The dems’ big opportunity


The glimmers of some sort of denouement are starting to appear in the Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Hong Kong Publishers. Reading – indeed rummaging vigorously – between the lines, we can tentatively venture to suggest:

  • The five were indeed abducted by/for Chinese authorities. The evidence is ‘circumstantial’ as in ‘overwhelming’. See the defensive, petulant whining of such organs as Global Times, insisting that abductions did not happen but were in any case justifiable. The Chinese state is not the only gang of thugs around, but who else would have both motive and means – to grab these five people?
  • The instigators probably did not commit criminal acts out of overzealousness or misguided loyalty, but were following orders. Otherwise a senior Chinese official with a bit of sense would have called a halt when the first disappearances became known back in October.
  • The abductions are part of a clampdown by China’s oh-so-tough top leadership on that great threat to national security, Hong Kong’s gossipy-books industry. Other publishers and stores are expressing fears, and Page One – which targets Mainland customers at its airport branches – seems to have been pressured into taking anti-Beijing titles off its shelves.
  • With one UK citizen, one Swedish citizen and three other Hongkongers on their hands, and overseas governments and media asking awkward questions, the Chinese party-state is going into face-saving, damage-limitation mode – with predictable subtlety. Lee Bo’s wife seems to have been persuaded to retract her police report. And Beijing’s officials have used slimebag-lawmaker Ng Leung-sing to float the depressingly unoriginal, not to say astoundingly lame, caught-with-prostitutes smear against the five missing men.


It will be interesting to see how the China gets itself out of this. Getting one guy to sign a ‘confession’ and refuse to talk after his release would be reasonably simple. Orchestrating five victims’ reappearances in such a way will be far more difficult and less plausible (though Communist Party propaganda often seems to begin and end with self-delusion).

As the Economist says, the Hong Kong (and national) government should be worrying that this outrage will play into Hong Kong pro-democrats’ hands. The pro-dems are saying they are scared of being next and warning that Hong Kong’s autonomy really is now in shreds. They should ditch the self-pity stuff. Rather, they should see this as an opportunity from heaven to shape public opinion in Hong Kong, be proactive and go mercilessly on the offensive with maximum abuse, name-naming, shaming and straightforward accusation along the lines of ‘Communist Party kidnaps Hongkongers’. They can turn this into a major, trust-destroying, reputational screw-up for Beijing.


And just in time for Taiwan’s elections as well…

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22 Responses to The dems’ big opportunity

  1. Cassowary says:

    Plausibility is the least important element of any CCP explanation. Does anyone really believe Tung Chee Hwa stepped down due to a bad leg? That concerned shopkeepers in Mong Kok showed up en masse to attack protesters? That Johannes Chan is unqualified to be a dean? That they randomly found some old maps that show they own all of the South China Sea? Hah. No. The important thing is that the story smears the opponent and is repeated ad-nauseum by all parts of the United Front and anyone who needs to do business with them.

    If the men are released at all, they will be “found” in a “random” brothel raid with incriminating photographs of scantily clad women. They will be sentenced to up to 2 years of administrative detention without trial. The fact that the men appear 15 pounds thinner with suspicious bruises will go unremarked upon by all who matter.

  2. Sir Crispin Bentley-Smythe IV says:

    (though Communist Party propaganda often seems to begin and end with self-delusion).

    “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary.” Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

  3. FB3 says:

    The Dems will probably blow this as per usual.

    There must be hundred of thousands of residents in Hong Kong with overseas passports. If under CYs administration, these passports mean nothing in HK & China is free to abduct whoever they want in HK, we might as well pull the flush on Hong Kong now.

    CY & his masters are doing an incredible job of turning the local population against the Mainland. It’s sad to watch.

  4. Gooddog says:

    Oh for a decent pan-dems political leader….this is ripe…

  5. PD says:

    The Chinese authorities still have at least two options: secret administrative detention for up to two years; and/or do away with the men and hide the evidence. This sort of thing happens to Chinese citizens every day.

