‘No policies’ policy to continue

Carrie Lam explains that cop-turned-Chief Secretary John Lee will not really be a Chief Secretary who coordinates all the non-security policy areas in which he has zero experience. In other words, he will serve mainly as another layer of NatSec in the hierarchy. We had guessed as much. 

As befits that appointment, she also indicates that her Policy Address in October will be a drab list of vague banalities. They always are, of course, but you would have thought someone somewhere might propose some slightly bold quality-of-life or social-welfare initiatives to try to divert attention from the relentless NatSec awfulness of Hong Kong today. (One of the justifications for the new regime, remember, is that now all the evil foreign-backed elements are jailed and crushed, we can have better governance and address those ‘deep-rooted problems’.) 

The fact that there will be no carrot to go with the stick suggests that the grim Beijing officials now running the city behind the scenes see suppressing and punishing Hong Kong as their sole task. They see no point in trying to persuade any wavering silent middle-ground in the population (or ultra-moderate Democratic Party politicians) that the CCP can be benign. We don’t need no stinking ‘hearts and minds’ strategy.

Some reading from the weekend…

A Harvard Kennedy School paper co-written by former lawmaker Dennis Kwok on what the NatSec Law means for business…

The HK NSL does not define “national security,” nor do the implementing regulations made under Article 43 of the HK NSL. The definition currently being applied by Hong Kong police and prosecutors is sufficiently broad as to encompass participation in journalistic activities and democratic primary elections. 

Jerome Cohen’s thoughts on Prof Johannes Chan, recently demoted by HK University.

From CSIS, how Beijing’s hubris – buying its own ‘decline of Western democracy’ idea – is throwing its international relations off course.

Interesting BBC report on the foreign vloggers pushing Xinjiang denialism on YouTube and elsewhere, often with Beijing state media help.

From RFA, Beijing cracks down on karaoke – banning songs by Cui Jian and Beyond…

Zhejiang current affairs commentator Sun Jialin said the move is part of an ongoing bid by the CCP to control every aspect of cultural life, including people’s inner thoughts and feelings.

And HKFP reports that Hong Kong could double the amount of land it has under cultivation (which isn’t much, obviously) if it grew veg on rooftops.

Or in spare rooms: curry plants, Thai basil and (still in infancy) chilis are thriving just up from the Central business district…

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Police raid bomb factory, seize 50 kilos of chives

Guardians of national security in Hong Kong’s education sector punish a couple of teenage students for performing the love song Galactic Repairmen by Dear Jane at a high-school music competition, because administrators deem the lyrics a threat to the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly of power. Meanwhile, valiant police protecting the nation from flowers outside Sogo thwart an evil counter-revolutionary plot involving chives. The 217 cops involved will be recommended for Silver Bauhinia Bravery Medals.

The trials of 47 pan-dems rounded up in February are postponed until late September, leaving the majority not granted bail in (sweaty, non-air-conditioned) detention. The 47 were arrested for ‘conspiracy to commit subversion’ – otherwise known as participating in the pan-dem primary election a year ago.

It sort of seems the NatSec regime is claiming a need to assemble large quantities of documents to keep the defendants in jail and their lawyers from seeing evidence for as long as possible. 

The eradication of pan-dems from public offices is nearly complete, as dozens of the camp’s district council members resign ahead of being disqualified (an attempt to avoid possibly being forced to pay back their salaries). Hong Kong’s once-representative political bodies will henceforth be rubber-stamps stacked with NatSec regime loyalists. There will be nothing to vote for.

On the subject of dismantling things, New World are to rename their Pavilia Farm residential development Fawlty Towers. (There’s also a Pavilia Hill, Pavilia Bay, Mount Pavilia and Fleur [not making this up] Pavilia – so that’s a ton of housing complexes now with a name that’s not only inane, but cursed.)

Some weekend reading…

A (big) paper by Minxin Pei in Journal of Democracy on China’s course towards neo-Stalinism under Xi.

North Korea attacks Apple Daily.

A new think-tank ‘dedicated to a slogan’ – CMP on the Research Center for Xi Jinping Thought on Rule of Law set up in Beijing a week ago.

Why do so many of China’s new modern art museums have white males in their top jobs? The Art Newspaper (kinda heavy on white females, but anyway) has found four of them (including Hong Kong’s M+), on fat salaries.

