No matter how much it mocks claims of rule of law, the unceasing persecution of Jimmy Lai must continue. The former Apple Daily boss is sentenced to over five years for ‘fraud’. It is basically a minor (and probably very common but usually overlooked) lease contract infringement concerning 0.16% of the company’s HQ at a state-owned industrial park – a civil dispute turned into a criminal charge by alleged ‘deliberate concealment’. He was convicted in October of two other counts (covering different time periods) in the same case.
The judge is a designated NatSec judge, though it is not a NatSec case. He has given Lai a longer sentence than those recently given to an attempted murderer and a child abuser.
A statement from Lai’s legal team.
China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman defends the trial after criticism from the US…
“…evidence is clear, the procedure is law-based, and the judgment is open and transparent. The trial by the SAR court is totally legitimate and lawful and it brooks no interference or reproach.”
This is just the warm-up. Lai is also facing far more serious NatSec charges involving ‘sedition’ and ‘collusion with foreign forces’.
In the Conversation, a look at how a retreat from zero-Covid will play out in China – possibly a scaled-up version of what happened in Hong Kong in early 2022…
Given the low level of immunity in China, a major surge would likely see large numbers of hospitalisations and might lead to a dramatic death toll. If we assume, say, 70% of the Chinese population becomes infected over the coming months, then if 0.1% of those infected die (a conservative estimate of omicron’s mortality rate in a population with hardly any prior exposure to SARS-CoV-2), a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests we’d see around one million deaths.
From Carnegie Endowment, another (brief) analysis of Beijing’s Covid quandary…
[Xi’s problem] begins with how he wants China’s pandemic story to end, a story wherein the CCP’s Marxist-Leninist political system was able to manage the virus better than any other political system, especially those of the United States and other Western democracies.
…if Xi’s goal is to show the strengths of China’s political system through Zero COVID, how will the leadership be able to relax restrictive policies while avoiding the high transmission and mortality rates that would undermine his ultimate political objectives?
One obvious solution: manipulate the data.
Another solution would be to reverse the relaxation and go back to zero-Covid. Atlantic says whatever happens, Xi owns it…
…the new rules will also allow very large numbers of people to go about their daily life unmonitored. Without perpetual testing, the authorities can’t as easily pinpoint or tally the sick. Without incessant QR scanning, they can no longer automatically track close contacts. The new rules do not mean a full reopening, but they erode the machinery that made zero COVID tick, and the authorities may be overestimating their ability to contain the virus if it begins to run rampant.
…In Beijing, obtaining a timely COVID test has become a challenge. Some businesses, desperate after years of controls, are not enforcing the remaining rules. Many people are gripped by fear and staying off the streets. And where is Xi? So far, no words of reassurance or comfort have come from the top. The effort has been left to the state media, now frantically trying to convince the public that COVID is no longer the deadly plague it has warned about for years.
Thoughts of Sean Tierney – university teacher, ‘token evil gwailo’ movie star and reluctant guest at his recent farewell party – on leaving Hong Kong. Including the shift in Mainland students’ attitudes over the years…
When I told them that phrases like “Blood ties of the Chinese race” were not accepted in the West, either because it was eugenic pseudoscience or, more simply, the vague whiff of Zyklon B, they responded as if the world’s opinion was irrelevant. These students, at least judging by those who spoke up most often, seemed utterly uninterested in the outside world or learning about it on anything but their own terms.
Even if teachers’ (or students’) problems aren’t your thing, scroll down halfway for his account of the transformation of Hong Kong governance to a ‘slovenly union of craven authoritarianism and malignant stupidity’.