    They’d be advised not to kidnap any more people for the moment, but then again a similar argument applied in November(?) after the first operation(s).

    They may in fact be testing foreign reactions, often rather fickle, simply waving a stick to show who’s boss, or distracting attention from their latest land grab.

  6. A Legco panel, Occupy and all other democratic forces should hold a public enquiry to summon the Police, the Security Branch, the Immigration authorities and of course the Justice Secretary and the Executive to account for their participation in the kidnappings. It is inconceivable that they did not take part in the crimes. Then we can reflect on the political issues. Prosecute, don’t perspire. And keep you eye on the ball.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    And all those Canadian and Aussie passporters in HK think their asses are covered.

  8. Nimby says:

    Ip lip strikes again: “New People’s Party chairwoman and former security secretary, Regina Ip, says it’s not an offence for Hong Kong permanent residents to enter and leave Hong Kong without going through the proper channels. …. Look at many fishermen and rich people, who sail away during weekends without going through [our] customs [checkpoints]. We don’t charge any of them.” Particularly if they are kidnappers.

    This bit of stupidity from a former immigration dept head, it’s not hard to figure out what she didn’t do while collecting her sinesure.

  9. Red Dragon says:

    I note that, notwithstanding the relevance of the views “they” express, several of the contributors in here have clickable names which lead one to the ntscmp website; “Enid Fenby”, “Jonathan Fenby” and “Knacker Sin Sang” spring immediately to mind.

    I note, too, that the ntscmp website identifies one “Dr” George Adams as its founding editor. Can this be the same “Dr” George Adams who is the ntscmp’s sole proprietor, sole contributor, and sole reader?

    I think we should be told.

  10. dimuendo says:

    I await US condemnation of the mainland’s policy of rendition.

  11. Peter Call says:

    Wow that Global Times article’s comment section is a wumao snake pit. The SCMP comments look tame in comparison.

  12. RSG says:

    The PRC has always considered overseas Chinese to be fair game. There have been scores of ethnic Chinese Americans/Aussies/Canadians/Brits/etc. detained or arrested in China on dubious “espionage” charges (or no charges at all), even if those individuals have no Chinese citizenship. The same “crimes” committed by non-Chinese foreigners generally lead to deportation or disallowed re-entry, but not so for ethnic Chinese foreigners.

    At the same time, Chinese state security has been operating covertly in North America and Australia (and presumably elsewhere) to “repatriate” Chinese fugitives. China was publicly chastised by the Obama administration for this.

    It’s no surprise that “rendition” is starting to happen in Hong Kong. It’s a surprise how long it has taken to happen in a public fashion. Unfortunate? Yes. Scary? Absolutely. Inevitable? Yes, it is. I do not consider Hong Kong to have freedom of speech when it comes to known “sensitive” issues. The leash is longer here, but there is still a leash, and it is tightening every year.

    The Party operates through selective enforcement and ambiguity and the desired outcome is a chilling effect. Has Hong Kong not already seen such a chill for years? The Party knows that Hong Kongers will ultimately shut up and take it (just fine by the CCP) or emigrate (also fine by the CCP), just as the Mainland population has done for years.

  13. Gloom says:

    Nothing China does surprises me. This is a regime that has the blood of 20 million+ people on its hands and is responsible for extinguishing its own culture. With the exception of North Korea I believe all other murderous dictatorships have fallen or been eaten by time. Have I missed a Liberia or two? Shrug. China has figured out the money printing game, leveraged it against slave labor, laundered it through US Treasuries and suddenly its a country with standing. It thumbs its nose at international laws and lectures the world incessantly on not interfering in its domestic affairs while it has made it abundantly clear it will do as it pleases in anyone else’s affairs.

