Hong Kong feels the chill

I work hard to avoid being caught up in the Hong Kong population’s occasional herd-like behaviour. I know better than to visit Lamma on a public holiday, go to the waterfront to watch fireworks, fly out of town at Christmas, or try to get a MacDonald’s hamburger when a Free Hello Kitty Doll Promotion is in full swing. But yesterday was the coldest day in the city in living memory, and I did find myself swept along with the madness of crowds.

I was not among the curious but stupid who needed rescuing after going up mountains to SCMP-HK-Shiversexperience the sub-zero conditions. One of my earliest childhood memories is using my little fingernails to scrape ice off the inside of my bedroom window on frozen mornings, so I can live without frost. But I did succumb to the need for hotpot. After surviving a five-minute walk to the supermarket, I was Not Impressed to find other people with the same idea all clustering around the meatball/tofu/fishcake section, apparently unable to make their minds up. After elbowing them aside, I found myself agonizing for ages over the surprising range on offer before finally choosing a suitable selection, and also getting mushrooms, greens and sliced pork.

This all ended up in a Korean/Japanese dashi and miso soup, with garlic, green onion, sesame and radish, plus a soy/fish-sauce/chili dip. On this occasion, the mindless masses are right – this is the reason Hong Kong apartments do not have heating…


The tale of the five abducted Hong Kong booksellers continues to unfold in its depressingly predictable way. Lee Po’s wife is allowed to visit him and returns with a clearly dictated letter asking Hong Kong police to cease wasting resources on investigating his plight.

Hong Kong government and police enquiries have prompted a vague official acknowledgment from Guangdong authorities that they know the whereabouts of Lee, who was taken illegally out of Hong Kong. Gui Minhai, who was taken illegally from Thailand, has been forced to make a lame-sounding ‘confession’ on CCTV. There is no word of the three who vanished while visiting the Mainland.

Presumably, the Hong Kong government is in contact with Beijing on all this, but it has SCMP-MissingBooksellernothing to tell the public and is looking helpless and almost irrelevant. The latest letter from Lee won’t help. Ghost-written by Chinese officials, it requests that our police refrain from investigating such apparent crimes on this side of the border as a kidnapping and illegal exit. The cops can’t be seen to acquiesce without making a travesty of rule of law. But by officially continuing an investigation (however perfunctory) they in practice defy Mainland authorities.

Rumours and theories of what is happening abound. One idea is that forbidden books are being used by Beijing factions trying to undermine the Xi Jinping regime. This seems plausible enough. Another is that the seemingly chaotic and desperate devices like phony letters and TV confessions are in fact sophisticated psychological weapons employed by Beijing to confuse and numb the outside world into accepting or ignoring what is really happening. (By ‘what is happening’ we perhaps mean the planned ‘extermination’ of dissident materials overseas reported in the London Sunday Times.) This may be reading too much into the Communist Party’s coolness and self-control – interpreting new extremes of ruthlessness as calculated and smart.

In the context of suppression of labour movements, clampdowns on NGOs, spying on lecturers, joke economic data, and all the other panicky freaking-out in Beijing, we are witnessing a regime that sincerely believes it is under serious threat. And the poor little Hong Kong government is hooked up to it, wondering what happens next.

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9 Responses to Hong Kong feels the chill

  1. Old Git says:

    It’s just like a Hartlepool day. Kept the crowds away from Stanley. Sorted.

    You must stop eating all this foreign muck. Look around you and see what it has produced.

  2. Cassowary says:

    From Iran to Russia, we have a long long list of authoritarian regimes acting batshit crazy. They do it because it works – nobody wants to poke the honey badger. If they ever do something so egregious that the rest of the world shuns them, they hunker down and get smaller, nastier and more paranoid. Then it’s anyone’s guess how long they’ll last. Decades possibly. See: Cuba.

    China does not have the option to go into bunker mode because of how much trade it does, but on the other hand the rest of the world cannot afford to cut them off, not to mention there are plenty of corporate interests leaning on the politicians to make nice with China. What Beijing’s doing now is brinkmanship. They might be panicking internally, but they also wouldn’t do it if they thought they couldn’t get away with it.

  3. LRE says:

    This would be a splendid time for the pandems to call for the extradition of Lee Bo to face justice here for having left Hong Kong illegally (having used either false or no travel document). The SAR government has confirmed there is no record of him having left, and the PSB has confirmed he is merely helping with an inquiry, so there’s no reason not to extradite him.

    Of course 689 won’t back this claim or do anything, but it will show the SAR government as being actively complicit in the kidnap and further embarrass the CCP, so what’s not to like?

  4. PD says:

    One NGO advised old people to open all the windows! I can’t bring myself to comment politely on such a suggestion.

    And the Pro Integration MP managed to write a fairly lengthy article on small ice pieces falling from the sky that were not sleet without once finding the right word.

    Cassowary comes closest to reality. After all the impotent huffing and puffing, China has once again got exactly what it wants, and thus won hands down. What amazes me is that people fall for it each time.

  5. @PD – it’s probably the government’s latest cunning plan to avoid paying out decent pensions (despite their being in blatant breach of the Basic Law by amassing squillions in tax revenues instead of running a balanced budget).

    Nice to see Dr. A using his real name for a change!

  6. Chinese Netizen says:

    One Belt One Road!!

  7. Scotty Dotty says:

    Good post by Cassowary.

    It’s pretty surreal stuff coming from China these days.

  8. Qian Jin says:

    @LRE “and further embarrass the CCP”

    I doubt it. They have nothing to be embarrassed about so long as Hong Kong declines to adhere to Article 23 of the Basic Law and pass national security legislation.

    To get over this omission I suggest Hong Kong should just borrow from the US statutes:-

    ” Code § 2381 – Treason
    Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and SHALL SUFFER DEATH, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
    § 2383.
    Rebellion or insurrection
    Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; ………
    Code § 2385 Advocating overthrow of Government.
    Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or
    Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, PRINTS, PUBLISHES , edits, issues, CIRCULATES, SELLSs, distributes, or publicly DISPLAYS any written or PRINTED MATTER advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; ……..
    …… Shall be FINED under this title or imprisoned not more than TWENTY YEARS, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction……..”

    And if there is any problem about “getting them out” of HK. The CIA has a few spare planes right now. (They have stopped over at CLK a few times post 9/11 on their way to Guantanamo Bay )


    As ‘Old Git’ opines : “Sorted”

  9. @Qian Jin – the key words here are “by force or violence”. Plenty of people are in prison in the mainland for peaceful opposition to the government, which is lawful in free countries (and, so far, in Hong Kong).

    For many Hongkongers, the “owing allegiance” bit is also a problem. It is questionable how far one owes allegiance to a country one had no choice in becoming part of – particularly if, like many here, one is a citizen of another country.

    As for Article 23, it would have been passed years ago if the government hadn’t gone so far over the top with it. Just a one-paragraph bill making it illegal to use Hong Kong as a base for fomenting armed revolution against China would suffice, and few would object.

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