Response to a comment

A recent comment is worth a response. Basically…

What are the rebuttals to the following facts: (1) China has sovereignty over HK and (2) It will *never* allow independence.

Expanded democracy is in the Basic Law, but in what way were the actions last year going to promote that?

HK has enjoyed wide freedoms. In what way were the actions last year going to protect them? Was not the current outcome — less freedom, more Beijing repression — inevitable and foreseeable?

This line of thinking crops up in some international media commentary, and among some moderate pro-establishment types. But it is essentially blaming the victim.

The questions focus on Beijing’s reaction to the 2019 uprising (which followed on from the previous protests in 2014), as if the protest movement was the cause of a problem rather than a symptom of one. 

Responsibility must ultimately lie with whoever holds power. The Hong Kong people had no input into the way Beijing and its locally appointed administrations ran Hong Kong since 1997. Beijing must take responsibility for pushing up housing prices, for flooding Hong Kong with Mainland tourists and migrants, for prioritizing spending on white-elephant projects, and other cronyism and policies that harmed local people’s livelihoods. 

These policies led to discontent and spurred demands for representative government. Beijing could have ordered the local administration to mend its ways, but didn’t. And of course Beijing finally rejected any chance of a more democratic model in 2014. As in Thailand or Belarus, if a regime treats its people with contempt for long enough, things will blow up. It’s not the ‘fault’ of the populace (or the CIA, or whatever). 

Few people dispute China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, or seriously believe independence is a possibility. To the extent that some do, it is a reaction to Beijing’s handling of the city. Even the descent of 2019’s protests into violence was largely a reaction to police tactics and the refusal of the regime to find a political solution (see Clifford Stott).

To say “today’s outcome – less freedom, more Beijing repression – was inevitable and foreseeable” is getting it backwards. It was the leaderless and unplanned uprising that was inevitable and foreseeable. All Beijing’s fault. And nowhere near over yet.

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30 Responses to Response to a comment

  1. Joe Blow says:

    “And nowhere near over yet.”

    Indeed. The spirit of protest and resistance has not suddenly ‘disappeared’ because of the NIL and/or pandemic. It is alive and well, bubbling just below the surface. And its seeds have been planted far and wide.

  2. Andrew Mountford says:

    Totally correct

  3. reductio says:

    @Hemlock

    Yup, succinct and accurate; here’s a NYT link which puts this into the larger context:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/14/world/asia/china-nationalists-covid.html#commentsContainer

    Unlike the SCMP, the comments are worth reading too.

  4. !atsinoisiveR says:

    As the United Front of the Chinese Communist Party’s very own former leader of the FTU, The Honourable Yeung Kwong, GBM put it (when explaining away his youth spent rioting in and bombing Hong Kong on his being awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal): “Oppression will result in popular revolt.”

    One wonders whether the comment maker has applied the same ass-backwards revisionism to the rest of history’s shitty repressions of the undeserving by the better armed:

    “The Warsaw Ghetto has enjoyed wide freedoms. In what way were the actions last year going to protect them? Was not the current outcome — less freedom, more final solution, — inevitable and foreseeable? Stupid Jews insisting on being Jewish and free…”

    “The Black South Africans have enjoyed wide freedoms. In what way were the actions last year going to protect them? Was not the current outcome — less freedom, more White repression — inevitable and foreseeable? Stupid Black South Africans insisting on being Black South Africans and free…”

    “The West Bank has enjoyed wide freedoms. In what way were the actions last year going to protect them? Was not the current outcome — less freedom, more Israeli repression — inevitable and foreseeable? Stupid Palestinians insisting on being Palestinian and free…”

    “Xinjiang has enjoyed wide freedoms. In what way were the actions last year going to protect them? Was not the current outcome — less freedom, more Beijing repression — inevitable and foreseeable? Stupid Uyghurs insisting on being Uyghur…”

  5. Paul says:

    Very simply, the Chinese constitution and the Hong Kong Basic Law can be changed.
    There are legitimate and legal ways to add or remove clauses.
    It may be difficult, but it can be done.
    So for people to say something will never happen, well, that’s their hope, not a fact.
    A constitutional amendment was passed in 2018 removing term limits for the President.
    Those who first suggested this change to the constitution were not threatened with jail terms for doing so.

  6. Steve Mc Garret says:

    Having read the NYT article, it seems to be that there is a huge assumption that China has defeated the virus. The true answer is we don’t know. We have Chinese statistics to rely on and we know how trustworthy they are.
    If you had Covid symptoms in China would you go to a doctor knowing the consequences. The CCP have manipulated numbers before and they always will if it reflects badly on them.

  7. Chris Maden says:

    Spot on.

