Relax – this is just the beginning

When I left for a trip overseas a week ago, the news was all about the removal of the last Occupy-Umbrella movement protestors from Admiralty and Causeway Bay. To pro-democracy activists attached to sitting in tents on streets as an end in itself, it was no doubt a wrench. To the Hong Kong government, it was cause for a SCMP-AntiGraftSwooptriumphal declaration that the Great 2014 Tent Threat to Civilization has been vanquished once and for all.

A few days pass, and Occupy has passed into folklore. No fewer than four of the seven stories in the South China Morning Post’s two leading news pages concern Mainland corruption. Specifically: Hong Kong authorities raid securities firm Guotai Junan International; Chinese officials hold another China Resources executive; Beijing regulators clamp down on Macau money-laundering (after 10 years or so); and the plucky People’s Liberation Army remains resolute in its battle to clean itself up, oh yes. Around a quarter of the space is used up by advertisements for watches, of the tacky ‘luxury’ sort associated with palm-greasing north of the border.

That just about leaves room for a story about a Mainland tourist dying in a balloon accident in Turkey. A tragedy of course – but what is it doing on page 1? Genuinely puzzling. Is the loss of a Chinese national abroad supposed to rouse feelings of patriotic solidarity in readers? Or is the angle supposed to be the deaths last year of nine Hongkongers in a balloon explosion in Egypt, which is, you know, quite close to Turkey isn’t it?  Or does someone simply not have a clue, and figured that this silly-sounding US-Cuba agreement to normalize relations is best tucked away on page 12?

Then there’s a Chinese bank’s economist wondering if Russia, with its plummeting currency, might ask for a bailout from Beijing – which would be a story if it happened, but otherwise isn’t. And Hong Kong’s Constitutional Affairs Secretary Raymond Tam carefully repeats the Foreign Ministry line that the UK has no post-1997 role in the city. Which brings us back to the pro-democracy Occupy-Umbrella thing, which obviously has not gone away at all.

With Beijing apparently micro-managing everything behind the scenes, the utterances of local Hong Kong officials have become slightly other-worldly and disjointed, as if they were all on some sort of drug. Police Commissioner Andy Tsang mutters darkly about rounding up instigators, as if the Tents-on-Streets people are some sort of Al-Qaeda in our midst. His bozo of a boss, Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok, blathers about billing protestors for the damage caused to government property. And then there’s his boss, Chief Executive CY Leung, rather rashly declaring everything ‘over’. The amateur psychologist in me guesses that, as well as reading from Beijing’s script here, these people are hoping that spouting such inanities will somehow detract from the wretchedly dismal disaster that has unfolded under their watch over the last few months.

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy camp is unsure what to do next. Lightening civil-disobedience strikes in the form of ‘shopping’ trips are (potentially) witty, poking fun at crass consumerism and gently taunting a police force that has found itself having to take sides in Hong Kong’s greatest modern political split. Hanging banners from mountains also works. Paying tax bills with multiple small-sum cheques, like withholding public-housing rents, is probably less advisable. Nothing delights the government more than pro-democrats exposing themselves to charges of harming public finances (like lawmakers filibustering funding requests or triggering oh-so expensive elections by resigning mid-term). Rightly or wrongly, Hong Kong people take such accusations seriously. (And for those of us on above-median incomes, writing out tens of thousands of cheques is seriously lifestyle-incompatible.)

Better to stay within the boundaries of what public opinion will accept – not play into the hands of the United Front and be squeezed onto the margins – and be patient. Enjoy the holidays. It is likely to be less than a month before the government launches the second round of consultation on political reform. The other-worldliness can only intensify as Beijing insists on carrying on with the phony exercise as if nothing has happened since August. Don’t sweat it. It is the people whose job is to sell guided democracy with a rigged nomination system who have the tough challenge ahead.

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14 Responses to Relax – this is just the beginning

  1. PD says:

    You’ve missed out on the biggest story: the revolution in the SCUMP’s comments columns.

    From discussing the ideal colour of school uniforms to lamenting the height of bus platforms to debating what social clubs should be doing to mechanical US-bashing, the insipid (Hemlock’s word) Alex Los, (hopelessly naive) Peter Kammerers and indistinguishably flipperty, empty-headed girls on the back page have actually acknowledged that there might be minor details to be sorted out with the way HK is run.

    True, they’ve — to a man — hastily added that the only way forward is to vote good people in, while upholding the rule of law and otherwise shutting up.

    But it’s a revolution all the same.

  2. Stephen says:

    So let’s take stock. The Invisible Commissioner Andy wants to arrest everybody thus risk inflaming the situation again. CY wants to start Stage 2 in full knowledge that he doesn’t have the votes and thus reminding everyone why there were tents on the street in the first place. Meanwhile The Pan-Dems are … ???

