Hong Kong remains in the news – though not in a good way.
International legal figures including former UK and Canadian attorneys-general issue a statement warning that the CCP is undermining judicial independence in Hong Kong through Basic Law ‘interpretations’ and external pressure, and that the presence of overseas judges on the Court of Final Appeal…
…“is of considerable reputational benefit to the Hong Kong government, which has repeatedly asserted [that] the continued presence of [the judges] amounts to a vote of confidence in the Hong Kong courts as whole”.
It says that in practice the number of appeals reaching the overseas judges is very limited, with many cases being dropped in suspicious and troubling circumstances.
A big piece in Wired on the items used as evidence of participation in Hong Kong protests…
At trial, Chan’s friend testified that the two had planned to move furniture from an office and use the ties to secure everything in transport. The magistrate rejected the story. In the ruling, he inferred that the defendant intended to use the ties to create barricades and “further the unlawful purpose of using them in armed confrontations, fights, [and] inflicting injuries.” The court found Chan guilty in August 2020 and sentenced him to five and a half months in prison.
A CATO Institute guy summarizes Hong Kong today…
Attorneys have been targeted for defending protestors. NGOs and museums have closed. Bookstores and galleries purged their stocks just as the Hong Kong government scoured teachers’ ranks. The Legislative Council now includes only “patriotic” members, meaning CCP factotums. Almost any political activity opposing government policy is deemed a threat to national security. Emigration has surged as people seek to get out, especially for the sake of their children.
And then there’s the negative publicity surrounding less overtly political – but still Beijing-led – oppression in the form of Covid quarantine and social-distancing measures. Despite some recent minor relaxation, these are starting to feel like they will drag on into 2023 or just become permanent social restrictions in the name of public health.
A CNBC item on people and businesses leaving Hong Kong invites a quick guesstimate: total emigration for 2020-22 could end up at 300,000 or so – maybe 4% of the 2019 population. What percentage of the middle class? (Grimmer departures are also up, with suicides reaching four a day.)
Reports and stories like these have prompted some local officials and government supporters to express great concern over Hong Kong’s international reputation. Could this hand-wringing be – even unwittingly – a muted form of protest against the post-1C2S NatSec/Covid regime? These people wouldn’t dare openly criticize Beijing’s broad clampdown on Hong Kong, or even show unease as the city goes down the tubes. But they can boldly call for PR campaigns or better slogans to restore Hong Kong’s reputation.
(Reg’s recent HKFP column is an example of this focus on ‘PR challenges’ as a possible proxy alarm about the whole mess the CCP is delivering. The SCMP offers another – not really worth a click, but it gingerly hints at the collapse in Hong Kong’s credibility. More steadfast/less worldly loyalists have little to say on the subject.)
To the extent local-official/pro-establishment types worrying about ‘PR’ might not be protesting in disguise, they are assuming that someone, somewhere in a position of power in Beijing, gives the tiniest damn about what the rest of the world thinks about Hong Kong. Which is just silly.
An HKFP op-ed on the fallacy of repairing governance-disaster Hong Kong’s reputation with better PR sums it all up (it refers to Covid measures, but could just as well be about any of the NatSec horrors)…
If this problem were sorted out, then an improved reputation would ensue. And if not, not.
Some post-weekend reading…
An interview with Transit Jam.
Thread on how Beijing censors US Embassy posts on social media, while state media complain they don’t have free speech on Twitter.
New Republic on Biden’s long-overdue ‘gaffe’ on Taiwan.
…Washington’s policy of strategic ambiguity has only worked, and can only work, if China is not really in earnest about reconquering its renegade province (as it sees it) by force.
The Spectator on Taiwan’s plans to ward off a Chinese attack.
The Guardian on Beijing’s plans for the Pacific.
And one of the weirder out-of-area stories for a while: the Sudanese of Hungarian descent…
The Magyarabs of Aswan & Nubia had had little to no contact with the outside world, so an inexplicable adoption of a foreign identity seems at once implausible. Not only that, but they clung to this Hungarian identity so strongly that the British interred them during WW1.