A few things…

More angst about tourism. The SCMP reports that some 470,000 Mainlanders (the only tourists who matter) visited Hong Kong in the first three days of the lunar new year holiday. They were clogging up the few parts of Central and Wanchai I ventured out to. But that’s still not good enough for the ‘tourism industry’, who complain that, rather than spend big bucks on overpriced garbage, the beastly ingrates… 

…arrive in the city early in the morning and head back to the mainland that same night.

“They would come and walk around the city instead of really spending money here,” [industry person Dicky Yip] said.

On mainland social media platforms Xiaohongshu, terms such as “Hong Kong in a Day” and “Tourist Special Forces ” have gone viral, with posts containing the former amassing more than 54 million views.

Popular posts contain detailed maps and itineraries, with users swapping suggestions on how to see the city’s key attractions in under 24 hours while spending as little as 300 yuan (US$42). Suggestions include saving on transport by taking the tram or eating at local cha chaan teng.

…[Alice] Zhang, a recent graduate who works in marketing, was visiting the city for the first time and had decided to simply walk around to see “scenery that was different from the mainland”, she said.

But even though she had only arrived at around 10am, she would be returning to Shenzhen just 12 hours later, she added.

“One reason is because the hotels are so expensive here,” she said. “And I don’t think there is much else to see to stay longer.”

And of course she’s right. Hong Kong is trying desperately to boost the sheer number of visitors, assuming they will all be the old sort buying/smuggling imported luxury products. Instead, much of the influx comprises young people with limited funds who must have their photo taken posing at a few dozen Weibo-popularized spots. Maybe they will become more adventurous one day? The point is that, as someone who hitched across Europe, North Africa and the US in his teens, I have no problem with kids who don’t do anything for the local economy when they travel. The Hong Kong tourism lobby and bureaucrats, on the other hand, only want visitors who will prop up high rents.

Is Hong Kong Still Worth Visiting? A recent video on Hong Kong from travel guide producer Attache. The producers seem nervous. Not political enough for analysis fans – 2019 isn’t really even mentioned (they had a hard time getting people to talk). And probably too superficial for the hardcore foodies (shots of dai pai dongs). But a genuine tribute to the city from a former resident. “Even though there is something truly heartbreaking going on here, this place is by no means dead.” Pretty good editing, too. 

The Hong Kong police are installing 2,000 CCTV cameras on the streets in the coming year. They already say that’s not enough, and they ‘haven’t ruled out’ facial detection tech. 

By way of reassurance – maybe – Minxin Pei in Foreign Affairs argues that China’s internal security surveillance system relies on informants as much as technology, and therefore cannot be exported elsewhere. Lots of interesting detail on the system…

Beijing’s surveillance state is not only a technological feat. It also relies on a highly labor-intensive organization. Over the past eight decades, the CCP has constructed a vast network of millions of informers and spies whose often unpaid work has been critical to the regime’s survival.

…To avoid creating a rival to its own power, the CCP distributes surveillance tasks to different units in the security forces and other state-affiliated actors. This organizational arrangement has two distinct advantages. It prevents the formation of a powerful secret police that can control the upward flow of information and become a threat to the party. And it enables the party to benefit from the involvement of state-owned enterprises, universities, and other entities that channel information to the government, without increasing the size of the secret police.

…citizens can spy on their colleagues or neighbors, and because their participation is secured by coercion or enticement, it does not cost much to maintain them. Data disclosed by 30 local governments show that between 0.73 percent and 1.1 percent of China’s population—perhaps as many as 15 million people—serve as informants. 

… economic problems will make it harder for Beijing to handle the spiraling costs of maintaining and upgrading its high-tech surveillance equipment. This may be a particular problem for the Skynet and Sharp Eyes projects, which are funded by debt-ridden local governments and are therefore likely to experience mounting challenges in the lean years ahead.

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9 Responses to A few things…

  1. steve says:

    The Soviet Union and its satellite states also had an elaborate internal surveillance bureaucracy, of course. The German Democratic Republic’s version was especially extensive. The snooping apparatus of that regime (and its collapse) is usefully chronicled in the German film “The Lives of Others” (2006), and people have posted amusing/horrifying Stasi training documents and films online.

  2. reductio says:

    Thanks very interesting, I’ll check that film. Wiki has articles on the Stasi and Gestapo and what comes out in both organisations is that they themselves were not omnipresent, standing on corners, lurking in every shadow, ready to pounce. They could only operate effectively if there was a critical number of willing informers, ready to snitch on their neighbours. Some informers were blackmailed into it, but many just did it because they obviously got a nice warm glow from dobbing people in. Will this model of surveillance translate to HK?

  3. Psycho Wong says:

    @reductio: considering the number of backstabbers and bootlickers one finds in any Hong Kong office, I think this model of surveillance will work very well in HK.

  4. Narcs Everywhere says:

    People have already gotten arrested for displaying stickers on their front doors. Who else turned them in but their neighbors? University lecturers are already well aware that their students (most postgraduates are from the mainland) are reporting on them, and school teachers have long lived in dread of pearl-clutching parents except now there’s politically as well as morally puritanical ones. Hospital staff narced on injured protesters and each other, Cathay Pacific flight crews narced on each other, and protesters released from prison are flagged unemployable so they can be financially coerced to narc on their former associates. And these are just the ones that have been documented.

  5. MeKnowNothing says:

    “considering the number of backstabbers and bootlickers one finds in any Hong Kong office, I think this model of surveillance will work very well in HK.”

    Indeed it does. Been there, lived that – now waiting to get banged up since I’ve got all the T-shirts…

  6. Miss Jean Brodie says:

    It starts early and is encouraged by the adults around them. As a teacher I had primary school students dobbing their classmates for minor infringements. I would ask the snitch whether they were doing anything wrong themselves and receive a startled look and a vehement denial. I would say, that’s ok then, as long as you are doing what you should, you don’t need to concern yourself with what others are doing. Snitch goes off deflated and baffled, if not indignant.

  7. TouristDoughBoy says:

    Just doing some back of the napkin theorising….

    I wonder if constantly using the message that “foreign black hands are out to destroy hong kong from within” is perhaps the best selling point for making Hong Kong and international tourist destination. Jury’s still out though. I will keep monitoring the situation.

  8. Chinese Netizen says:

    “Snitch goes off deflated and baffled, if not indignant.”

    And puts a target squarely on YOUR back now.
    See: David French’s article in the NY Times (Feb 18) about the evolution of vindictive retribution politics in the age of MAGA America these days.

  9. Lord Cain says:

    CCTV for Mid Levels.. Caine Rd, the Champ Elysees of Asia, known not for the number of flashy boutiques matched closely by the number of in situ homeless, but for the amount of dog sh*t smeared along the footpath on any given day.. install the damn cameras and identify these obnoxious dog owners, who fail to clean up after their pets, and have them fined, or caned.. (pun intended), surely the cops have nothing better to do now that the protests have be quelled… ?

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