    I would also add that Beijing eroded many people’s trust – especially the trust of younger people – by its repeated back-peddling on explicit commitments in the Basic Law (Article 45) on universal suffrage, and its stacking of LegCo with rotten boroughs. That, added to increasingly egregious “re-“interpretations (i.e., changes) to the Basic Law, and there was nothing inevitable about the passage of the Nat Sec laws.

    By the way, I generally use my real name on my occasional comments here. It says quite a lot that even someone who’s posting rabidly pro-establishment comments is so frightened that he/she hides behind a fake one. Cognitive dissonance, perhaps?

  8. Reactor #4 says:

    “But it is essentially blaming the victim.”

    “Victim” is a funny word. Up until recently it had a pretty tight meaning – you really didn’t want to be a “victim”. Nowadays, though, there are plenty of people claiming the label, a bit like those who are desperate to be diagnosed with a pseudo-psychological disorder that can be neatly summarized with a 3- or 4-letter abbreviation: ADHD, OCD, PTSD, LOL, LBFM, BBC, MILF. However, if we resort to the proper definition (or at least the one in my head), almost all of them evaporate. Essentially, there are no political victims in HK. Those claiming to be ones are where they are through their own volition (in the same way that there are few real sunburn victims).

  9. Mark Bradley says:

    100% spot on

  10. Siu Jiu says:

    100%.
    Those holding power are responsible, period.

  11. Toph says:

    @Steve: We know from experience that countries are unable to cover up COVID-19 pandemics completely. The mass graves in Iran could be seen in satellite photos. You get leaked videos of corpses piled up in hospital corridors. You might never know exactly how many people caught it or died, but the fact of the pandemic could not even be completely concealed in Tajikistan, which tried for months to deny its existence altogether. Which is to say, the number of Covid-19 cases in China probably isn’t zero, but if there were a mass outbreak, we’d see the signs. There’d be rumours and panic and overwhelmed hospitals. They have it under enough control to open up their economy, which is a thing you can do when you can force people to get approval from an app to leave their homes.

  12. Big Al says:

    All this talk of what can be done legally and what cannot are meaningless in today’s Xianggang. I am reminded of the scene in Star Wars Episode I when the Trade Federation worried that their blockade of the Planet Naboo was illegal. Emperor Palpatine snarled “I will make it legal”. Sound familiar? And that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …

  13. donkey says:

    This would have been the appropriate counter article to the miserly text penned by that cow Regina Ip that SCMP ran recently. It is spot on and irreducible as it is, in essence, THE ESSENCE of the problem. Thank you.

    And I would tell reactor #4 that he can go hang, if he didn’t get his joules all amped up with the negative attention.

  14. sd6 says:

    the initial protester violence was retaliation for state-back thugs attacking protesters and police torturing detainees. Protester violence then escalated after dead bodies turned up everyday in a way that loudly said “you know we did it, but you have no way of proving anything and the police have cleared the deaths of any suspicion”.

    Just needed to put that down here again since this is already being lost in the media white washing. Unlike 2014, violent protest became widely tolerated almost entirely due to the dead bodies that were turning up in rock crevices, in buildings outsider cannot access, in the sea and down from police dormitories.

  15. bagesty says:

    Absolutely spot on.
    The powers-that-be have really backed themselves into a corner on this one.
    No plausible deniability left.
    No credibility left.
    Fade to irrelevance beckons…

  16. Ho Ma Fan says:

    @Chris Maden; I also use my real name! Mr Ho, certainly. Ma Fan, not so much.

  17. Chris Maden says:

    @Reactor # 4

    What you say about victims in general may or may not be true, but is irrelevant to Hemlock’s actual argument – which he does not need me to restate.

    As to whether there are victims in the narrow sense you describe – i.e. people who suffer loss or injury because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time – I would say that Hong Kong’s entire criminal justice system – the police, the DoJ, the judiciary and the CSD, have become unwitting pawns in a political battle that was not of their making. They are all damned if they do and damned if they don’t persecute people. Those departments consist of many people – yes, real people – with sons and daughters who no longer speak to them, or whose jobs put them in an impossible position.

    But then again, the only reason you post here is to get a rise.

  18. Justsayin says:

    HK has enjoyed wide broom head, in what ways were the actions last year going to protect broom head?

  19. Reactor #4 says:

    @sd6
    I must confess to beings somewhat skeptical of the Multiverse Theory. However, in light of your comments about the trigger for the violence, then I owe it to myself to reconsider the hypothesis. Certainly in the universe I exist in, the real starting point for the trouble was the July 1 2019 ransacking of the Legco Building. I think you’ll have to concur that on that evening-night the Police were not dishing it out. In fact I got the impression that they all buggered off early – and who would have blamed them.

