As the New Year begins, so it will unfold. That is why everyone is scurrying to pay off debts, clean the home (ahem) and tie up loose ends in time for Monday, the first day of Monkey Year. It is also a time when people should be with their family, or – if they are absolutely unable to travel – at least get in touch. And so the Chinese authorities choose this moment to notify Hong Kong police about the ‘other three’ missing book-sellers, Lui Por, Cheung Chi Ping and Lam Wing Kee.
The Hong Kong government issues a brief release describing the contents of the long overdue notification. It does so without comment or embellishment, leaving us with this stark and clumsy statement that the three are – as everyone assumed – under investigation for some unspecified crime. The supposed crime is related to Gui Minhai, who after vanishing from Thailand was forced to make a confession on Mainland TV. The Chinese authorities thoughtfully enclose a separate note from Lee Po, in which he says he does not wish to meet Hong Kong police right now.
We can speculate that the five, incommunicado (and some not even aware that all the others are being held), are undergoing the Prisoner’s Dilemma treatment and being invited to incriminate one another, leading to some or all being framed on state secrets charges. The Hong Kong government is visibly helpless, as are Beijing’s local sympathizers. The city’s people and the international community see the Communist Party’s brutishness and thuggery for what it is. In short – nothing has changed.
On a lighter note, it can be tempting to make a public prediction that something you would like to see will not happen (or vice-versa). It is a win-win: if you are right, you appear smart at forecasting; if you’re wrong, you got the pleasing outcome. With this in mind, I confidently prophesize that if Hong Kong and Macau agree on an extradition system, for reasons of non-retroactivity or whatever, property tycoon Joseph Lau will not be sent over to Sleazeville’s rat-infested dungeons in leg-irons to face his bribery conviction. Nope.
I declare the glorious five-day weekend open with a little something purloined from the Foreign Correspondents Club magazine, as a public service for anyone who would otherwise have missed them – recent Harry cartoons that didn’t make it into the South China Morning Post…