal….
Hong Kong will never be “normal” again.
Something fundamental has changed in this society. Maybe even China will never be the same again.