And a detailed but interesting account of Ketamine in China, from a basic military anaesthetic to recreational drug among nightclubbers to more recent decline in use – mirroring the social changes in the (ahem) ‘party-state’.

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Vanishing PR company mystery solved

Just yesterday afternoon, I was having a pee-pee in my apartment’s modestly sized but perfectly formed bathroom, and for some reason I asked myself, ‘Whatever happened to that PR company the Hong Kong government hired after much effort last year?’ Maybe I hadn’t been checking ProvokeMedia.com, or the guy who writes their Hong Kong reports had left, or Consulum’s grand relaunch project was still in the works – or maybe there was some other, perhaps juicier, explanation. 

And voila! Hours later, all is made clear. The PR company – one that could stomach the Saudi account – has scurried off. It seems they did some ‘baseline research’ (love to see the executive summary) and maybe cobbled together a plan for some propaganda-ish ads, encouraging the bureaucrats to…

…run a business confidence campaign overseas later this year that will pave the way for a ‘Relaunch’ campaign tentatively next year.

We might guess that the company, watching in mounting horror as the CCP officials behind Hong Kong’s NatSec regime determinedly drove the city into a bigger and bigger reputational ditch, decided – not very tentatively – to grab what they could of the US$6.3 million and run. 

Which is exactly what – as I finished my pee-pee – I had surmised. Cue slight deep, warm feeling of glee. (Hint to Information Services Dept managers still adjusting to the new way of doing things: when you relaunch the ‘Relaunch’, slap an extra zero on the budget and don’t quibble about the exact terms/deadlines of deliverables. Works for the other dictatorships.)

Meanwhile, some updates for any PR firm thinking of pitching…

The NatSec regime comes for Falun Gong. Not sure what took them so long to go after this virulently anti-CCP but nonetheless wacky and grubby quasi-Buddhist sect – presumably it doesn’t touch Hongkongers’ lives the way RTHK, pan-dems, Apple Daily, the legal system, etc do.

The FLG idea comes from a legislator trying to ingratiate herself with the regime. Not to be outdone, a colleague of hers comes up with this.

The Bar Association objects to the government giving Justice Dept people ‘Big Macho Senior Counsel’ badges. Nothing they can do about it, of course – what better win-win than to devalue an independent institution’s symbol of integrity while tossing a cost-free reward at your shallower quisling staff?

The HK Police Anti-Flower Division deploy dozens of men outside Sogo as part of Operation Everything is Normal.  

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Possibly fake news about possibly fake news

Some days in Hong Kong are Orwellian; others are more Kafkaesque. Yesterday was one of the latter. 

Schoolchildren in Plot to Blow Up MTR Stations. Police display plastic bags containing cash, BB guns and walkie-talkies (the sort of toy guns and walkie-talkies used by annoying teenage cosplay-soldiers in country parks). Also, Guy Fawkes masks and coffee filters. The cops say they found ingredients for making TATP – a peroxide-acetone mixture plus an acid. As pointed out here, this could mean hair bleach, nail polish remover and toilet cleaner.

Look – maybe there really is such a plot, with a ’revolutionary group’ and its $10,000 in sinister ‘foreign currencies’. It’s just that after the last four, five or whatever ‘bomb factories’ and other such contrived-looking alarms since 2019 (plus real MTR atrocities in Yuen Long and Prince Edward), people are jaded and skeptical. Especially when we have senior officials ranting things like…

Mourners for attackers will become terrorists. Security Secretary Chris Tang even hints at arresting an academic who analyzed the Sogo flower-laying as ‘sympathy for someone who died or to register discontent with the government’. No-one expects cops-turned-cabinet secretaries to be nuanced or subtle when others contradict their line on National Security-threatening Terrorist Violence Mayhem, but it’s starting to feel like we’re headed towards criminalization of views that don’t echo the ‘heroic police/security state’ line. And there are those credibility-sapping frantic HK Police outta control hashtagging tweets. And then…

Carrie Lam says ‘ideologies’ threaten Hong Kong’s youth. (Oh for the days when it was ‘Hey Kids – Say No to Drugs’!)

Government departments “shouldn’t allow illegal ideas to filter through to the public through education, broadcasting, arts and culture, beautifying violence and clouding the conscience of the public,” Lam said.

“I also call on parents, principals, teachers, and even pastors to observe acts of teenagers around them. If some teens are found to be committing illegal acts, they must be reported.”

