Mainlandized police + world-city media = disaster

If Beijing had kept its hands off and allowed the local authorities to amateurishly bumble and fumble their way through things, Hong Kong’s Summer of Discontent/Water Revolution could at least partially have fizzled out by now.

Imagine if the cops hadn’t gone paramilitary, teamed up with triads, doused whole neighbourhoods with tear gas, gone nuts in the MTR, arrested and beaten bystanders or disappeared people into their sinister border detention place – and if the CCP hadn’t hijacked Cathay Pacific or the MTR. Our pitiful local officials might have retained a shred of legitimacy by taking ownership of their failures, serving as punchbags and doing some half-credible bleating about reform. The protests would have been calmer and ultimately duller, international media interest fleeting, the impact on tourism far smaller, and the business community would be confident that Hong Kong’s institutions were intact.

But to the CCP, which has only a hammer in its toolkit, every problem is a nail. Its instinct is to brutalize Hong Kong into adoring the Motherland. And Mainland methods do not work in a free, open society – instead they are backfiring while the whole world looks on.

It’s still a compelling story. Just recently (paywalls, etc), The NY Times has done cops dressed as protesters and arresting kids, while the Wall Street Journal reports the role of the middle-aged, middle-class middle ground in crowdfunding and ‘collecting the kids from school’. (I guess this is what Christine Loh means when she says Hong Kong’s ‘political middle – the majority – are now in the driving seat’. Doesn’t make sense otherwise.)

Amnesty International follows up its blockbuster on police brutality with a mega-report on the decline of human rights in Hong Kong. The US Human Rights and Democracy Act sounds hare-brained, but it all adds to the pressure.

Here is a chart showing roughly monthly changes in the degree of trust/distrust in the HK Police – going up to mid-September. A hardcore (purple) of 10% support the cops throughout. The middle ground (yellow) has evaporated. Strong distrust of the police has gone from 6.5% to 48.3% (and distrust of all degrees from around 28% to 68%). If the methodology is dependable, this is a collapse. It must also be a rough proxy for faith in (local or central) government as a whole.

Of course, even if Beijing had left Hong Kong alone, the fundamental problems of a broken political structure would have festered for another day. The CCP should have got the message in 2014. Instead, they thought once they’d dismantled the barricades and jailed Joshua Wong and Benny Tai, that was it – problem over. Now it’s Xi Jinping’s most visible and internationally renowned screw-up.

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10 Responses to Mainlandized police + world-city media = disaster

  1. Cassowary says:

    Yes, all of this makes Xi Jinping look terrible, but how does that lead to change? What you’ve got now is:

    1. Panda tantrum
    2. Chinese government is embarrassed
    3. ????
    4. Democracy!

  2. YTSL says:

    100% agree with this post! I guess the only question I have for you, Hemlock, is whether you think Xi Jinping/Beijing is going to be able to properly clean up the right mess they’ve made?

  3. Hong Kong Hibernian says:

    Dear Emperor Xi promises social stability, sound economic momentum and harmony between all groups who are properly subservient!

    Religion? (cough) Well, errr, all of those religious schools will need to close, obviously.

    But those measures are no different in nature from the preventive measures taken by many other countries! Except that our measures are superior!

    p.s. – just between us comrades, umm, how can I get my family and money out of the country?

  4. Reactor #4's grannie says:

    “…………..instead they are backfiring while the whole world looks on.”

    What tosh. In reality, the “whole world” has disengaged with the HK situation (in the same way that I have next to no interest in conflicts on other continents: Africans butchered by Africans – who gives a 4ck?). The fact is most foreigners, having been introduced to HK’s current predicament, loved the associated rioting. Who didn’t? However, it’s now clear that the protests are going absolutely nowhere (i.e. we have now entered the realm of “boring”). It is thus inevitable that any external viewers will switch their attention to other thingies to keep themselves amused including, quite possibly, the latest incarnation of Kim Kardashian’s arse.

  5. In the Name of the Father says:

    I’ve seen nothing but fizzle since peak riot in late August. It’s been weeks since any of my neighbours came out on the balcony for the two minutes hate at 10 pm. This is all a big farce. If your side hustle is playing saxophone at bar mitzvahs on the weekends dressed as the unknown comic, you ain’t never gonna be no Charlie Parker.

  6. Joe Blow says:

    China has been expanding 5-10% for the past 25 years or so. But all that expansion was financed by borrowing. Any economy on this planet can do the same, as long as you keep borrowing.

    Then comes the moment when you have to pay back, plus interest.


  7. odaiwai says:

    Cassowary, I think step 3 is that the Central Government comes out and says: “This is what you have: Direct Administration from Beijing. You will never have more freedom than you do now. Deal with it.”

    We are very unlikely to get to step 4. I give it less than 1% chance.

    At which point we all have the clarity we need. Those that want to (or have to) leave will leave. It’s the beginning of the end.

  8. Cassowary says:

    @odaiwai: That’s what I was getting at, which is why I’m not sure why we’re supposed to celebrate step 2. We don’t have a serious chance of positive change until Xi Jinping is dead or deposed, and even then it’s even odds of military junta.

  9. In the Name of the Father says:

    That’s the underwear gnomes profit plan. You’d think people plugged into the outrage machine all day would know that meme. Living in the context of no context, must be bliss.

  10. Jon in Aus says:

    @ Reactor #4 :
    Much of the world is still very much engaged. I moved fairly recently to Aus after 20 years in HK and the current situation in HK still features regularly in news reports here. It’s due to various reasons: events involving HK and mainland students in the universities here in Aus, the huge dependence of Aus on China for trade and probably also to the fact that many Australians have some connection with the city, having spent time there on travels and for business. Only two days ago, Aus National Radio featured a special program discussing how Aus should go forward in dealing with China. Much of Aus and I would guess much of the world (and not just Taiwan!) is looking closely at HK as a learning experience on how the CCP under its current leadership behaves under pressure.

    That is not to say any suffering African country does not morally deserve just as much attention.

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