    No. My disgust is reserved for Western leadership. Then again, their stance on China is the very least of concerns in the arena of the looming leadership vacuum. After waging pointless wars against tin pot banana regimes across the Mideast and Africa ostensibly to combat “terrorism,” Washington and London have squandered any moral authority they may have had. Now the blowback of these hair-brained schemes in regime-change lala land is slowly sloshing ashore across Europe they’ve decided to embark on a long slow campaign of cultural suicide in the name of nonsensical internationalism or multiculturalism or whatever crap they care to name it; all to prop up their other failing experiment, the welfare state. For 30 years Austrian economists have pointed out the welfare state was nothing but a massive Ponzi scheme redistributing wealth from Peter to Paul and they were ignored. Instead of conceding defeat, these brain-dead morons have embarked on a wholly new fraud: inject more people into the Ponzi scheme to keep it afloat. Scandinavian parliamentarians had conceded as much when they embarked on their own cultural suicide in the late 70s.

    So, here we have a rising commie superstate, it’s hand drenched in blood, its coffers overflowing from 30 years of monopoly money laundering and all the world kowtowing at its feet, at precisely that moment Western liberal democracy goes into an existential crisis.

    Any right-minded dual-citizen Hongkie with any significant dealings with our filthy others on the mainland might consider taking this new development with the seriousness it deserves. This new rule implies neither local abode nor that flimsy piece of paper claiming some other sort of citizenship can protect them from being snatched into obscurity on the whim of any business competitor or anyone for that matter who, for a few paltry yuan, can enjoy the special services of any local commie goon squad.

    The commies just moved up the clock. Here we thought we were ringing in 2016, but we were ringing in 2047 instead. Sell the business, sell the flat. The party is well and truly over.

  14. Knownot says:

    “They’d be advised not to kidnap any more people for the moment”

    General, a word:
    You may have heard
    That grabbing that Hong Kong man
    Has made the shit hit the fan.

    Mr Secretary, so what?
    Hong Kong is not
    A foreign affair.
    We’re in charge there.

    Of course, we both understand
    The requirements of the Motherland.
    But I wish this necessary act
    Had been done with more secrecy and tact.

    Mr Secretary, all the abductions
    Were carried out on your instructions.

    That may be so.

    It is so.

    General, the requirements are now revised.
    You are now formally advised
    To put the operation on hold
    Until the trail goes cold.
    There is other work for the Special Corps.
    You may abduct freely within China, as before.

  15. Probably says:

    If the pan dems had their wits about them they can press the government for whether or not HKID was used to exit at the HK border checkpoint for the 4 abducted from here. If, as we all suspect they weren’t then we know what has happened. I mean a HK government department (Immigration) wouldn’t lie to elected members now would it? Oh…..I’ll get my coat….

  16. C.Law says:

    “Knacker Sin Sang”, why do you find it inconceivable that the HK authorities were involved in the kidnapping in HK? It is more likely that the PRC agents acted without any reference to the HK Govt entities at all. It seems unlikely that the PSB have any respect for the HK agencies or that they would consider it necessary to involve, or even inform, them. It is more likely that they would just ignore them, unless they happened to be caught doing the dirty deed.

    Gloom, your disgust is well directed.

  17. Monkey the Unborn says:

    Golden comments today, @RSG, @Sir Crispin, and @Knownot – my favourite of your collected works so far.

    Brain drain version 2.0 starting in 10 … 9 … 8 … ??? Or is this the moment that shall be remembered as the beginning of the Great Chinese Proletarian Evolution???

    Nothing pleases me more than witnessing those who seek power for the sake of power hoisting themselves up by their own petard.

    Do you disappear the abductees “permanently”? And create the kind of anti-regime issue that can unite ethnic Chinese everywhere, for decades, a la Nelson Mandela or the spate of political assassinations in Latin America in the 80s (which by and large “lost” the US its LatAm backyard)?

    Return them with a half-baked cover story (a la the human nematode, Mr. Ng) so obviously false that ALL pro-regime forces in Hong Kong, and the regime itself, takes an even greater international credibility hit (beyond the major self-inflicted damage already underway). Power and authority in China, historically, can survive almost anything; it cannot however survive the ridicule of Mr. Joe Chan on the street.