Not creepy at all! Among today’s list of pro-democracy bodies disbanding to avoid being rounded up for thought-crimes: an alliance of protesters’ parents, HK Psychologists Concern, and a group of actuaries.

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Tiny number of people affected by NatSec Law grows again

The authorities are preventing Hongkongers moving to the UK from cashing in their retirement savings early – a longstanding right for people leaving town permanently. The reasoning (that the Hong Kong government doesn’t recognize BNO passports, so therefore the departees can’t claim overseas residency) is obviously absurd. Is there some way (UK government action?) to pressure HSBC and other MPF providers with UK operations to release emigres’ savings now and reclaim the money when those clients turn 65?

There’s an interesting debate about whether the CCP wants malcontents to leave Hong Kong or (perhaps for reasons of face) would prefer them to stay. Beijing’s post-1997 immigration policies make clear that dilution or displacement of the local population is an underlying strategy, and the recent NatSec regime couldn’t be better designed to drive people out. But the UK’s granting of residency to BNO holders obviously touches a raw nerve: Chinese people are the emperor’s property. 

Facebook, Twitter and Google could quit Hong Kong if the NatSec regime makes their employees liable under revised privacy laws aimed at curbing ‘doxxing’ of police and other officials (link to original WSJ scoop here).

Internet companies generally comply with such rules in other jurisdictions – but the laws are proportionate, and these are typically countries with rule of law and accountable governments. Police states, on the other hand, don’t allow Western social media sites in the first place. Which is Hong Kong?

And Hong Kong officials claimed a few months back that real-name registration of SIM cards was now suddenly necessary to fight ordinary commercial crime. But Beijing’s guy doesn’t bother with the lame fibs. It’s a NatSec regime thing. But you knew that.

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Everyone but cops/govt to blame for anti-cop/govt sentiment

John Burns in HKFP on how an ex-cop’s rise to Chief Secretary goes with a decline in trust,  accountability and the role of professional civil servants. And Steve Vines on Hong Kong’s transition to a police (or whatever you want to call it) state where the government has ‘abandoned cooperation and persuasion in favour of crackdowns and heavy punishment’. Benedict Rogers of HK Watch gives Security Secretary Chris Tang a serious mauling after the latter blames ‘those who incite violence and hatred against the country’ for the stabbing/suicide in Causeway Bay on July 1.

Hong Kong’s security officials are clearly enraged at public reluctance to buy in to their hype about terrorism – and especially at online portrayals (however histrionic) of the attacker as a martyr. 

The laying of flowers outside Sogo was not about ’romanticizing a despicable act’, nor really even about honouring a stranger who could hardly have been of sound mind when he stabbed himself in the heart. Simple explanation: it’s a (now rare) opportunity for people to express their view of the NatSec regime as a whole, and of a police force now seen as an instrument of oppression. 

The cops’ bullying of kids and bystanders in Causeway Bay earlier that day served no purpose other than to embitter the public. The intimidation of flower-bearers at Sogo the day after, or screaming at kids the day after that, etc, only accomplished the same. People are not like soymilk companies. (Warning: watching these items could make you ‘radicalised by myriad fake information’. You’d have thought the police PR people might realize that the whiny panty-wetting about ‘mourning the cold-blooded attacker’ is itself inciting more people to bring flowers – but no.)

As the articles at the top point out, Beijing’s Hong Kong officials could in theory ask how they created this mess, and break the cycle of brutality-alienation by returning to a more representative, rule-by-consent style of government. But in a system that relies on constant paranoia and insecurity, all they understand is a strategy to break the will of the population and force them into submission. 

Sadly, the front-line cops don’t seem to realize – or mind – that this puts them in a position where they bear the brunt of public hostility. Meanwhile, their ex-boss-turned-Chief Secretary thinks he can heal the social divide

…through “non-political activities” such as sports events and campaigns that encourage a healthy lifestyle among teenagers.

Better Red than expert!

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Hong Kong celebrates Handover Day/CCP 100th

Among this year’s July 1 festivities: Police stopping and searching cross-harbour buses, swamping Causeway Bay, detaining Grandma Wong, kicking kids doing soccer practice and domestic helpers having picnics out of Victoria Park, chasing the usual petrified 10-year-old, and (surprising it doesn’t happen more often) someone apparently going nuts. At least we in Hong Kong didn’t have to sit through Xi’s hour-long speech.

