When it comes to be written, the history of the 2019 Hong Kong Uprising will recount a succession of government decisions that each provoked greater public hostility. (By ‘government’ we mean whoever was exercising control at the time – the Carrie Lam administration being increasingly usurped by Beijing officials behind the scenes as weeks and months went by.)
The list would include: the high-handed rejection of criticism of the extradition bill; the contemptuous response to the first mega-march in June; the deployment of paramilitary policing; the police collusion with triads; the reluctant suspension of the bill; the tear-gassing of residential areas; the eventual pitiful withdrawal of the bill; the refusal to acknowledge police excesses – up to the recent contrived-panic and semi-curfew, with the shutting down of the MTR, closure of supermarkets and the use of emergency powers to impose a ban on masks.
Amateur analysts are having a field day trying to explain it all. One theory is that those making the decisions are so stupid that they believe more mayhem can turn public opinion against the protesters. Another is that Beijing is deliberately trying to create more and more chaos to justify a major clampdown. A third, I would submit, is that under the CCP system, lower officials opt for greater force for fear of repercussions if their superiors or rivals accuse them of being too soft. A fourth, perhaps quaint, one is that valiant local officials are seeking to spare Hong Kong the full Beijing Wrathful Vengeance scenario.
The truth is – it doesn’t matter, because in all cases the end result is the same: the aforementioned major clampdown.
The use of emergency powers to ban masks has promptly boosted the strength of public opposition from the defiant ‘add oil!’ to the pissed-off ‘resist!’ It seems some local officials are actually noticing that they have lost the community. Carrie has pleaded directly to the rabble not to support the protests, as has Security Secretary John Lee. (Interestingly, this coincides with a sudden surge of SCMP columns seeing the light. The pro-CCP editor-in-chief laments that citizens are not blaming protests for the semi-curfew conditions; a staunchly pro-police editor rants about how everyone apart from him is OK with lawlessness; a mild-mannered op-ed writer notes ‘all walks of life’ hate the government. I’ll spare you at least three other examples from the last few days.)
It should be clear to all by now that piling on more force will not solve the problem (which, lest we forget, is the lack of government legitimacy – fairly easy to fix if the sovereign power had the imagination). But there are no signs that anyone in charge thinks a new approach is needed. Beijing loyalist Ip Kwok-him is openly pondering Internet censorship. And the police yesterday saw fit to do their martial-law thing in Ma On Shan – a harmless, not to say mind-numbing, sort of high-rise Discovery Bay strip that stretches on for miles northeast of Shatin.
As the weekend passes, so does yet another ‘tipping point’.
One SCMP columnist says the use of emergency powers might prove to be a red line – for the markets. There is little evidence for that, judging by property and stock valuations. There is even less evidence that Beijing gives a damn.
Maybe some external force, such as Chris Patten or the NBA, will knock the CCP off its course. Otherwise, we are back to the full Beijing Wrathful Vengeance scenario.
Remember that whether the cycle of more-force-provoking-more-alienation is through stupidity or design, it ends with the same result. This outcome is summarized in an FT column (paywall) on how ‘Beijing will have its revenge’. This has aroused some excited chatter, but as forecasts go it is not especially daring. Where else, if the CCP manages to get its way, can we be heading?
Great links as always and I found myself shaking my head at the “mild-mannered op-ed writer” who also “perversely” opines that the economy “is the easiest to fix”
Does he really think Hong Kong will rebound from this? That Hong Kong will still be a global financial centre, underpinned by the rule of law and world class civil service ?
Any property types got any data on occupancy and rentals levels at say Changi City to perhaps show the mild-mannered op-ed writer he’s talking bollocks ?
And as if by magic, the majority of MTR stations open and the morning seethes with workers and schoolchildren marching off to work and school as though nothing had happened.
There is nothing to see here! Please go back to your plows and social engineering centers quietly.
As a resident of that harmless, not to say mind-numbing, sort of high-rise Discovery Bay strip, I object to having my neighborhood described in such a derogatory manner. It MoSt certainly is high rise, and has none of the wife swapping parties that go on in Discovery Bay. I hope to move there soon.
In case anyone wants to read that FT article mentioned here:
When Yonder government Yahoo starts making even vaguely correct observations, it is definitely a sign of end times.
And from the FT: “One senior police official says privately that as many as a quarter of his officers are joining peaceful protests in their spare time.”
No wonder they have to use disguised PAP nutters and Wong Chuk Hang recruits.
I actually do know some people who are tired of the disruption, cannot stomach the vandalism, earnestly wring their hands about the decline of tourism, and think the government is useless and cowardly because it hasn’t put down the protests strongly enough. This simply wouldn’t be “allowed” to happen in America or Western Europe.
A memorable weekend. The sun went down on the big lychee and it’s all over now baby blue. How did it get to this point? Cipolla’s “Basic Laws of Human Stupidity” is as good a guide as any.
I was debating whether to go with The Specials’ “Ghost Town” or “Doesn’t Make It Alright” when I remembered this choice track. See you in 30 when I come back to buy up some vacant lots and hire Vietnamese farmers to grow strawberries on them.
@Mary: And CCP owned/controlled Brooklyn Scumnets
So Ecuador’s government has been evacuated from its capital, Quito. Send them here, they couldn’t do any worse than the current shower!