  20. Pope Innocent says:

    Violence is the last and best resort of the oppressed. If those in power were reasonable and law-abiding oppression would not arise in the first place, so to expect protest under their rules to have any effect is optimistic to say the least. Luckily governments have learnt from me and my predecessors that the best way to keep the wealth-generating populace quiet and productive is to give them some nonsense or other to believe in, like eternal bliss in the afterlife or that violence should be the monopoly of the state. Encourage them to march in public and exercise their freedom of speech and you’ll soon know whom to harass, arrest, abuse, and disappear. Encourage and then publicly deplore protester “violence” (really no more than photogenic fireworks), and the vast majority will continue to believe that the best way out isn’t a short, sharp, and brutal cull of a few key official – preferably accompanied by live-streamed videos on social media.

    Freedom is not granted in response to the demands of protesters in exile or the martyrdom of protesters at home. It is won with uncompromising brute force.

    “A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

  21. Penny says:

    @!atsinoisiveR – Thank you for spelling it out so clearly that even the ignorant and/or stupid must surely now understand.

  22. Toph says:

    1. Beijing’s legal scholars are taking inspiration from Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, whose schtick was that the state is justified in doing anything to maintain stability and the needs of the state trump the needs of the individual in all cases. The law is merely an instrument with which to achieve state aims. Which means you will never be allowed to quote their own laws back to them to defend yourself or demand accountability. This is “might is right” codified, and they’re doing their best to convince their people, somewhat successfully, that this is not only good and proper, but superior to the litigious West. This is what we are dealing with. Take a good hard look at it. And if your response is, “That sounds like a great place to put all my money!”, then good luck to you sir.

    2. An overt police state was perhaps not inevitable, but it was already becoming clear by around 2015 that the best case scenario Beijing was willing to offer us was a version of Macau where rights existed on paper and the pan-dems were boxed into helping maintain that fiction by being quietly but very firmly discouraged from exercising any of them. In short, we were told to become active participants in not mattering for the sake of international market access. Understandably, people said “up yours”.

    3. As someone (I have forgotten who) put very succinctly, if you treat people like nothing they do ever matters, don’t act surprised when they start breaking shit.

  23. Stephen says:

    Excellent response Mr. H

    In a few weeks we will be raising a glass and saying good riddance to 2020. One positive. The 80% of the world that is not China has now woken up the ugly reality of the CCP. Hong Kong can be proud that it punched well above its weight in opening eyes that were previously closed. Yes there will be those who are still gorging at the trough but Australia, Universities and others are are now seeing the dawn. The aggressive nationalism is nearing implosion will pass. China’s change is for China and will benefit Hong Kong.

  24. Chinese Netizen says:

    Rectum #4 must be reeling now that Porn Hub has eradicated millions of sex trafficking and kiddie porn videos from its site. What to do on the upcoming cold, lonely holiday evenings in the charming village hovel?

  25. Reactor #4 says:

    @ a number of you.

    That practically all of you lot play the man instead of the argument gives me all the motivation to keep prodding you with my long, pointy, shit-tipped stick. Now off you go to work and earn yourselves some money.

  26. Mark Bradley says:

    “Rectum #4 must be reeling now that Porn Hub has eradicated millions of sex trafficking and kiddie porn videos from its site. What to do on the upcoming cold, lonely holiday evenings in the charming village hovel?”

    Drink himself to death hopefully.

  27. Donkey says:

    So your stick IS shit-tipped. I knew it!

  28. Confernece says:

    bagesty says:

    “Absolutely spot on.
    The powers-that-be have really backed themselves into a corner on this one.
    No plausible deniability left.
    No credibility left.
    Fade to irrelevance beckons…”

    On 4 December 2020 Luo Huining, said people must comply with the NSL not out of fear because they were coerced, but of their own free will, in other words because they believe in it. This is the ultimate objective.

    That’s the whole point of an oppressive government, whether communist, fascist or otherwise. It’s not that they give you information which is a blatant lie and hope you believe it, but rather they give information which is a blatant lie and know that you know it will be a blatant lie but nevertheless are obliged to accept it, effectively acknowledging their version of reality. This is a psychological attack which over time creates society-wide cynicism apathy and fatalism. Those that forcefully disagree with reality are put into mental institutions as being “crazy” This was the Soviet Union after 70 years.

    This may not be the case in China, where people may understand they have to accept the government’s version of reality, but they may see the benefits of it as it has enabled them to become richer and healthier during the last 40 years, and an acknowledged trade off to living under western concepts. In the USSR everyone was poor (although the leaders had various perks) so people hated the system. In China this may be different and they may support the system they have as it works for them.

  29. Stanley Lieber says:

    Reactor #4 makes a good point, albeit shit-tipped.

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