A July 1 message from former Governor Chris Patten. In classic Patten annoy-all-the-right-people style, he begins with some pointed comments about social inequity in China.

Alternative CCP 100th anniversary commemorative stamps for Hong Kong.

Amnesty International declares a human-rights emergency in Hong Kong.

Make of it what you will: David Webb compiles Immigration Dept data to show daily arrivals and departures in Hong Kong since quarantine measures were imposed in Feb-Mar 2020. In the last 12 months there has been a net outflow of 116,000. Possible reasons: expats (including domestic workers) rotating out but not being replaced; other expats leaving before their contracts end because of Covid; and of course this. What we can’t tell is how the numbers break down. But if 100 families of three are flying out on one-way tickets every night for a year, that would add up to 110,000.

Lots of CCP anniversary material around – here’s a selection…

Foreign Policy wonders who the celebrations are really about – the CCP or its chairman?

The ever-discursive Geremie Barme looks back at 100 years of the CCP – with lots of fascinating personal recollections.

From Kevin Carrico, 10 myths about the CCP, including a reminder that it was the Communists who kept the Chinese people in poverty for decades.

A Mekong Review three-part series on the CCP’s centenary by Jeffrey Wasserstrom, using book reviews as an angle – starts here (with links to other two).

Minxin Pei sees China’s future as more North Korean than Singaporean.If you want more ‘positive energy’ in the anniversary celebrations, Christine Loh in HKFP tries to do a brief history of the CCP without upsetting the comrades on the one hand, but not totally shredding her own intellectual integrity on the other. Not much of the nasty distressing stuff!

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Hong Kong’s IgNoble Awards

The 2021 honours list.

The post-1997 Hong Kong honours system of Gold Bauhinia Stars and other medals is a direct relabeled version of the colonial-era system (MBE, OBE, etc), and as such is a cheap but effective way to reward pro-establishment shoe-shiners. 

In the first few years after the handover, the government could give the new-look medals to previous recipients of the colonial ones – and thus vain property tycoons augmented their British titles with post-1997 ones. Compilers of the list also handed out honours to the city’s outstanding (but not politically outspoken) science, medical and cultural figures, but this small pool of potential recipients soon ran dry. In recent years, more and more of the top medals have been going to retiring, and even serving, public servants. 

Health-care workers deservedly get some (lesser) awards this year (though some medical experts were missed out). But inevitably the list is heavy with NatSec cheerleaders (Regina Ip, etc), and there’s a large portion of embarrassingly puffed-up selfless police heroism. But the NatSec angle doesn’t hide the ‘honours inflation’ that has taken place in a system that gives recognition only to a small circle of insiders and shoe-shiners – not to the thousands of politicians, activists, entrepreneurs, volunteers, artists, academics and others whose service to their fields and the community has failed to include kowtowing. For most Hong Kong people, the honours are irrelevant, if not alienating.

Bunny Chan yesterday.

Classic example: longstanding pro-government stalwart Bunny Chan has progressed from Bronze Bauhinia Star in 2004, to Silver in 2009, to Gold in 2014, and now gets the top – supposedly super-elite – Grand Bauhinia Medal, simply for hanging around, because the Medal Management Committee can’t find anyone else.

Among other dubious awards… 

Being perceptive and analytical, Mr [CK] CHOW has made remarkable
contribution to tendering wise counsel on policy-making and administration of the Government.

(In other words, he stays awake during Executive Council meetings.)

Former Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross, who got a Silver Bauhinia Star years back, now gets a Gold one – presumably for writing humiliating op-eds praising the NatSec Law in China Daily

Martin Lee Ka-shing, son of Henderson Land property baron Lee Shau-kee for, er, helping the poor access housing.

Senior civil servants called Cherry, Maisie and Betty.

Daryl Ng, another property scion (dad Robert runs Sino Land) for ‘profound achievements in heritage conservation’, oh yes.

A token gwailo, a token brown person, a few ‘clansmen’ association bosses, and too many guys with the pretentious ‘Ir’ title (even one or two bores who are both ‘Ir’ and ‘Dr’). 

The citations for the cops’ Medal for Bravery push the ‘saving civilization’ narrative to the limits and probably insult many previous recipients…

…was challenged and assaulted ferociously by violent rioters with hard objects during the execution of duties. She bravely protected her colleagues with her body to save them from sustaining more deadly injuries.

