Holy Bastille, Batman! Just when you thought Hong Kong’s Umbrella-Occupy protests were getting nowhere, the plucky pro-democracy students storm the People’s Liberation Army barracks and burn it to the ground. That would be an interesting development. Alternatively, maybe some soldier overloaded the circuits in the dorm with a rice-cooker. (Is that the former Amethyst Block – named for the British ship attacked by Communists in 1949?)
So the reality is that the conflicts on the streets in Mongkok and Admiralty are, indeed, getting nowhere, except more violent. To the extent that this is a fight for public sympathy, neither side is clearly winning, though an excessive outrage by (or attributed to) one side or the other could swing it. As things are, it is also possible for them both to lose.
And the nearest we have to an interesting development is a bid by the pro-Beijing camp to take ownership of the next public consultation on political reform. From the thick of the pepper spray in Lung Wo Road, the whole 2016-17 electoral reform debate seems irrelevant, dead and buried. From wherever the government works when it can’t get into its own offices, ‘Let’s Talk and Achieve Universal Suffrage!!!’ is alive and well, carrying on as if nothing had happened.
If pro-democrats participate in this process, which has been blatantly rigged so far, they risk giving it credibility. By boycotting, they could de-legitimize it. This could force Beijing to yield to their demands for real universal suffrage. This would be delivered by a squadron of flying pigs. To re-phrase, a boycott could force Beijing to do something, though no-one has a clear idea of what it might be.
If the government and pro-Beijing camp are running scared at the prospect of a pro-dem boycott, they are not showing it. Indeed, they quite possibly welcome the idea. They could manage the consultation process as they please, orchestrating a ‘debate’ between mildly establishment and rabidly Leftist factions in such a way as to make the pre-determined outcome look a teeny bit tantalizingly better-than-expected, making the Silent Majority of citizens jump up and down with joy, albeit noiselessly. The pro-democrats would be lost and forgotten out on the margins, carping on about the same old thing and doing their Mega-Sulk act.
That would seem to be the game plan. Devious and clever government operators could bring such a vision into reality. The process would have to look credible and genuine rather than stage-managed. It would have to find a way of absorbing some apparently real scrappiness and dissent. It would have to attract interest and provoke involvement from the real community, not just United Front groups. It would require a degree of subtlety for which Beijing officials in particular are not renowned, and which is not exactly characteristic of our Hong Kong leaders. In short, more flying pigs needed.
Far more likely: childishly falsified public consultations, Jackie Chan TV ads, grinning cartoon figures, fake pro-package marches and menacing Communist growls from obscure Mainland academics. Pro-democrats and students proved right, but unable to do anything about it. More mess, as ever.
The lose-lose situation is indeed likely to continue in the short term. And genuine universal suffrage is as far away as ever.
But… remember the forces of darkness were forced to retreat with the ousting of Tung and again with the cancellation/delay of National Brainwashing. Even Tienanmen may have been a Pyrrhic victory.
It may be just as probable that minor/middling concessions will be offered, placing the forces of liht in a dilemma (“a difficult position” in localese). For example, the number of candidates could be allowed to increase from “two to three” to threer; the Selection Committee might expand by a few score members; or the number of functional constituencies could be subliminally reduced.
All this, of course, would have to happen on a typhoon-no 9 Friday evening; and the usual suspects would have to be wheeled out to deny that anything whatsoever had changed.
Fighting the pigs head-to-head is not a job for dainty students. You need hard men, like construction workers. I saw a good number of them last nite in Tamar, at the front line: mentally and physically tough guys who eat police faggots for breakfast. I guess they were Lee Cheuk-yan‘s boys. There should have been a whole lot more.
The time has come to emphasize the Liquid Occupation-model, like they use in Mongkok. Flash crowds can assemble and disassemble at a moment’s notice, they can assemble at various locations at the same time and they are not sitting ducks for police brutality. There was some really sadistic police action going on last nite. It made you shiver.
The BBC World Service last night said that a group of UK MP’s wishing to visit and ‘assess’ the situation in HK had been denied visas. This was later changed to ‘denied entry’.
Why would the SAR authorities do this, as they have control of our borders? Or is it a ‘public order’ matter (hardly), therefore Beijing? And haven’t the Brits some agreed ‘interest’ in HK for 50 years?
Joint Declaration between two heads of state in those halcyon early 1990s days is being torn up. Look forward to firm comment in the SCMP.
A historical note. I learnt about the Amethyst incident from a good reference book, The Penguin Dictionary of Twentieth-Century History by Alan Palmer. After describing what happened, he adds an interesting comment about the country that had recently won the War: “The courageous escape of the frigate came as a welcome fillip to falling national pride.”
Flash crowds are a very effective way forward. I’ve always liked the idea of slowly crossing QRC/Pedder St junction only to slowly re-cross until the troops arrive then continuing on your way. How to set a date / time though…
@mjrelje: it’s already working in Mongkok, so it can be done in any central spot in town. The use of social media is a key component.
On the subject of the democratic consultation…
One option for the pan-dems is ditch the consultation (it’s a complete waste of time either way, so hardly a loss) and focus on a mass destruction of ballot papers. Encourage pro-dem voters to write “No Confidence” on their voting slip or “Fuck CY”, personal taste. The Registrar is obliged to record these slips as “spoiled”, giving in a roundabout way a vote for “Nobody Beijing appoints”
The downside is you still have a shoe-shiner getting elected, but if there’s enough spoiled papers, it’s a real embarrassment for the winner.
