So what makes a Hongkonger a pro-Beijinger?

Why would a reasonable and intelligent person declare loyalty to an organization that, among other things, requires its followers to give up their own freedom of expression and recite the Party line, however irrational or extreme it might be?

It’s hard to resist the parallels with religious conversion. With that in mind, we’ll disregard people who were born and raised into devout CCP-worshiping surroundings – a separate ‘Red’ Mao-era sub-culture.

At the ‘soft’ end of the scale of converts you have ‘instant-noodle’ patriots like the tycoons, who were co-opted into supporting Beijing back in the 1980s and 90s. Like generations of Overseas Chinese, they must preserve their family fortunes by automatically and compulsively shoe-shining whoever holds political power in that place at that time. Examples: Li Ka-shing et al. Also the Heung Yee Kuk rural mafia, which perhaps overlaps with the next bunch…

Lesser businessmen and professionals have also been lured into the Beijing camp by the prospect of opportunities or advantages. Over time, the United Front has replaced lures with implicit pressure – hence self-censorship and other pre-emptive kowtowing in media, entertainment, academia and elsewhere. Examples are chambers of commerce, university administrators, actor Jackie Chan, former pan-dem lawyer Ronny Tong.

All the above groups have one thing in common: like ‘Rice Christians’, they don’t really have their hearts in it. Interestingly, the CCP doesn’t much care how insincere loyalists are, provided they speak and behave correctly. This is surely a reflection of CCP elites’ own cynicism about the idealism and dogma of the faith – that’s for suckers. Which brings us further down the scale…

Next we have those who join the pro-Beijing camp for the satisfaction of being on the winning side and getting one over on people who are (probably) smarter than they are. Like the dimwits groomed to be DAB and similar ‘politicians’: Starry Lee, Holden Chow, Priscilla Leung, etc. Earlier examples could be Maria Tam and Rita Fan. This is the psychology of the pathetic loser kids who side with the schoolyard bully.

Useful idiots merge into the useful non-idiots. Some public-spirited figures feel they must make the rational hard-headed Ever-so Realistic decision to sort-of align themselves with Beijing in order to become Moderates, accepted as insiders so they can make the world a better place. Christine Loh is an example. Ronny Tong would claim to be one. Another would be Anthony Cheung, who was a founder in the 1980s of the proto-democracy group Meeting Point, then a member of the Democratic Party, then from 2012-17 the government’s top Transport and Housing official. Some labour activists – maybe the late Chan Yuen-han – also have sided with the pro-Beijing faction out of pragmatism as much as ideology.

And now we get to the interesting end of the scale. Another founder of Meeting Point was yesterday’s star guest, Lau Nai-keung. Something happened back then to convince him to embrace the CCP – and seriously, deeply mean it, even when it started looking psychotic. (In one of his classic columns, after lauding hard-working piano-playing Chinese children, he spat venomously at Western kids who merely learn guitar.)

My hunch is that this group were pushed rather than pulled. Maybe they were involved in rights protests and got beaten up by the police, or maybe they suffered from colonial-era racism, discrimination or snubs from snotty gwailos and their minions. It looks like, for whatever reason, they had major chips on their shoulders about the old establishment and its supporters. Supporting the CCP was revenge. For some, it seems the hatred never went away; perhaps the chauvinism and nationalism also satisfied an emotional need (some scientists theorize that there’s a genetic predisposition to religious-style faith). Other examples: the Tsang brothers (Yok-sing and Tak-sing), Elsie Tu (in her own way), and one-term-Chief Executive CY Leung, whose blind devotion to the CCP apparently even creeped out the CCP.

This is all pure guesswork.

I declare the weekend open with some stimulating diversions. The Guardian review of Ma Jian’s China Dream. Some interesting background on Beijing’s persecution of Uighurs. In case you never knew about it, the story of the Philippines as a refuge for Jewish refugees from Nazism. And a great documentary about young North Koreans who made it to the South (like Nothing to Envy one generation on).


This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to So what makes a Hongkonger a pro-Beijinger?

  1. Professor Docta Docta Dolla says:

    You still sound a bit bottled up.

    Let it al out.

    NB: Most people in the world wouldn’t understand a word of all this. You might be getting what we doctors call “esoteric”.

    Schoenes Wochenende!

  2. Max Noodle says:

    Guesswork it may be, but to me a succinct exceptional analysis. Bravo.

  3. Big Al says:

    You forgot to mention one other category, possibly a footnote to your list: People like me who don’t give a shit and just want to live the dream in Asia’s World City 😉

  4. Headache says:

    Great stuff today.

    Some people pick a side purely for negative reasons, not because it offers them anything but because the alternative deeply offends them. This irrational impulse usually relates to questions of identity. See eg low-income racists voting in conservative governments that made and will keep them poor, because they prefer to blame foreigners for their ills and pluralism is defended by progressives. And see Lau, who became so defined by his resentment for the under-appreciation of Chineseness that he aligned himself with the ethno-nationalist totalitarians who never would have permitted him the education and freedom of speech that allowed him to get where he did.

    That’s my 2c.

  5. HillnotPeak says:

    And don’t forget that you have to be ugly, never saw a good looking pro-Beijing person, male or female. They all weirdly shaped, women look like men (Maria Tam, Rita Fan), men look like women (mostly in Heung Yee Kuk, inbreeding perhaps), bad teeth and I suppose bad breath. Who doesn’t want to be part of such a fine circle?

  6. max noodle says:

    @Professor Docta Docta Dolla

    You are a small bitter man on a small bike with a silly small hat who is hanging on by his fingernails to a small ex-colony. There will be no new dawn for you. Think about that as you cycle around the village in ever decreasing circles. As for your contributions here, You are what we professors call “a twat”

  7. John Wright says:

    SCMP Alex Lo’s craven pro-Beijing blather is a curious example of the same phenomenon; but how to explain him?

  8. reductio says:

    @John Wright

    My guess is that it’s purely for cash. A short leader column per diem and the rest of the day free to tootle around in Canada. Nice gig.

  9. Not Shirley Yam says:

    @reductio : Does scmp pay that well ? I thought his blatter would be worth at most 20 HK cents/word

  10. Headache says:

    @ Not Shirley Yam: IIRC the SCMP’s standard freelance rate is HK$1.50 per word. I assume the “star” commentators get more.

  11. Joe Blow says:

    “Pan-democrats will now be outnumbered 18 to 16 in the geographical consistency….”

    Front page of which English newspaper in HK this Monday morning ?

Comments are closed.