    Do you say “fuggit” and decide to use this event to start openly eradicating vestiges of judicial, political and security separation between the CCP and Hong Kong (and acclimatising Hong Kong locals to the idea that they are now, truly, part and parcel of the mainland’s political system)? And create a situation where you would have 1 to 2 million savvy, cosmopolitan, youthful, and relatively fearless agitators for The End of the Communist Party As We Know It, directly participating in the regime’s political system? LOL.

    Discontent is rampant among the “masses” in China, but the CCP has by and large succeeded in: a) deflecting criticism from the system as a whole to “bad apples” at the local government level; b) creating the perception that the CCP is the “only game in town” and that all alternatives would be notably worse.

    An injection of Hong Kong-stylee non-violent, irreverent, decentralised youthful revolt into the political system, may be the straw that breaks the back of the CCP’s domestic narrative. Consider the perspective of a Chinese farmer, or a factory worker or office worker on the East Coast, towards these young, self-confident, Hong Kongers: “I am a Chinese citizen, and I believe all Chinese people deserve universal human rights; I explicitly reject the politics of fear and violence practiced by the CCP; I truly believe we hold the power to create a fairer, more equitable society in China, by using massive, self-organising non-violent dissent and protest to effect transformation of the political system. If it worked for MLK, Gandhi, the anti-Vietnam War movement, why not us? Why not here? Why not now?” All it would take would be substantial copycat youth movements taking off in 4 or 5 major cities before the CCP would be faced with the Tiananmen 2.0. Bigger, more bad-ass, and every protester with smart phone in hand …

    And thus we arrive at the ultimate contradiction, the inherent conflict in the regime. General Wang: “So? we just kill, disappear, or imprison all the fuckers, it worked in Tiananmen, it worked with the Falun Gong, it works in Tibet and Xinjiang, why would it be different this time?”. Overseas educated non-military princeling: “if you kill Chinese people en-masse again General, we won’t be able to contain the disastrous PR explosion in todays interconnected world – even with all of our cyber propaganda forces working overtime. It would probably mean the end of our rule – forever – the rapid disassembly of our means of economic control and capture, and with possible lamp-posting for us and our families thrown in”.

    So, who is going to win this argument? Do we get a Chinese Gorbachev to lead us to a better future, or 10 years of darker darkness under a Chinese Pinochet? Either way, sounds like a good time to buy that piece of farmland I’ve been thinking about in New Zealand (or Argentina or Chile) …

  18. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    I can confirm that TUNG Chi-hwa’s leg is perfectly fine. I saw it striding along Bowen Road last week accompanied by it’s partner and the rest of Mr. TUNG. He gave me a cheerful ‘Good Morning.’

  19. PCC says:

    It’s hare-brained, not hair-brained.

  20. Cassowary says:

    1. We don’t need a Chinese Gorbachev; we skipped that step and went straight to Chinese Putin. Xi Jinping’s concentration of power, purging of rivals, clamping down on independent thought, cult of personality, nationalistic swagger, needless provocation of neighbouring countries – he’s Putin. Gods help us.

  21. Chinese Netizen says:

    @Monkey The Unborn: never happen…despite a possible glimmer of youth disaffection, try getting them away from staring into mobile phones and their ADD like cause-of-the-moment mentality that’s pervasive in this modern world (righteous indignation, then fast forget).

  22. Frequent Visitor says:

    @Monkey the Unborn: “If it worked for MLK, Gandhi, the anti-Vietnam War movement, why not us? Why not here? Why not now?”

    Those movements only succeeded because the governments they were protesting had shame — sometimes not enough, and sometimes they found it late — but they had it. They were up to some bad stuff, but ultimately they could be forced to reconsider their positions and walk back from their positions (some more grudgingly than others) because they had shame. There were levels of repression they just weren’t willing to employ, or there were hypocrisies they just were no longer willing to live with. I just don’t see that in the CCP. With the CCP, either the Party is Right, or the party is wrong but we all must agree that it is Right for the sake of consistency. You can find tons of non-violent demonstrators and leaders who ended up dead and unsuccessful because they tried Gandhi’s methods on guys like Assad the younger, Assad the elder, Mugabe, etc. etc. I wish I had something more uplifting to say.

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