This approach would also unify the pan-dem vote, or rather hide the divisions.
Before Occupy the dems could probably be sure of 30 or even 40% of voters. If the shoe-shiner vote was split they might even get the most “votes”
Since the commenters on this blog are probably some of the 11 people in Hong Kong who pay tax, why don’t you pay it all in $1 coins? Arrange to turn up at the IRD on the same day.
pie-chucker, The decision to deny entry was reported (somewhere) as being simply Peking’s (and, strangely, the visit was merely to report on the work of the UK consulate).
But in any case it’s surely good news, as it confirms to the wider world what Hemlockians have known for decades, namely that the forces of darkness (a) tear up binding international treaties (b) are running scared of what is happening in HK and (c) are paranoid.
@scottydotty, unlike to happen…the 1200 voters are majority controlled by Beijing or United Front….
at this point, the Occupy Central best shot is to go after the 2016 elections and grab all 30 seats plus the 5 super seat they can by voting away from the likes of DAB or United Front parties…pulled something similar to what Taiwan did on Sunday…
I should have been clearer. My point referred to how the pan dems could handle the universal suffrage election for next CE
At that election, given everyone is allowed to vote, the pan dems could use spoiled ballot papers to veto (in effect) any Beijing appointed candidate
I don’t think that Beijing is running scared. I think they just don’t give a crap. If their reform passes, great. If it doesn’t pass, so what? They’ll just continue appointing the CE through their 1,200 sock puppets. If the protesters give up and go home, great.
If the protesters start an honest-to-god riot with burning and looting and maiming, they can escalate the use of force and claim to be justified. They may not even be that worried about scaring away international investors – they’ll be back in a year or so, because money talks, and multinational corporations have shown themselves willing to do business in countries with far worse institutions than what Hong Kong’s might end up with after a crackdown.
I doubt they’re bothered about Hong Kong’s governance problems as long as the money gets laundered. They tolerate AIDS villages and are fine with intimidating earthquake victims into shutting up on their soil.
Mass boycotts are another useful and effective way of social activism. And they don’t put activists in harm’s way.
In good co-ordination, boycotts of persons, shops, businesses, products etc. can put the finger on pressure points, as and where needed.
Joshua and some girls are going on hunger strike.
Bad move. No effect. Waste of no-energy (although the girls could lose a few pounds).
Bobby Sands tried it and was hugely unsuccessful.
Avoiding Lan Kwai Fong is already a given for the vast majority of the population. Most locals have no interest in it. You could avoid Park&Shop and Wellcome, with greater or lesser difficulty depending on where you live. But how would people boycott transport companies when 88% of journeys are by public transport? How would you boycott CLP and Hong Kong Electric? Should everyone also cancel their internet subscription?
@Cass: No, you cannot boycott all those companies. But you can target carefully chosen entities. You need the MTR and the supermarket, you don’t need LKF. So that’s an easy target. If you join a gym, avoid PURE (Semen affiliated). If you go for afternoon tea (yeah right) avoid Sevva and stick it to Bonnea Gokson.
There are many worthy causes. Think of some and let us know.
money is not end all be all…people worldwide do have a conscience…the risks with investing in China is greater everyday..there will be a day when China require foreign investment and no one shows up because of their actions.
you can avoid P&S, Wellcome, watsons, Fortress, and avoid stepping foot in the HK mall and purchase most of your daily needs (foods, toileties, clothes) easily at wet markets, this includes eating out.
Transports, electricity and internet subscriptions are technically called utilities and margins are low compared to rents and sales of real estate.
Cassowary, It’s not the infinitesimal details of the CE selection process that worry the Chinese government, but the loss of control in HK.
Their chosen instruments of power, the three lackey CEs, have all failed miserably. The hearts and minds of the people are more and more anti-mainland and -mainlanders. And using brute force has been increasingly counterproductive.
They have no experience of dealing with a situation where they don’t control people’s very thoughts and where repression and violence just inflame matters. (If you ignore the wars with the neighbouring countries, the last time they were challenged was in 1989.) Hence the virulent xenophobia and frantic searching for wraith-like evil forces in our midst. They simply don’t know what else to try.
Their overriding fear is that the “turmoil” (which, ironically, is at the root of their existence) might spread to other parts of China.
If, as you provocatively claim, they couldn’t care less about what happens here, then (a) why did they spend decades clamouring to take over HK (b) why did they obsessively follow events in the Soviet Union and (c) why don’t they just give HK some degree of autonomy and (temporarily) wash their hands of all the local troublemakers?
What I meant was, they’re probably comfortable with an uglier form of control in Hong Kong than any of us want. Having an incredibly unpopular CE who passes no useful policy and occasionally orders kids to be bashed over the head and/or thrown in jail for the next 20 years might be just fine by them as long as the democrats and their ilk are kept out of positions of power and the money keeps flowing.
I think the 2008 Financial Crisis showed that corporations do not have consciences. The individuals running them might (although levels of sociopathy are reportedly higher among CEOs), but the corporations as an entity, no.
Singapore shows that the state can muzzle dissenters without scaring off foreign investors. Insofar as corporations are concerned about the rule of law, they’re primarily worried about how well contracts are enforced. Whether the locals are getting sued into bankruptcy for saying cheeky things does not concern them all that much.
Even the occasional riot may not scare them off. How many Japanese corporations fled Shanghai and Beijing after the state-sponsored anti-Japanese riots of 2005?