A Hong Kong Free Press column marks the third anniversary of the occasion during Umbrella-Occupy when Chief Executive CY Leung warned that ‘foreign forces’ were behind the protests. He memorably promised to reveal the evidence ‘when appropriate’ – a phrase that set off the BS-detector alarm because, surely, there could never be any more appropriate time to expose the foreign backers than at the height of the insurrection. (I wonder if CY’s silence would count as ‘misprision of treason’, which, in the absence of Article 23 national security laws, remains a common-law offence.)
Not long after CY’s allegation, a bulky English-language dossier from ‘A Hong Kong citizen’ appeared, purporting to show that US NGOs had masterminded Occupy. I waded through it as a public service. (Thanks to my piles-of-junk-on-desk filing system, a few moments’ rummaging reveals that I still have it, yippee.) To me, it looked rather like the work of some locally based sad recluse, but an Asia Sentinel report pointed the finger at an America-phobic conspiracy-theorist online-ranting presence located in Bangkok.
The ‘US NGOs behind Occupy’ line had also appeared in opinion pieces in several local pro-Beijing media. No doubt this is what led to CY’s exciting revelation. But the idea was too clunky (and the NGO activity concerned too transparent and lame) to stick, and the idea that the US government organized Occupy fizzled out.
The whole episode is a reminder of how much the Occupy-Umbrella Movement unnerved Beijing (and showed everyone what the regime’s most sensitive freak-out buttons are).
Academic Benny Tai’s original methodical Gandhian civil-disobedience concept clearly petrified the Communist Party, which presumably had nightmare-visions of the teach-ins and John Lennon-quoting spreading over the border. That prompted the Liaison Office to go into overdrive pushing the message that the protests were wrecking rule of law and the economy. That in turn encouraged contrived or actual alarm among the local establishment. I remember one pro-government figure citing the distribution of bottled water supplies among the Occupy protest camps as evidence of extensive financial and logistical resources that could only be explained by foreign support.
So don’t expect CY to produce his evidence for a while – though it doesn’t hurt to ask him from time to time.