While Beijing supposedly wants Hong Kong to calm down in time for the National Day holiday, it seems determined to provoke residents into holding the mother of all mega-marches to mark October 1. In a particularly desperate stunt, the CCP is resorting to the hackneyed ‘visiting prostitutes’ smear against the UK Consulate staffer they disappeared.
One theory is that Beijing does not expect the world to believe trumped-up charges, show trials and forced televised confessions – the aim is to intimidate others by saying ‘we can do this to you’. This doesn’t exactly make it a better PR move.
Which brings us to the most amazing thing about China’s response to Hong Kong’s anti-government movement: its absurdly disproportionate nature.
National or local authorities could have nipped the extradition-bill disaster in the bud on several occasions, but didn’t. Even now, Hong Kong is hardly descending into anarchy (try Baltimore). Yet Beijing has (among many other things): used triad thugs and trashed the reputation of the local police; encouraged its nationals overseas to attack Hong Kong supporters; started messing with cross-border travellers; shrieked about foreign forces; and – most shockingly – bludgeoned a major airline into firing staff for political reasons.
Yes, they are paranoid about popular dissent crossing onto the Mainland. But these measures permanently damage China’s international image and lose it much of whatever goodwill and respect it previously had – just because of some demonstrations in one city (it’s not as if Taiwan declared independence). It is irrational to pay such a cost for something so small. It suggests a leadership that cannot analyze what is happening and does not think through its responses.
As Antony Dapiran says, Beijing is shooting itself in the foot, and inviting more decoupling from the Western world.
I declare the weekend open with a looooong selection of worthwhile links…
A Polish guy runs with Hong Kong protesters, and notices what residents don’t: how much activists utilize the city’s urban geography, especially malls and the MTR.
Ilaria Maria Sala on Hong Kong’s protest movement as a revolt against unrepresentative government, including its roots in heritage and environmental fights. Timothy McLaughlin on another of Beijing’s achievements: nurturing a distinct Hong Kong identity. Doom-laden commentary from Bloomberg suggesting that Beijing could resolve things if it can stomach some representative government – otherwise “military intervention … is how one of the world’s greatest new economy success stories will end”. Rich S on how the ‘if we burn, you burn with us’ slogan is a taunt to the CCP, ‘calling out on the bullshit’. And an interview with David Webb on the situation (podcast).
You’ve seen amazing Hong Kong protest graphic design – how about Mainland anti-protest artwork? Here’s a nice example. Since it’s Friday, we’ll give it a ‘5’ for draftsmanship. But it is conceptually annoying. First: note that the HK ‘baby’ does not age while in the care of the British foster parent, but starts growing after being returned to its mother (who has become younger, but is presumably rejuvenated post-1949). Second/Third: the objectionable ideas that China gave Hong Kong ‘gifts’/lavishing your child with tatty luxuries is a good thing. (Also lots of gender and patriarchy uncoolness, discussed here.)
The SCMP has done a series of in-depth features on the background to Hong Kong’s protest movement. A bit tepid, but not bad. The failure of government public-opinion monitoring since 1997, focusing on district bodies, but also mentioning the weakening of other advisory and consultation mechanisms. Why does Beijing get Hong Kong wrong? – a litany of intel-gathering bureaucracy screw-ups, though not much on the systemic problems of self-censorship of upward feedback in a dictatorship. And the CCP’s inability to convince Hong Kong young people to be patriotic. Answer the following question: What does the CCP have to offer young Hong Kong people? I’ll wait.
If you want serious doom-laden, try this. Some factual errors and iffy analysis (downplaying Beijing’s role in appointing the Hong Kong government and exaggerating tycoons’ clout) – so probably no need to take it literally. But that doesn’t mean the conclusions must be wrong…
A Chinese student in Australia explains the pro-CCP activists on campus.
And if you have the time or inclination, the agonies of being Xi Jinping.