Unlike the city’s wretchedly pitiful leadership, Hong Kong protesters are creative and adapt. As we saw with the impromptu lunchtime march on October 4 (when the mask ban was announced), there’s a ready supply of office workers for weekday demonstrations. Last night’s gathering in Central attracted a big enough crowd to slow down phone networks.
What’s the betting that future weekday assemblies in the business district fail to get authorization from the police and/or prompt earlier-than-usual MTR curfews?
The protest was calling on the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. There has always been something slightly cringe-making about pro-democrats’ jaunts to Washington DC. And of course, ideological leftists of the sort who see Hong Kong as ‘a possible model of critique against imperialisms’ find it hard to get their head around working with the evil US. But you can’t be too fussy when you need allies in a fight. More to the point, Hong Kong is involved in a global conflict here.
The chances of meaningful action against Hong Kong are presumably slim. But just a hint of trade sanctions or visa bans on officials would be humiliating – or as the press statement would say, ‘deeply regrettable’.
The government also ‘deeply regrets’ that the evil protest movement is taking a visible toll on certain sectors of the economy, notably tourism and retail. Luxury brands in particular are squealing. The monetary authority is relaxing banks’ lending ratios, and officials are taking the bizarre step of asking landlords to cut rents for shops and restaurants.
Right-minded Hong Kong people are celebrating the plummeting tourist arrivals and will dance with joy if half the city’s designer-label outlets shut.
Business as a whole is worried. The curious thing is that the authorities themselves are directly damaging the tourist/retail sectors. The excessive force used by the police obviously drives tourists away, and the shutting down of the MTR and malls in the evenings and at weekends impedes and deters consumers generally.
As anyone who lives in Hong Kong knows, the local administration will usually do anything to benefit tourism/retail – landlords’ – interests. Keep land in short supply, swamp the city with 50 million visitors, whatever it takes. It is utterly out of character for them to take any action that damages the sacred rental yields. The landlords always, always come first.
There is only one force in the world that can prevent Hong Kong officials from serving the all-important property barons. And that is Beijing. So petrified is the CCP of an anti-government movement crossing the border, that the Hong Kong administration must sacrifice its most precious and dear tycoons’ profits.
Every tear-gas cloud has a silver lining.