    If this follows 2010 the cerebral geniuses at the Liaison Office, fresh from the embarrassingly underwhelming withholding of Shanghai / Hong Kong Connect, are going to have to come up with a new bribe. It will have to be good as positions are somewhat entrenched! Or is this long game time, thinking (correctly) the opposition is crap, and thus will lose their veto in 2016 and so we’ll get “guided democracy” in place for 2022.

    Could be worse, In the other SAR they are being told to diversify their economy and I’m sure Fernando would welcome any suggestions ?

  3. Maugrim says:

    The celebratory photos taken by various Police, reminiscent of some bus trip to Blackpool, were unwise and smacked of similar buffoonery after the Manila hostage incident. Such foolishness will bite them on the arse.

  4. Chinese Netizen says:

    Those three clowns are the cream of the Chinese man genetic pool? No wonder HK women are downtrodden.

  5. Qian-Jin says:

    @ “And for those of us on above-median incomes,”

    Ah, so we now know that Hemlock, hmm sorry, “Big Lychee” is earning more than $14,000 a month and is probably also not working 12-hour shifts, six days a week with less than ten days annual leave a year. We will eventually track down his real ID……………….

    Each passing year a few more clues are carelessly leaked out.

  6. old git says:

    To avoid any blame, when the Civil Service if faced with making a decision that falls outside the Manual of the day, it avoids making that decision by passing it to arbitration (for anything to do with infrastructure, such as the MTR) or to the Courts (for anything else). In other words, this executive-led government makes a decision to avoid a decision and arranges for the judiciary to make one instead.

  7. Cassowary says:

    It doesn’t matter what form the protest takes, the government can and will construe anything as “harming public finances”. Playing Pac-Man with the police all over Mong Kok and Causeway Bay – cost of police overtime, wear and tear on batons, disruption to business. Banners on mountains – defacing a country park, cost of removal. Boycott of tycoon businesses – harming the economy. They’d probably criticize a petition drive for wasting paper. It’s all part of the “Beijing will be nice to you if you sit down quietly like good children” message.

    The establishment seems to be squabbling among themselves about whose fault it was the youth got corrupted. The best idea they have for appeasing the mob is to slap on some extra housing targets in a way that benefits the property cartels the most. As Jake Van Der Kamp is so fond of pointing out, those flats have a way of coming online just as the property market is about to deflate anyway. In five years, we’ll have homeowners screaming about plummeting house prices, oh god, won’t somebody think of the house prices! We’ll be back to land auction freezes and HOS suspensions again.

    The Hong Kong government is a giant hamster wheel. They only get to choose which direction to run in while going precisely nowhere.

  8. FOARP says:

    @Qian Jin – I speak as someone whose on line identity was eventually outed by a self-described “genius” online cyber-sleuth. Guess was the negative impact on me was? Zero. Instead the guy who did it (who eventually ended up getting squeezed out of his main role in his China business for faking interviews with govnerment officials) just made a fool out of himself.

    People who blog under pseudonyms mostly do so not because they are evil agents, but because they want to avoid the mild embarassment of being known to write a blog, for free, that is read by not that many people.

  9. Scotty Dotty says:

    I agree with Hemmers, the tension in Hong Kong is going to be endless to he 2017 elections, and likely beyond that if Beijing manages to engineer another useless cretin like Tung, Tsang, and Leung

    Meanwhile, talking of relaxation… step forward Head of Police Andy Tsang, if anyone can find him?

    What an utterly useless, cowardly, blame dodging, girly, police leader the 2014 protests have shown Tsang to be. Anonymous? That guy’s so invisible it’s surreal.

  10. Cassowary says:

    I am certain that Beijing does not care about good governance in Hong Kong, and am starting to think that they may not even be that interested in stability. I think they are playing to win, and winning means defeating, marginalizing, and punishing the forces of democracy at whatever cost, short of driving away the investment banks, only because those are still needed to launder the money. If that means more intransigence in Legco, more protests, more riots, more triad mobs, more Blue Ribboners screaming rape threats, more intimidation and more naked manipulation of the legal system, that’s fine. They are probably making a calculated bet that investment banks will put up with a lot of dirty shenanigans, as long as contracts remain enforced and expats remain unmolested, because there is far too much money to be made.

  11. Chinese Netizen says:

    @FOARP: HRH Chris Devonshire-Ellis, JD MBA VC MBE OBE???

  12. PHT says:

    To be fair to Angry Andy Tsang he did show up for the free buffet at Government House when the stars were awarded 2 or 3 weeks into the occupation.

  13. FOARP says:

    @Chinese Netizen – The very same, though I’m not sure your listing of honorifics matches the latest in Debrett’s – he’s probably got a Khanate and a Maharaja-ship under his belt by now.

    He still occasionally sends me bizarre, threatening messages from Mongolia, Sri Lanka or wherever he happens to be at the time.

  14. Chinese Netizen says:

    @FOARP: You mean wherever the local prostitute pickings are best at the particular season…

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