The Returning Officer has not returned

After the 2014 Umbrella Movement, Beijing (via the Hong Kong administration, via district-based civil-servant ‘Returning Officers’) barred many younger localism-tinged hopefuls from the ballot using a concocted political test. Oddly, many activists you would expect to be disqualified, like Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, have been allowed to run in November’s District Council elections.

The only one still waiting for a decision is Joshua Wong. The Returning Officer in his area has mysteriously gone sick, in the way someone might if her conscience did not allow her to obey anti-democratic orders from above (or, you may consider, in the way someone might if she was actually sick).

What brings about (the boy Joshua aside) this outbreak of tolerance among Returning Officers? It would be Beijing’s instinct, after four months of a popular uprising, to suppress opposition voices. It could be that, in a freakish fit of common sense, local officials convinced the Liaison Office that disqualifications would provoke yet more loathing for a government that has run out of legitimacy. Another theory is that the civil servants or their local superiors are petrified of being blacklisted by the US – though this assumes they have a choice.

District Councils are a big yawn, but there has been a recent strenthening of support for pan-dems, and a surge in new voter registrations – and this is a golden opportunity to give the government a big kick up the backside, and Beijing a message.

I declare the weekend open with a multitude of painstakingly curated reading matter.

More evidence that Hong Kong’s political middle ground is evaporating: moderate columnist Michael Chugani tears Carrie Lam to shreds.

A warning to keep away from security or ‘bodyguarding’ companies. I get copied in on email-newsletters from a couple of local ‘risk consultancy’ types. One is a company run by an ex-cop trying to drum up business; the analysis is purely focused on gory mayhem in the streets. Another – some sort of personal security outfit – issues lengthy blood-curdling advice copied to everyone in and around the government on how best to crush the radical fanatic terrorists in our midst. At best they are pandering to corporate clients’ paranoia; at worst, they are mouth-frothing jackboot fetishists.

One thing they don’t mention, but AFP does: violence against Hong Kong government critics.

Not only does the protest movement create artwork – here’s a Yuen Long MTR attack infographic. The Resistance also does mass-spectrometry (or something fancy like that): an analysis of the Hong Kong Police’s new Made-in-China tear gas.

The Diplomat goes inside Hong Kong’s leaderless uprising

Many young Hong Kongers face a terrifying choice: Continue a grotesquely uneven battle against a superior power or acknowledge that the rest of their lives are going to be without civil liberties, without democracy and under Beijing’s strict and brutal control.

A Chinese U professor in Asia Dialogue says Hong Kong’s protests are asking only for the city has been promised

The protest is a small price to pay in the short term if the people of Hong Kong want to preserve the city’s future. Without it, the outcome is inevitable: the city’s gradual absorption into the Chinese system, losing its identity, culture, values, and everything that makes Hong Kong unique and different from the rest of China.

Some historical perspective from Manchester, England: Hong Kong and the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

And the first time I have ever linked to Teen Vogue: Joshua Wong (need you ask?)

Bloomberg looks for signs that wealth is fleeing Hong Kong for Singapore, and doesn’t find many, really. Bear in mind that people with vast fortunes to move around try not to leave signs, and that the stability of the monetary and financial systems would be the last things to go – long after the rest of us have emigrated or been used for organ-harvesting. That said, it is amusing to see Singaporean officials’ crocodile tears over the plight of Hong Kong.

Foreign Policy reports on how Hollywood’s shoe-shining of the CCP is backfiring in Southeast Asia. As with the NBA drama – another Xi Jinping hubristic overreach screw-up.

Asia Dialogue again, on why the CCP fears religion

Inspired by American propagandists including Walter Lipmann (1889–1974) and Edward Bernays (1891–1995), the CCP assumes that if a government wants to change the content of its citizens’ beliefs, it can.

(In related news, Beijing has just released new ‘guidelines on ethnic unity’ – perhaps ‘forced cultural uniformity’ would be a better description.)

And say a big welcome to China’s new (‘learn from’) Comrade Lei Feng!

Finally, someone you shouldn’t learn from at all – but he’s the last hope for China’s Soft Power: that amazing/heroic stunt drinker from Hebei you’ve watched in horror.

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10 Responses to The Returning Officer has not returned

  1. Cassowary says:

    What. The. Shit. Hell just froze over. The question that nobody was asking, “What would it take for Michael Chugani to turn unequivocally against the Government?” has be answered. Hit his brother with a water cannon.

    Does Alex Lo still have any relatives here?

  2. I imagine there are frenzied discussions going on behind the scenes over Joshua Wong’s nomination. The Party’s instinct would be to keep him a million miles from any election; on the other hand, barring him would inevitably put him back on the front page of newspapers around the world, giving him a far bigger and more powerful platform for criticism than debating the number of litter bins needed in South Horizons and other typical DC trivia. It would also highlight that Carrie Lam’s calls for dialogue rather than conflict are a sham.

    As for Michael Chugani, I imagine his brother’s recent blue rinse may have contributed to his change of tone.

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    Chugani’s last 3-4 columns have been scathing (to the HKCCPSAR gov). Raise a glass to him for those.

  4. MarkLane says:

    Micael Chugani has been a voice of reason since at least the July or August of this year. Just take a look at some of his editorials on the SCMP from the past several months. (

    While I don’t know much about his past, in the several months that I’ve become known about him via his editorials, it’s hard to imagine that he was ever shilling for the Government / Beijing.

  5. Siu Jiu says:

    Michael Chugani is a “moderate”?!

    But yes, amazing how having a family member get smurfed by uniformed gangsters in a tank truck can open one’s eyes, eh?

  6. old git says:

    Hong Kong Feudal Principality.

    It is a land-based system of award in exchange for military protection.

    It has an inner-circle each with handles, initials and letters before and after names which are first in the queue for largesse handed out by the Principality.

    It is a fully-functioning fiefdom with serfs and peasants granted cash to keep them placid and willing to hand over the fruits of their labour to the Principality.

    It even has a residential fortress and administration fortress for the encumbent ruler of the Principality, but no mechanism for change of ruler except by appointment by the Emperor.

  7. Ho Ma Fan says:

    So glad you mentioned the Peterloo Massacre. During my time living in Cottonopolis I tried to raise awareness because there was no fitting memorial, despite it being such a pivotal moment. There is one now. Guardian readers rejoice! There are indeed parallels between what is happening in Hong Kong and that event.
    Also, glad to see Chuggers putting the boot in, as others have observed.

  8. Cassowary says:

    @Mark Lane: Chugani was until fairly recently a “get off my lawn” establishment type constantly ranting at the pan-democrats for show-boating and disruption. I can’t remember if he went so far as to accuse the Umbrella Movement students of being manipulated by foreign forces (that may have been Yonden Lhatoo), but I quit reading his columns in disgust five years ago.

  9. Mun Dane says:

    Good to see that the Popo have so much spare time on their hands that they can hassle buskers now. And call in reinforcements …

  10. dimuendo says:

    Mark Lane
    Chugani (until very recently) has been a biased, pro establishment, sneering little toad, although with one eye firmly on his own interests. He is a turncoat in reverse, but when his own interests are challenged I doubt his current damasquen conversion will last.

    Mun Dane
    If the protestors are,with it they should send 2 or 3 half musicians to all major juncio s and occupy the entire police force. Question, can the PAP then operate?.

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