…while Xi Jinping sorts out some minor contradictions exacerbated by threats from hostile foreign forces.
The world remains bemused by Beijing’s measures to postpone a post-bubble crash in stock valuations by suspending trading and setting regulators and cops on sellers. The idea is to rescue the market by abolishing it – and presumably pray that something else comes along soon to keep the index looking superficially stable. One explanation for this is an almost-infantile refusal to come to terms with reality and stubborn insistence that fiction is truth. Another is blind panic reflecting one-party paranoia and insecurity. But a third is well-founded panic: China’s leaders know something we don’t about how bad their economy is.
An optimist would hope that maybe it’s just a wishy-washy averaged-out combination of all three.
As if a stock-market freak-out isn’t enough, Beijing also launches an extensive roundup of lawyers and activists. China’s authorities have long harassed people who help citizens defend their rights against official abuses, but this seems to be on a new level – the clampdown being nationwide and the targets being accused of running a ‘criminal syndicate’. It looks like their high-profile tactics to expose injustice have been too successful. Again, one explanation is that this is just a childish, tantrum-prone Communist Party’s insistence on sweeping dirt under the carpet and pretending it’s not there. Or maybe, in time-honored totalitarian fashion, they are over-sensitive and petrified of every little thing that moves. And the third explanation is that, unknown to the rest of us, they have genuinely good reason this time to be fearful.
With Beijing’s powerful, confident, globe-strutting façade slipping, Hong Kong’s official integration-is-wonderful mantra can only look more questionable.
Scary warnings that our financial sector is pitiful and bound to be crushed by Shanghai suddenly look more laughable than ever. (In a sign of disharmony among the local establishment, today’s Standard delights in skewering Stock Exchange boss Charles Li for past through-train blather.)
And, just as suspicions grow that the emperor is wearing no clothes, Chief Executive CY Leung feels a need to kowtow to him, and seek approval for new policies. The policies concern longstanding ‘economic and livelihood’ problems that have suddenly become very very important after the recent political reform package flopped. Some could need cross-border cooperation and thus Beijing’s blessing; this raises the possibility of action against the unmanageable flood of Mainland visitors, but don’t hold your breath. (Deep thanks, however, to Korean officials for the recent decision to advise their selfie-stick hordes not to burden Hong Kong with their presence. It’s good to know someone’s on our side.)
Among all this excitement, the Hong Kong Journalists Association releases its annual report on press freedom in the city. For years, campaigners have tended to protest over-loudly at every perceived instance of self-censorship and other threats, while the free flow of information continued largely unhindered. But the Occupy-Umbrella movement and other recent events indicate that they are not exaggerating this time, and things are going beyond clumsy interference by crotchety old pro-Beijing media owners.
The report covers not only lame government manipulation of the news, but physical assaults on reporters by police and thugs on a scale unprecedented in Hong Kong, and looking systematic (like so much weirdness, from paid counter-protestors to contrived political statements from business groups, that happens to have the fingerprints of Beijing’s Liaison Office all over it). The report is 28 pages, and here’s a partial look at the contents…
The Standard gives it a couple of columns. The South China Morning Post passes the HKJA’s self-censorship test in style by presenting one oblique paragraph that omits any mention of the report…
The Pro China Morning Post is a disgrace. I call on all self-respecting journos and columnists to stop working with this hideous rag: van der Kamp, Vines, Mickey Rowse etc. There are other and better news outlets you can write for.
Do you never get tired of hating…?! The eyes glaze over… Surely there must be some “Thou Shalt Not…” about hatred…
Wonderful survey both of methods used in China to deal with bad news and of social changes in Hong Kong.
If I may (half-heartedly) attempt to present the other side, it is possible that China is different from most countries, with, in particular, a post-modern predominance of shame over guilt, collectivism over individualism, national solidarity over international reciprocity, above all appearance over reality.
A mixture of intimidation, bluff, short-term compromise, lying, cheating, open violence, bribery and empty promises may be the only effective way to govern China, nay the only way for the regime to survive.
If rural and even urban NT life today is any guide to Kowloon tomorrow and the safer areas of HK Island the day after, then bloody-mindedness, lawlessness combined with selective enforcement, intimidation and physical violence have in the last couple of years become more or less endemic.
Government employees seldom venture out on foot in packs of less than six, carefully posting lookouts and planning speedy exit strategies. The police no longer bear any resemblance to Dixon of Dock Green: they employ underhand tactics, constantly kowtow to the local power bases, and avoid areas where they would be most useful.
It wasn’t like this before.
@wb: yesterday in Causeway Bay I witnessed how some Falun Gong housewives were being aggressively intimidated by a bunch of the green-clad pro-China hags. It was really nasty, much worse than before. And of course, no cop in sight.
I really don’t see any point in banging on about the Hong Kong Police any more.
It has ceased to exist as a law-enforcement organisation, and is no longer worthy of its name.
I would urge all self-respecting serving officers, many of whom are fine citizens who joined the force for admirable reasons, to consider whether they can in good conscience remain members of such a bogus outfit. Personally, I wouldn’t be seen dead serving in such a shower.
wb is quite correct in his analysis of what now passes for policing in the New Territories. It’s not pretty, and has already begun to infiltrate the urban areas.
This, inter alia, is something about which we all need to be very concerned.
Collectivism over individualism in China? Not on your life. That is merely a trope to buttress Party control. China has got to be one of the most selfish, dog-eat-dog societies on the planet.
you are right about the ‘eat dog society’.
Totally agreed, provided we’re talking about people. But as regards institutions, not even perhaps the practice but the theory, that is the mindsets of the authorities, it’s collectivist (“sit down and work together, join hands”) to the nth degree, with little room for individual conscience.
Could be due to the CP, but could go deeper and wider (historical/sociological/cultural etc).
Re: wb: “But as regards institutions, not even perhaps the practice but the theory, that is the mindsets of the authorities, it’s collectivist (“sit down and work together, join hands”) to the nth degree,”
More like “sit down, shut up, and take one for the team, or else we’ll make you a pariah for life.”
I sometimes wonder whether we moderns have become entirely too optimistic about the concepts of legitimacy and consent in governance. Surely most governments throughout human history were bad ones. They were monarchies or fiefdoms or chiefdoms. All most rulers had to be able to do was bust more heads than anyone else, extort tribute, and claim divinity. And in spite of absolute misery for the majority of the population, many dynasties managed last generations, if not centuries.
I think China and Russia are showing that you can last if not forever, then for quite a while on hubris, bullying and propaganda. Systematically eliminate your opponents, and nobody else will be bothered to dethrone you, because well, keeping all your limbs (and your job, and your family) is nice.
CY’s public assurance a couple of days ago that the planned link between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges is still on track demonstrates clearly both his absolute obeisance to his overlords in Beijing, and his complete obliviousness to the real world.