Hong Kong’s embattled/failing/bedraggled Chief Executive Carrie Lam follows up her shocking blockbuster decision to withdraw the extradition bill with a claim that it’s nothing really and doesn’t even count as a change of mind, so there, yah boo.
This is a strange thing to say about a much-heralded and overdue gesture supposedly aimed at ending a three-month popular uprising and ushering in reconciliation and dialogue. But it makes more sense seen from Beijing, where Carrie’s ‘decision’ was in fact made, with reluctance. After rousing Mainland public opinion to hate Hong Kong’s protest movement and oppose any concessions, the propaganda machine is scrambling to delete any mention of the ‘withdrawal’.
Is Hong Kong in for a relatively calm weekend? Either way, I declare it open with some recommended reading/viewing you might have missed.
For a fairly vivid reminder of how far we’ve come in three months, here’s Part 1 of Hong Kong’s Summer of Defiance – an Al Jazeera documentary, focusing on June-July. Australia’s ABC have come up with a longer doc, Rebellion: On the frontlines of Hong Kong’s uprising (good for sending to people overseas asking stupid questions).
Being up close, we tend to forget how photogenic this protest movement is – thanks mainly to Hong Kong’s unique urban and rural geography and the dignity and resolve of the young protesters (the contrast with CCP talking heads and PTSD-crazed cops doesn’t hurt). As an FT columnist wrote (paywall)…
They have uniforms — gas masks, construction helmets, umbrellas and black clothing — and they have martyrs, including a young woman who lost an eye from a police projectile. The movement is also cool and deeply romantic for young people who believe they are fighting for the future of their city. Many young couples in full battle gear can be seen hand in hand on the barricades.
Time for an anthem.
And from Geremie Barmé, Cockroaches that would slay dragons: an intro, then a translation of a Stand News piece about the anti-government protesters’ own elite special forces unit, the ‘Dragon Slayers’. While Quillette asks how a movement with no leadership backed Beijing into a corner.
In image-terms, this conflict is about as asymmetric as you can get. One side has all the power but no cool; the other has all the cool but no power. (International progressives looking on are fretting that the Palestinians, say, have neither.)
It is hard to criticize the Hong Kong protest movement without coming across as spiteful and seething. Today’s winner is Global Times, which is whining about how Hong Kong still has colonial stuff (like English-language schools using the British flag on their ads).
Which brings us to HK Free Press’s op-eds on Beijing’s dismal intelligence failure in Hong Kong, and its non-victories in bullying companies like Cathay Pacific. The SCMP also notes the future repercussions of Beijing’s heavy-handed and stupid treatment of the airline. Richard McGregor at Nikkei looks at how China’s failure in Hong Kong goes back to its co-opting of elites…
With their backs to the wall, Beijing’s tactics have now come full circle. Not only are they targeting the protesters in Hong Kong, but the elites are being punished too if their employees stray from the party line.
The executives of any company, local or foreign, based in Hong Kong know the same could happen to them should they cross Beijing. As a result, fewer are likely to base themselves, instead going to Singapore and elsewhere.
Unless it wants to completely hollow out a valuable financial center, China needs a new strategy fast.
Quartz finds that Hong Kong’s protesters are stumped by Twitter – I thought it was just me who still can’t figure out what a hashtag is or does. And Atlantic turns to the sad fall of Hong Kong’s police.
Nothing to do with the cops – what do you think of when we mention Hong Kong’s islands for outcasts? You think Lamma, right? But no, it’s far more interesting.
Lastly, for the foodies: how China is addressing pork shortages (actually this is more about economics and propaganda and CCP stupidity).