The South China Morning Post does a full-page feature on why the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front in Hong Kong orchestrated a full-blown contrived mass-mouth-froth outrage-frenzy against academic Benny Tai. But it doesn’t really answer the question.
The article assumes that the problem lies within Hong Kong. It mentions the standard pro-Beijing line that independence talk (especially when visiting Taiwan) is unacceptable, and the reasonable opposition view that Beijing wants a reason to pass local national-security laws. The SCMP manages to find both a pro-establishment politician and a pro-democrat to suggest that Benny Tai and others like him should moderate themselves to spare Hong Kong from harsher measures (‘the victim asked for it’).
The feature ignores the wider context of Xi Jinping’s increasingly repressive rule throughout China – from re-education camps in Xinjiang, to leadership purges, to the tormenting of abducted lawyers’ families, to tightened Internet censorship, to the creeping personality cult surrounding the Emperor for Life.
So, why have the big guns all turned on Benny? China’s Leninist-minded rulers fear and cannot tolerate anything they do not control; Hong Kong’s pluralist system is therefore incompatible with the one-party state, and it must be constrained and ultimately subjugated. Benny is an easy, high-visibility target. There are many more. Barring the downfall of the CCP (a subject at the conference he attended), there is nothing much anyone can do about this.
Benny says he checks his car and phone for bugs and suspects he is being followed – and he is no doubt right. Should we all be getting more paranoid?
I have recently been inundated with hundreds of fake ‘followers’ on Twitter, many but not all with Chinese names or profiles. I am not alone: they generally follow Neil deGrasse Tyson, Denise Ho, the Pope, at least one Obama, Jerome Cohen, and (more to the point) many familiar esteemed China/HK/Taiwan journos and commentators (an example). The bots, or whatever they are, don’t seem to do any harm – but you wonder what’s going on. (Maybe they’ll be sold on to spammers?)
And then… (cue sinister violins). A few days ago I received my renewed (though I never use it) Hong Kong driver’s licence through the mail, all purely routine. When I opened the envelope from the Transport Department, there was: the new licence, a covering letter, a receipt for the fee, some blather about updating addresses – and an HSBC letter addressed to me personally at my home address offering the usual dumb special exclusive loan.
(Background for those who have led sheltered lives: putting the wrong items back into envelopes when intercepting mail is a classic dumb police-state screw-up.)
After freaking mildly, I assured myself the bank promo must have been on the table already, folded, and I picked it up with the envelope so it just appeared to come out with the licence. Even though I don’t remember having seen it before…
(Reading too much of this, maybe.)
I declare the weekend open with some slightly-cosmic extra detail: my driving instructor many, many years ago was a wizened KMT Army veteran who prophesied constantly that the Communists would doom Hong Kong to totalitarian tyranny.