Parallel government, parallel universe

The CCP has spent the New Year period intimidating human-rights lawyers, sentencing a tycoon to death, mystifying us over the fate of Jack Ma, and blocking WHO Covid investigators. Then comes the dawn arrests of over 50 Hong Kong activists (loosely defined) for trying to win an election.

Courtesy of Holmes Chan, a spreadsheet of all the arrestees. And here’s a series of brief bios for each one. A good summary from Atlantic.

One reason for the shock is the sheer scale of the purge. The cops grabbed pretty much every pan-dem you’ve ever heard of who isn’t in jail or exile – plus some relative unknowns.

Another is that the tougher the crackdown gets, the more inoffensive the targets are. The round-up includes moderate ex-lawmakers like Kwok Ka-ki, Helena Wong, Claudia Mo, and Jeremy Tam, academic Bennie Tai, unionist Carol Ng, social worker Jeffrey Andrews, lawyer John Clancy, and a campaigner for the disabled called Li Chi-yung – as well as regular arrestees like Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Long Hair. 

Most jarring, however, is the creepy Mainland/CCP-style reason given for the mass arrests: suspected ‘subversion’ as a result of involvement in the pan-dem camp’s primary election last July. The polling exercise was intended to maximise the pro-dems’ presence in the Legislative Council as a peaceful and legitimate opposition with a view to obstructing the government’s budget – which (according to the Basic Law) could lead to the departure of the administration. Benny Lai’s constitutional-if-wacky scheme is now regarded as a ‘vicious plot’ to subvert state power under the NatSec Law, punishable by life imprisonment.

There are ideas floating around that Beijing is trying to ‘test’ Joe Biden, or whatever. But the NatSec regime – a parallel government running Hong Kong alongside the local administration – has its own relentless bureaucratic and ideological momentum. The decision-makers are not following the invasion of the US Capitol, the Georgia US Senate runoffs, or even concerned about the pending trade deal with the EU. They only care about a supposed Western-backed conspiracy to use Hong Kong to topple the CCP from power. They are operating in a different world and a different reality to the one we inhabit. 

This dragnet has caught up moderates, an aging American lawyer, an ethnic-minority community organizer and a guy whose big thing is wheelchair access. It’s clear that Beijing’s locally based NatSec supremos are not so much dedicated to their mission as desperate to crush anything they can’t control or comprehend. Who the hell will they come for next?

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10 Responses to Parallel government, parallel universe

  1. Ho Ma Fan says:

    Currently very disappointed with Mrs Ho Ma Fan. I was telling her the shocking news of the mass arrests of pro dems, and her response was that she doesn’t give a shit about politics, so it doesn’t affect her. I wonder how many people in Hong Kong have a similar attitude? You may not care much about politics, my dear, but politics cares very much about you. It is everywhere and all-pervasive. The most powerful substance known to mankind, alongside compound interest.

  2. Codpiece says:

    Perhaps Beijing would like to switch on CNN and look at the Trump White House. THAT is sedition and subversion of government.

  3. Polar says:

    They need to “crush anything they can’t control or comprehend” because the Natsec regime needs to comply with the “bottom-line thinking” touted by Xi. Bottom-line thinking assumes that the least likeliest risk will turn into reality, and therefore has to be eliminated regardless of costs.

  4. where's my jet plane says:

    @ HMF
    I wonder how many people in Hong Kong have a similar attitude?

    Quite a lot I think. Mrs WMJP was very strongly of that mind (which led to some bitter arguments last year) but is coming round to the concept that politics do matter. She was telling me yesterday of a family with three children, the eldest at uni, who have banned all TV ,radio and newspapers for the kids saying that they should concentrate of their studies and not be concerned with politics, virus matters and the like. Scary.

  5. Reactor #4 says:


    I’d be very interested in meeting your missus. It sounds like we have a lot in common.

    Yes. The inevitable outcome of democracy – the rabble storming the seat of government simply because they don’t like the result. Many people swear by the system, but over the years I have formed the opinion that the version Churchill championed so grandly was well before the grand experiment had run its course. Fact is it is useless – what in effect is bribing people with offers of goodies in return for their votes is no way to run a complex society. You end up with toss-pots like Trump and Johnson in charge.

    Finally, I am sure that the people running the show up in Beijing are, as I type, having a right old chuckle.

  6. YTSL says:

    On the subject of those who don’t think they are or will be affected by the ongoing crackdown: I know people who took part in the extradition bill protests and voted in the democratic primaries who still think that they are safe from repression in Hong Kong (presumably because they see as themselves as such innocuous small potatoes that it won’t be worth the while of the authorities to prosecute and persecute them).

    A part of me wishes I shared their confidence (as one could then rest easier). But my general feeling is that they truly lack imagination and somehow cannot believe that it is possible for Hong Kongers to suffer the fate of the Jews and other enemies of the Nazis, those who fell afoul of the Communist Chinese regime during the Cultural Revolution, the victims of the Khmer Rouge, the Ughurs of Xinjiang, etc.! Better to be able to read the writing on the wall. Ignorance is so not bliss!

  7. SiuJiu says:

    “They are operating in a different world and a different reality to the one we inhabit.”

    Well said.

  8. Toph says:

    @wmjp: When I was growing up, my family bizarrely insisted on me reading the newspaper every evening to get me into university, but never discussed current events outside of sports.

    It is common, and I think it’s descended from a refugee instinct for self-preservation. Politics is arbitrary, corrupt, and beyond your control, so keep your head down and make money. Given the history, I can’t say I blame them. There has been pushback against this mentality in recent years – activists have coined the term “Kong Pig” for apathetic folks who only care about their Instagram food photos, trips to Japan and stock portfolios. But it runs deep. Almost every protester or woleifei testimonial last year began with “I never used to care about politics”, and while the sentiment is quite genuine, it’s also a way of signalling one’s credibility as an everyman or everywoman. As in, “I’m not a troublemaker/opportunist/CIA plant/crazy person”. Because the assumption was that no normal person would get involved in politics, barring extraordinary circumstances.

    The question now is whether defensive apathy will make a comeback. Will the parents of the next generation carefully avoid discussing the events of 2019 in front of their children and teach them to shut up and make money?

  9. dimuendo says:

    Jet Plane

    Your wife’s friend’ s family are touchingly old fashioned and out of touch (sic).

    My children do not read newspapers, listen to the radio nor watch TV but get all their information from their phones or computers. Thus there is no sharing of access nor viewing, nor am I even able to ascertain what are their sources. Produces some weird comments and views, at least in the case of the 18 year old.

    If I had my way access to computers/smart phones/ the internet would be restricted or banned for under 18s. No doubt going to come (for all) but for rather different reasons to mine.

  10. Mark Bradley says:

    “ I wonder how many people in Hong Kong have a similar attitude?

    Quite a lot I think. Mrs WMJP was very strongly of that mind”

    It sounds like you both have blue ribbon wives. A friend of mine has a blue ribbon wife too (from mainland China), but most hk people I interact with are very anti ccp which also includes my wife.

    And don’t forget the district council election results; majority hk registered voters are yellow ribbon and pro democracy and they absolutely do give a shit. We also wouldn’t have such huge turnouts back when peaceful protests were allowed if people didn’t give a shit

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