History not repeating itself

I’ve dug up my exhaustive account (skipping the SARS trauma) of Hong Kong’s 2003 – essentially the huge July 1 march against Article 23 and its aftermath.

Much of it reads like a description of yesterday’s epic protest: MTR station closures, the procession still going in early evening, and a turnout of young and old beyond anyone’s expectations. A magnificent display of opposition to an arrogant and heavy-handed government.

But the similarities will probably end there. In 2003, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ was largely intact. Beijing left the running of Hong Kong to the local administration. Most people believed/hoped that Beijing would, eventually, deliver on its apparent promise of representative government for the city. Things like future Legislative Council elections and pro-business politicians’ poll ratings seemed to matter. The government cowered and backed down in the face of public opinion – the National Security law was dropped.

That’s not going to happen in 2019. Beijing under Xi Jinping does not accept 1C2S as a formula that constrains the CCP’s power on this side of the border. The local government under Carrie Lam is simply an administrative layer implementing instructions from the Liaison Office. There is no pretense that Hong Kong can have democracy or real elections, or that public opinion counts for anything. The people must obey the government, not the other way around. The government will push the Mainland extradition amendments through regardless of a million people on the street.

In 2003, a huge protest march left Tung Chee-hwa facing a crisis; in 2019, it confirms to the CCP that Hong Kong must be controlled more tightly. It is ridiculous to think in terms of the huge march ‘crushing Carrie Lam’s chances of re-election’, as if the Chief Executive is relevant/an independent actor/wants her job/needs popular endorsement/faces ‘election’ of any sort. It is meaningless to ponder whether, by pushing the extradition deal through, the Hong Kong government will ‘lose some/all/any remaining legitimacy’ – proving the might of the party-state over the will of the population is the whole point.

Unlike that of 2003, yesterday’s protest cannot prevent the CCP tightening its grip on Hong Kong. Perhaps it does something more important – it gives the people of Hong Kong pride in themselves and a dignity that the odious, grubby and sad shoe-shiners can never have. Even if they take your rights and freedoms away, you can die happy that you’re not Junius Ho.

A couple of other links. A speeded-up video showing march-as-unstoppable-tide, in case you missed it (and here’s another). Pics and more pics of the march, and of the cops’ freak-out thing. And the dismantling of 1C2S made easy for folk who understand ‘infinity stones’.

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10 Responses to History not repeating itself

  1. Joe Blow says:

    How many of you think that Christine Loh marched yesterday?

  2. Xiao Yao says:

    Excellent video here: https://www.facebook.com/drshwong/videos/10156467091773473/
    …which also partly explains why the police count of protesters is next to irrelevant: it includes few or none of the people you see to the right of the trees, nor probably the people in the far left lane.

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    Crowd estimated to be close to a million. As usual, HK police estimated it at about 2 or 3 hundred.

    Any thoughts why the police are always so consistently lowball? Beijing goons actually read the PD numbers and are satisfied with their count, then go home to dinner?

  4. Cassowary says:

    When you cannot change anything, all you can do is tell the truth. Perhaps no-one will care, but at least you will not have participated in the lie that everything is fine.

  5. Judging by the police’s obvious lack of preparedness for the scale of yesterday’s turnout, they have probably started using estimates based on their own past fantasy figures. As for their current practice of giving a count for the protest “at its peak”, when is the peak of a march that saw thousands still setting out from Victoria Park while many others had already reached the end? Thanks to the total traffic gridlock that delayed many protesters, thousands were still pouring into the park two hours after the first marchers hit the road.

  6. Count Plodula says:

    @Chinese Netizen
    Non cynically, it may be because they’ll count half the road somewhere near the end, and half the participants have given up by about half way.

    But more cynically and more likely: it’s the same reason that the drugs they seize are always much more expensive than the drugs everyone else buys: it makes their bosses happier. It also explains how the one time the organisers and police counts were exactly the same was that pro-police march to release the coppers convicted of assault. And how Pro Communist rallies get higher counts (despite always looking much tinier).

    However, we have to take actions over words in these sorts of political affairs to find the truth, and the police did appear to have several hundred riot police equipped with shields, armour, tear gas, pepper spray and shotguns with bean bags and rubber bullets at the ready on a no doubt very expensive overtime shift past midnight which would definitely seem like overkill for such a paltry estimated turnout. This makes police disingenuousness on the official crowd count appear to be far more likely.

    So I think the order of inexactitude is: lies, damn lies, statistics, HKPF drug prices, HKPF crowd estimates, Trump tweets, religions, SCMP editorials, everything the DAB and FTU do or say, Carrie Lam’s manifesto, the PRC constitution.

  7. Gumshoe says:

    I wish I were still there to join. Fortunately, my wife is visiting her folks and could.

  8. Guest says:

    @Joe Blow, Christine was cleaning someone’s home.

  9. Gooddog says:

    Nice to give the dragon a bloody nose. Better to go out swinging then weasling like cowards.

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  10. Ollieread says:

    The lack of effect from the protests may achieve something more tangible than pride. It may also open people’s eyes and bring the situation to a head. For better or worse?

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