Pan-dems just can’t please Beijing

Beijing is peeved about pan-dem lawmakers’ mass resignation. The CCP wants to kick them in the teeth repeatedly, but has a panty-wetting tantrum when they move out of teeth-kicking range – a challenge to the Central Government, apparently.

Beijing and the local puppets might actually miss the pan-dems. With no-one delaying business in the legislature through paper-throwing, quorum counts and filibusters, who will be to blame from now on for ‘holding up essential government work’? Unless, of course, the executive branch starts to deliver on housing, health care, schools, etc – in which case everyone will warmly welcome the barring of democratically elected members.

Questions on many minds: What is the purpose now of LegCo? And what is the purpose of the Basic Law? Or of the Hong Kong legal system as a whole? The last question is not overblown – the logic of the NPC disqualification edict is headache-inducing (for example, the government itself kept the four in LegCo by postponing the election, but now even wants to reclaim their salaries). The Bar Association bashes out a quick critique.

Another teacher is de-registered for what RTHK calls ‘dodgy history lessons’. Alleged examples: ancient Chinese invented paper to save tortoises (of oracle bones fame) from extinction, and the Brits launched the Opium Wars to save China from drugs. This would be brilliant stand-up. He or she is utterly wasted teaching kids. What about teaching that no-one died of hunger, disease and cannibalism during Mao’s Great Leap Forward? Would that count as ‘dodgy’? 

It could be that the CCP is now ordering the Education Bureau to find teachers to bar – maybe they have a quota to fill. Schools are resisting, with principals complaining about informers snitching on teachers.

(Speaking of which, fun ideas from the US on how to use a snitch hotline.)

Some links…

HKFP has a lot of explaining to do: how LegCo became a rubber stamp, and how the government is doing the same to RTHK

In a similar spirit, Wired examines Hong Kong as a case study in the death of democracy.

The BBC on Hong Kong news-stands as allegory for declining press freedom. Did you know the SCMP started up Hong Kong’s streetside newspaper stalls as part of its mission to topple the Chinese regime? Does the CCP know?

Slumming it, part 1: The NY Post on the evils of the WHO

It’s been clear from the pandemic’s start that China staged a shameful coverup that cost lives across the world. Now, newly uncovered details show that the World Health Organization didn’t just kowtow to the Communists — the UN agency actively helped Beijing whitewash its deadly deeds.

Slumming it, part 2: Gordon Chang – the pundit who has predicted the coming collapse of the CCP system for close to 20 years – on Beijing’s might-is-right view of the world.

Slumming it, part 3: National Interest enticingly wonders whether Beijing’s man-made islands in the South China Sea are crumbling away like other tofu projects.

From the Interpreter, a review of Thomas Orlik’s book China: The Bubble that Never Pops.

Netizens find ways to overcome the WHO Facebook page’s censorship of references to Taiwan and Winnie the Pooh.

Al Jazeera on the decline of the Kuomintang, which ‘by its own admission has less than 9,000 party members under 40.’ An academic says…

“They’ve been in Taiwan for 70 years. They could rename the party the ‘Taiwanese Nationalist Party’ or do other symbolic things to indicate they are really first and foremost for standing up for the Taiwanese.”

This has been the year of Taiwanese soft power – Ketagalan Media asks how to monetize it, starting with up-market coffee.

And everything you wanted to know about Pocky

The original version of Pocky was totally coated in chocolate, but that caused a problem since the thin chocolate coating melted easily in the hand. The inspiration for the exposed bit of the pretzel stick underneath is said to have come from an Osaka specialty, kushikatsu – breaded deep-fried bite-sized morsels of meat, shrimp and vegetables on skewers.

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HK another day closer to next eruption

Beijing ejects four pan-dems from the Legislative Council via an almost blasé NPC Standing Committee edict (reports here, here and here). What we say goes, and to hell with due process or existing laws and procedures

Although pan-dem lawmakers go into wrist-slashing-and-wailing mode (much to the delight, presumably, of their CCP tormentors), there really isn’t a downside to this. It doesn’t hurt Hong Kong democracy or ‘political development’ because there isn’t any. It doesn’t end One Country Two Systems, because that ended with the imposition of the NatSec Regime. It doesn’t turn LegCo into a rubber stamp – it just exposes the fact that it already was one. It does confirm that the Basic Law that supposedly protects the rights of Hong Kong people means nothing if and when the CCP finds it inconvenient.