…was challenged and assaulted ferociously by violent rioters with umbrella and fists during the execution of duties.

…responded to a call to attend to one of the most dangerous cases involving homemade explosives in Hong Kong’s history. At the scene, there were sensitive and unstable homemade explosives known as triacetone-triperoxide (TATP), which had been used in terrorist attacks around the world. 

…responded to a call to attend to the case involving two largest homemade bombs in Hong Kong’s history. The two large bombs, weighed around 8 kilogrammes and 2 kilogrammes respectively and designed to be set off by mobile phones, were more powerful than that of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. The explosion would cause maximum devastation and injuries.

Some Hong Kong history. Enjoy the rest of the Handover Day/CCP 100th anniversary  festivities!

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In which the word ‘Bang’ appears four times in a row…

HK Police uncover a Special Occasion gunpowder plot. (No ‘bang’ here – but you probably guessed that. Maybe a few dozen beer bottles.) This comes after the sleuths tracked down dangerous stickers, and as they prepare to put 10,000 cops on the streets tomorrow to help us celebrate this extra special Handover Day.

Remember Apple Daily? Or maybe it never existed. For proof it was once a big deal – the second part of Lee Yee’s series on the paper is here.

As we all know, there’s a major anniversary taking place right now – congratulations to Hong Kong Free Press for making it to year seven.

From AFP: how the NatSec Law overrides defendants’ rights

Defending the accused “is an impossible task,” one lawyer told AFP.

“This is presumption of guilt.”

For a mega-read on the subject, Georgetown Law has just released a briefingHong Kong National Security Law and the Right to a Fair Trial.

Will the NatSec Regime manage to co-opt a splinter de-facto pro-Beijing Democratic Party to play the role of fake opposition? I’m betting a few of these nonentities will turn quisling. If so, it will simply remind all right-thinking people that there will be nothing to vote for in the forthcoming LegCo ‘election’.

Reuters on how China’s state-owned companies are boycotting HSBC.

Vehemently denying you are insecure is a sure sign of insecurity – discuss. Anyway, the Diplomat notes the festivities surrounding the CCP’s 100th birthday party, and detects a bit of uncertainty

…the campaign seems infused with insecurity.

…the reality of party history is much more unsavory than leaders are willing to acknowledge.

But! The gala was all in the best possible taste! No, really!

And (if the videos didn’t spell it out) an idea of where this might be heading…

In April this year, a man is believed to have been publicly executed by firing squad in front of approximately 500 people for illegally selling CDs and USBs containing South Korean video and music content…

The article goes on to say…

South Korea has installed loudspeakers that can be used to can blast propaganda into North Korea. In 2016, as a response to nuclear tests from the North, K-pop was blasted loud and clear in a show of defiance. K-pop hits such as Big Bang’s Bang Bang Bang were chosen as a way to irritate the regime…

You too can share Kim Jong-un’s suffering.

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A slice of life this Tuesday

Today’s top tip: If you want to get someone arrested, put a sticker on their door.

RTHK is cancelling more shows, while a former editorial writer at Apple Daily is arrested at the airport before boarding his flight – ‘collusion with foreign forces’ stuff. It seems the NatSec Regime has a list of journalists to be prevented from leaving the city. It would be strange if they didn’t.

Which brings us to a short piece with lots of pix on a former photographer at the paper who has already moved his family out

The adjustment to life in Leeds, a city in northern England, has perhaps been easiest for his 5-year-old daughter. Before leaving, Hui told her that their new home was a place where people of different skin colors and races lived, just like in the Disney movie “Frozen.”

She has been enjoying the spacious parks, huge warehouse-like toy stores and a larger bedroom than in densely packed Hong Kong. “After all she’s still young, and she doesn’t know what’s going on,” he said.

If you feel like being depressed today, see the photos of scenes at the London flights check-in at the airport.

(Some suspect that the recent supposedly Covid-related ban on inbound passenger flights from the UK is in fact a ruse to reduce capacity on the route and stop Hongkongers from fleeing. In a place with a government that breaks your door down because you have a flag on the washing rack, why shouldn’t they?) 

For a bit of light relief: Brutality against indigenous people is embedded in Anglo-Saxons’ DNA.

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