Freak-out Friday

On Freak-out Friday the CCP orchestrated a Mainlandizing shock-and-awe assault on Hong Kong. Antony Dapiran gives a good summary.

The sentencing of a young man to four years in prison for riot was perhaps coincidental (if we charitably assume that the Liaison Office is not yet micro-managing the courts’ schedules as well as judgements). But the message is clear: anti-government protesters who plead guilty to throwing some objects around will get harsher punishment than pro-Beijing nasties who stab people.

The Legislative Council coup shunting pro-democrats aside enables the government to force through the National Anthem (Compulsory Adulation) Bill. No more of that separation-of-powers stuff requiring an elected legislature to check the executive branch. LegCo is now destined to be a rubber stamp, the way the CCP likes it.

With the contrived uproar over a question in a high-school history exam on Thursday, Beijing is launching a cultural revolution in the education sector. Teaching kids to think critically now means ‘hurting the feelings’, ‘leaving the chicken-coop [of impressionable young minds] without a roof’ – and ‘there is no room for discussion’. You don’t need to be a huge cynic to suspect that the inclusion and/or wording of the question was a set-up.

The SCMP quotes a pro-Beijing mouthpiece as saying that schools have become an opposition stronghold…

“I expect the Hong Kong government to take tough measures in the years ahead to tackle problems regarding curriculum design, the vetting of textbooks and public examinations.”

To complete the Mainlandization-overload, the Independent Police Complaints Council released a blatant whitewash of a report into police tactics against protests during part of last year. Amnesty calls it impotent and biased.

But it gets creepier. To quote Dapiran…

…most galling was the manner in which [Chief Executive Carrie] Lam presented the findings: in front of a vast backdrop of images of fiery destruction from last year’s protests, emblazoned with the slogan ‘The Truth About Hong Kong’.

Carrie also hinted at future measures to curb or censor the press, such as a licensing regime for reporters, and police action against online ‘rumours’.

Awkwardly for the government, Clifford Stott – an overseas expert who quit the IPCC inquiry – is doing a report of his own. He sees Hong Kong 2019 as an academic case study. Out in a month, his report looks likely to suggest that much of the protesting is a response to police tactics rather than vice-versa.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung says critics of the IPCC report have ‘bad intentions’ and we should not take seriously the one-sided videos, misleading information, and false accusations some people have posted online. So there.

A pause for breath…

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government is trying – for the second time – to invite PR companies to help it out. From PRovoke

This time around, it is understood that the [government] has sought to frame the brief as a purely economic effort, distancing it from chief executive Carrie Lam’s office and underlining that political consultancy is not required. In addition, the new tender is an open one, compared to last year’s invite-only affair, and features a far lower threshold for participating firms…

Edelman is reportedly among the agencies willing to take on a challenge to help out a city they love (aka ‘hungry for fat juicy accounts from desperate, deep-pocketed and naïve clients’).

Even though the government is supposedly asking agencies to focus on a narrower ‘economic’ brief, this comes as the overall ‘China’ brand is being degraded globally following the coronavirus pandemic.

To pick a few little PR problems at random: overseas universities are barring the HK Police from recruiting on campus; consultants are discreetly advising companies to think twice about Hong Kong (read the comments); and a UN Special Rapporteur joins in the criticism of the round-up of aging lawyers.

The prosecution of Martin Lee, Margaret Ng et al starts today. Although a trifling incident in the whole Mainlandization campaign, it is a clear example of how the CCP’s ‘Marxist-Confucian idea of law’ is coming to Hong Kong. Unlike the convoluted exam questions or LegCo coup, the dragging of grey-haired intellectuals before the courts will attract media coverage overseas for its classic, vivid shithole-banana-republic angle – and there’s nothing Edelman could do to spin it otherwise.

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8 Responses to Freak-out Friday

  1. Stanley Lieber says:

    Arun Sudhaman’s coverage of the PR tender in PRovoke is excellent reporting.

    HKSARG’s PR budget has been doubled to US$29 million this year.

    In a starving market, that kind of money buys a lot of ethical flexibility.

    Whether it will do any good is another question entirely.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    Wonder if the (wrong) opinion piece blogs about the HKCCPSAR floating out there in the interwebs will be targeted for thought rectification next?

  3. Whenever those in power tell you that “there is no room for discussion” on any topic, you know that’s exactly what you should be discussing. “No room for discussion” inevitably leads to “no room for thought”.

  4. Stephen says:

    The events of Friday were quite chilling. It’s almost like someone is trying to provoke something. I wonder why ?

  5. donkeynuts says:

    It should be pointed out that Edelman is the agency that was the vanguard for social media “astro turfing,” and their founder David Edelman was the person who led their first exposed campaign in this genre, a fake blog they set up for Wal-Mart, almost fifteen years ago. At the time of its exposure by consumer advocates and regular customers, Edelman apologized and vowed to correct the agencies standard of ethics on this kind of industry approach. But I highly doubt that has happened.

  6. Mary Melville says:

    So our CE has “ruled out demands to set up an independent commission of inquiry into the cause and effects of months of protests. She has also axed the establishment of an independent review committee to probe Hong Kong’s deep-rooted problems that was to follow the UPCC report. The government will be putting its focus on shoring up the coronavirus-ravaged economy.”
    What is most astonishing is the deafening silence on the part of the business community and large tax payers. Billions of dollars were reported lost to the economy due to the protests. The MTR and main transport links like the airport, Tolo Highway and the main harbor crossing were closed off for days. Billions more have to be spent on repairs and refurbishment of infrastructure and buildings. Banks are still operating behind barriers that make our city look like a banana republic rather than the cosmopolitan, financial center, world city we aspire to be.
    Moreover it is clear that protests will continue as no effort has been made to address their underlying issues.
    So regardless of the politics, from a purely commercial angle it is clear that the priority of the government should be to investigate and resolve issues that have had enormous economic impact and will continue to do so and to put them right.
    Have our Captains of Industry been warned that doing business in Hong Kong going forward comes with “conditions”?

  7. Paul says:

    It’s very easy for a large crowd to boo and groan loudly and make all sorts of noises without really moving their lips as the national anthem plays.
    Why not.
    I still think someone could stop as the MTR train pulls into Central and loudly sing the national anthem because they are suddenly overcome with patriotism.
    Then everyone who is within earshot must stop and show respect.
    I can’t see any problems with this.

  8. Penny says:

    @Mary Melville “Have our Captains of Industry been warned that doing business in Hong Kong going forward comes with “conditions”?”

    I have no doubt that “our Captains of Industry” totally understand and accept whatever conditions come with doing business in Hong Kong. Their “deafening silence” during the past year clearly demonstrates this, doesn’t it?

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