Hong Kong’s freedom movement should see this as a gift that brings clarity. The remaining pan-dems being used as ornament-scapegoats can finally come to terms with the futility of staying in LegCo and quit. To take part in this fake political system is to pay tribute to Beijing. You can’t fight the Chinese Communist Party playing by its rules on its field. The future is an asymmetric conflict. Young techies, satirists and Milk-Tea Alliance meme-makers will have more effect than middle-aged lawyers urging us to vote in rigged elections and then ranting that the Leninists aren’t fair. The shared resentment of life under a malevolent colonizer will be more inspiring than high-minded demands for democratic structures.

Faced with a choice between ejecting dissenters and retaining a shred of legitimacy for the legislature, the CCP goes for the former. Makes the local puppets a bit embarrassed, but who cares? On a slightly amusing level, the squeezing out of moderate democrats from formal public life will leave members of the old-style tycoon-bureaucrat shoe-shiner establishment more exposed (Felix looking nervous). Loyalty (or ‘patriotism’) tests will also presumably apply to pro-dem District Councils. That leaves the independent judiciary on the CCP’s to-do list – indeed, the edict disqualifying the four lawmakers is specifically designed to sideline the courts.

Related links… NPC Observer discussion of the edict. From AFP, the purge of LegCo in vivid graphics. Badiucao’s rather excellent cartoon. And a poem – perhaps aimed at cliched journos, but could be dedicated to certain incessantly despairing (now ex-) pan-dem lawmakers.

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To oust, or not to oust?

Are the CCP going to oust pan-dem lawmakers or not? There are signs of a last-minute backtrack. If so, it would suggest Beijing officials are indeed worried that all of them will walk out. Spoilsports.

A commentary in The Diplomat says the international community’s reaction to the imposition of the NatSec regime in Hong Kong is mainly symbolic and thus unlikely to change Beijing’s mind. Is it supposed to? The US Treasury’s sanctions are certainly ’futile’ in that respect. But note, and relish, that contrived, whiny we-don’t-care-so-there response. Sanctions send a message to CCP collaborators who aid in the persecution, intimidation, arrests and jailing of people for their views: there will be repercussions. For what it’s worth, it also sends a message to the persecuted that they are not forgotten.

Which brings us to Demented Mouth-Froth Freak-Out of the Week Award, which goes to the official statement ‘HKSAR Government strongly opposes to the so-called US sanctions’. Do I read too much into it when I suspect the mangled grammar is a deliberate snub to evil foreign influences? The CCP does have an infantile streak when it gets vindictive. Anyway, it sets the tone for some seriously Mainland-dictated rhetoric that has extra creepiness when rendered in English…

…HKSAR Government has today strongly opposed the so-called “sanctions” by the United States (US) Government … HKSAR Government is not intimidated by such despicable behaviour, and will resolutely continue to implement the Law … “HKSAR is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China … enjoys a high degree of autonomy and comes directly under the CPG [huh?]. The repeated blatant and barbaric interference in the internal affairs of the HKSAR by the US Government is another vivid example of unreasonable bullying act against the CPG and the HKSAR Government officials who safeguard national security. This will undermine Hong Kong-US relations at various levels, and is resented by many people locally and around the world”… 

Sounds like the futile symbolism has hit a sensitive spot.

In case you missed it – Kevin Caricco a couple of weeks ago in Apple Daily gives a brief explanation of sanctions, especially for the benefit of an SCMP columnist, plus some wise words on the use of ‘so-called’.

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Beijing to put pan-dems out of LegCo misery?

