Sesame Street today was brought to you by the word ‘worrywort’

There are two types of PR. One tries to influence or change public perceptions in order to improve your reputation. This is difficult, as the spin-doctors’ boss might balk at the sort of candid and open communication that wins credibility. For example, you might need to concede that you have made mistakes and now plan to do better. The other sort is simply aimed at pleasing the boss, say through flat assertions that you are right and critics are wrong. Far easier to do (and get paid for) – but hopeless at convincing the wider public. And if the boss prefers hypersensitive defiance, you might just alienate that wider audience.

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments are rebutting every perceived criticism of the NatSec laws, with some ferocity. 

For example, the BBC and NYT

In a statement, a spokesman condemned the BBC for an “extremely misleading report” about remission of sentence under the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance and “the fact-twisting remarks made by anti-China organisations”.

Ma Chun-man, dubbed “Captain America 2.0”, reportedly did not receive an early release this week due to amended rules under the new homegrown security legislation.

…Separately, Secretary for Security Chris Tang hit out at NYT over an opinion piece titled “Hongkongers Are Purging the Evidence of Their Lost Freedom”, which questioned whether keeping old copies of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper could violate the law.

After the Hong Kong government criticized Radio Free Asia in January and February, the station closes its Hong Kong operation…

“Actions by Hong Kong authorities, including referring to RFA as a ‘foreign force,’ raise serious questions about our ability to operate in safety with the enactment of Article 23,” [RFA boss Bay] Fang said.

A Hong Kong government spokesperson declined to comment on “operational decisions of individual organizations,” but said authorities “strongly disapprove of and condemn all scaremongering and smearing remarks” in relation to the national security law.

(RFA’s parting shot – a gruesome report on abuse of political-activist inmates at a juvenile offenders institution.)

And a WSJ editorial and a Guardian piece incur the wrath of the Foreign Ministry…

Beijing’s foreign ministry arm in Hong Kong has told The Wall Street Journal not to be “a worrywart” as officials hit back at the US newspaper’s views on the new domestic national security law and its grim outlook for the development of the city.

The commissioner’s office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong on Friday issued its second statement in eight days that took a swipe at the news outlet’s editorial “Hong Kong’s Giant Leap Backward”, published earlier this month.

The news came as an official from Hong Kong’s Security Bureau sent a letter to rebut an article in The Guardian, an influential UK newspaper, which highlighted warnings by the city’s justice chief that “online criticism” could breach the legislation, mandated by Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Here’s a part of that WSJ editorial

The new legislation comes atop a controversial national-security law imposed by China in 2020 following mass protests over a bill that would have permitted Hong Kong to extradite criminal suspects to China. That law has turned out to mean whatever the government wants it to mean. Hong Kong’s secretary for security, Chris Tang, boasts of a 100% conviction rate in national-security cases.

Apparently that’s not enough. In defense of the new legislation, the government says it is merely following the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s miniconstitution. So notwithstanding Hong Kong’s underperforming stock market and a flight of foreign investors, the government decided it needs more tools to lock people up. The law’s reach is sweeping and its terms such as treason and insurrection are conveniently vague.

Chief Executive John Lee says he can now turn his attention to the economy, but it may be too late. Regarding foreign influence as a threat is incompatible with a world financial center whose prosperity is rooted in the rule of law and openness to foreign capital.

The US releases its latest – very thorough – Hong Kong Policy Act report (and imposes visa restrictions on Hong Kong officials). 

The government’s response is not exactly subtle…

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) today (March 30) strongly disapproved of and rejected the untruthful remarks, slanders and smears against various aspects of the HKSAR in the United States (US)’ so-called 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report and the relevant statement of the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. It was apparent that the so-called report and the relevant statement were compiled to serve the political purpose of maintaining the US hegemony. By piling up false stories and narratives, they were clearly crafted to serve the political interest of the US in order to suppress the development rights and security interests of others.

“The HKSAR Government strongly condemns and rejects the wanton slander about and political attacks … The US once again told fallacies about Hong Kong by replacing the rule of law with political manipulation and confounding right and wrong, and blatantly interfering in Hong Kong affairs which are entirely China’s internal affairs. The US’ attempt to undermine the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong will only expose its slyness and will never succeed.”

