Jimmy Lai is cleared. More a relief than a surprise. The Oriental Daily reporter’s contrived accusation of criminal intimidation was a pro-Beijing newspaper doing some freelance vigilante lawfare as an elaborate form of shoe-shining. Lai and other high-profile figures still face unauthorized assembly and other charges that are more obviously direct political persecution by the regime. The way things are going, it will be a bigger shock if the judges resist the CCP-directed prosecution cases to come.
China Leadership Monitor presents Minxin Pei’s in-depth look at why Beijing killed ‘1 Country 2 Systems’ and imposed the NatSec Law in Hong Kong when it did.
Xi first referred to a ‘bottom line’ that Hong Kong must not cross in 2017. Beijing declared the bottom line breached in late July 2019, which Pei traces to a specific incident. They really don’t like it when you splatter paint all over their logo. Formal Politburo approval followed a month later, and an overall framework for tighter control over Hong Kong was decided by end-October. The personnel and bureaucracy changes took place in January-February – suggesting that Covid had nothing to do with the timing. It looks as if even Hong Kong’s own leaders weren’t fully filled in on what was happening until April-May.
Pei mentions ‘path-dependency’ of Chinese policy against dissent – being unable to back down to avoid appearing weak. US News on how Xi Jinping is also painting China into a corner over the Indian border.
Mark O’Neill in EJ Insight on the reversal in fortunes of Hong Kong and Taiwan in terms of closeness to the West. (Also: they used to have censorship while Hong Kong didn’t; they used to have political refugees in exile while Hong Kong didn’t. Etc.)
Geremie Barmé of China Heritage combines his usual erudition with a brutal kicking for New Yorker contributor Peter Hessler. Hessler’s dispatches as a university teacher in Chengdu gloss over subjects like the CCP’s role in mishandling the coronavirus rather too much for Barmé to stomach while Beijing mercilessly persecutes Chinese academics who tell the truth. The venerable sinologist accuses his target of enjoying ‘Caucasian privilege’ and of being what some might call (he uses more delicate language) a Panda-hugging CCP stooge. This letter to the New Yorker editor has upset some people. It could also be seen as a message to any of the ‘liberal East Coast intellectual’ stereotype-milieu who still don’t get it about China.
Another slapping – Vanity Fair reviews Disney’s Mulan and finds it a ‘plodding bore’.
Prospect on how the surveillance state came to Xinjiang…
On the advice of a police contact, Sholpan and her husband started going to dance parties and drinking alcohol in order to show they were not religious.
ASPI – China’s least-favourite Australian think tank – does a big survey on how Beijing intimidates other countries.
Forbes reports a Lancet piece predicting that China’s population will drop by nearly half by 2100. (As a reminder to take such forecasts with a pinch of salt, it sees Nigeria’s population growing nearly 300% to almost 800 million.)