…”The so-called ‘sanctions’ arbitrarily imposed by the US as mentioned in the so-called report, and the so-called ‘visa restrictions’ claimed to be imposed in the relevant statement, smack of despicable political manipulation to intimidate the HKSAR officials safeguarding national security. These grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs and Hong Kong affairs, and violate the international law and the basic norms governing international relations. The HKSAR despises such so-called ‘sanctions’ and ‘visa restrictions’ by the US and is not intimidated by such a despicable behavior…

The overseas criticism continues. A Minxin Pei op-ed for Bloomberg…

…Hong Kong … seems to be adopting two regrettable political traits which have long been genetically coded into China’s one-party regime.

The first is a tendency toward excess among lower-level officials. On the Chinese mainland, this manifests itself in the form of overzealous policy implementation by local authorities, who fear that acting more moderately and pragmatically could expose them to charges of ideological heresy and political disloyalty to the Communist Party.

…The speed with which Article 23 was introduced and passed appears to reflect similar zeal. Hong Kong leaders left little time for proper public consultation and detailed debate within the legislature. For that matter, they also didn’t leave themselves enough time to explain and justify the new legislation to their constituents, let alone an international audience.

The second trait Hong Kong seems to be acquiring from Beijing is political paranoia. Party leaders have a habit of seeing more threats than actually exist and making more enemies than necessary. As a result, they are prone to taking costly measures against imaginary foes. That can choke off the civil liberties vital to a normal society without doing much to improve regime security.

…it’s more likely that the new rules will be enforced strictly and restrictions expanded over time, not shrunk. Even though the Hong Kong government recently denied that the mainland’s Great Firewall would be widened to cover the former British colony, for instance, Beijing will inevitably be tempted to control information there as elsewhere.

…foreign firms might find themselves better off moving their Hong Kong-based operations to mainland cities such as Shenzhen or Shanghai. It will make little economic sense to keep operating in high-cost Hong Kong if they can’t count on stronger protections against arbitrary government action there.

If Hong Kong officials think passing Article 23 will assuage fears among foreign businesses, they are likely to be disappointed. The more the city’s leaders appear to be emulating their mainland counterparts, the more doubts they are guaranteed to raise.

No government respose as yet.

And the UN human rights Special Rapporteurs make their submission on Article 23. From a summary

Many of the offences are vague, over-broad, do not satisfy the requirement of legality, and are likely to criminalize and chill civil society, media and human rights defenders – including extraterritorially as a technique of transnational repression of dissidents

…The law also provides for excessive periods of pre-charge detention, which risks abuse against civil society. Increased penalties for some offences are also disproportionate

The law restricts access to legal representation and choice of lawyers, in violation of the rights of defendants and fair trial. It also enables the government to hand-pick judges in security cases, infringing on judicial independence and the impartiality of judges

The law potentially criminalizes innocent and legitimate civil society engagement with the United Nations, including its human rights procedures, contrary to human rights law and the spirit of the United Nations Charter

The rights negatively affected by the law include freedoms of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and movement; liberty; fair trial; privacy; participation in public affairs; & academic freedom

(Whole report here.)

Will the UN rapporteurs get the ‘slanders and smears’ treatment?

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4 Responses to Sesame Street today was brought to you by the word ‘worrywort’

  1. Rancid Tart Regina says:

    “worrywart” rhymes with “dotard”.

  2. Mary Melville says:

    To more mundane issues: the waste charge fiasco completely ignores the fact that the number of visitors here greatly outnumber residents and they generate substantial amounts of both food and other garbage.
    So will these visitors be given a green bag on arrival to fill up during their stay and then be expected to take it back home in their luggage?
    The removal of garbage bins in my hood, and tourist ‘hub’, has had no visible impact on the volume of trash generated while planters and the roots of the few trees on our streets are now defacto bins.
    Needless to say nary a sighting of diligent FEHD officials doling out littering fines. They are all up Sham Shui Po hassling the elderlies engaged in admirable street side recycling operations. That they take up less pavement room than the enormous wheelie suitcases trundled around by the visitors is not a consideration.
    Also no condementation of the supermarkets that are undermining waste reduction by packing all produce in plastic boxes or wrappings leaving both residents and visitors with no options but to load up on unwanted plastics.
    While the intention of waste reduction is admirable, the solutions being rolled out have not taken into consideration the volume of visitors to this small, may I call it??, territory. Taiwan and Japan with multiple times our footprint welcome just a fraction of our short term stayers.
    That the government is hoping to attract ever more visitors who will generate ever more trash indicates the lack of cohesive policies and failure to recognize the fundamental issues.

  3. True Patriot says:

    Why do I have that feeling creeping up on me that I am living in a colony – again?

  4. steve says:

    “…do not satisfy the requirement of legality…”

    Oooh, nice twist of the knife.

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