All (remaining) pan-dem lawmakers plan to quit if Beijing decrees loyalty requirements that would lead to some of them being disqualified (essentially for filibustering). Reports from HK01 (via here) suggest that Beijing officials would be happy to see this happen – in other words, they see ending the symbolic presence of opponents as more important than maintaining a shred of legitimacy for the Legislative Council. A Leninist system cannot accommodate dissenting voices. Presumably, the (mainly pan-dem) District Councils will come in for similar ‘loyalty test’ purging.

Pan-dem lawmakers have no means to influence the puppet Hong Kong administration through the rigged and weak LegCo. All they have been able to do is use the chamber as a platform for protest, much of which officials portray as childish disruption. It’s ironic that the Chinese government has to point a gun at the pan-dem legislators’ heads to make them do what they should have done some time ago.

There’s also a suggestion that elected pan-dems (through District, LegCo and primary polls) should establish a virtual assembly. Whether it’s called a ‘discussion forum’ or a ‘People’s Parliament’, it would drive the CCP nuts. It will be interesting to see how Beijing officials would stamp it out: through attempts at Internet censorship, by arresting participants for sedition/secession, or whatever.

The US has put sanctions on another four people for their roles in imposing the National Security regime on Hong Kong. Edwina Lau and Steve Li of the NatSec Police find themselves barred from the US, along with two Mainland officials (job titles, etc here). 

And local grassroots (or at least woodland) protest continues. This weekend’s hike was from Pokfulam Reservoir to Aberdeen (mainly following Section 2 of the Hong Kong Trail). If you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot butterflies, flowers, and quite a range of rebellious slogans. This one (next to a water catchment thing) reads ‘Communist bandits’ – a phrase dating from the Kuomintang.

I remember years ago, when Microsoft came up with its first Chinese-language word processing program, Mainland users were shocked to find the phrase in the dictionary/thesaurus (the software had been written in Taiwan).

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No fresh start for HK

The US is looking forward to a fresh start, with lots of healing and lovey-dovey stuff. (The scriptwriters should be ashamed of themselves. The Four Seasons Total Landscaping saga capping the US presidential election would have been just about believable – but placing it between a sex toy store and a crematorium was stretching the audience’s credulity. Sorry.)

No such luck for Hong Kong.

HKFP counts up the number of pan-democrat legislators who have not been disqualified, expelled or arrested. Out of 29 of them, only four haven’t. ‘In some cases they have been subject to multiple arrests on top of actions to remove them from the legislature.’

In Greater Bay Area news, relatives of the HK 12 are not allowed to know the names of the lawyers that will be allowed to work on their cases. And Chinese officials are intimidating a lawyer they tried to hire.

And, not content with having a Gestapo Snitch Hotline to play with, Beijing loyalists are resorting to even cruder ways to intimidate judges who don’t take part in the CCP’s lawfare against pan-dem protesters. Hong Kong officials seem slightly embarrassed by the zealousness of the tactics – but not much. Update: CCP-owned press join in.

That’s just to start the week. 

Some other links…

From Michael Pettis, a big-picture explainer on why Beijing derailed the Ant Group IPO (no gory inter-elite vendettas or dirt – just the reality of China’s state-controlled banking system).

HKFP has some photos of nocturnal Hong Kong creepy-crawlies (not the pro-CCP ones daubing threats against judges on walls).

And Asian Review of Books asks if there is such a thing as Hong Kong literature. (Not that it would qualify, but I am toying with the idea of distilling some of Hemlock’s Diary down to book-suitable size. Good idea? Bad idea? Just something to do?) 

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Cultural Revolution Re-enactment Phone Service Opens

The Hong Kong Gestapo’s Snitch Line officially opens and is – the SCMP says – flooded with thousands of tips from patriotic citizens eager to inform on ‘yellow’ judges and people who eat at ‘yellow’ restaurants

I myself am planning to grass on the HK Sports Institute, which lists local associations as ‘national’ on its splittist CIA-funded website. This is obviously incitement to conspire incitement to incite conspiracy, or at least to utter secessionist words. Other possibilities: organizations you don’t like displaying maps of China that miss out Taiwan and the South China Sea nine-dashed line, or supermarkets labelling goods as made in ‘Taiwan’ rather than ‘Chinese Taiwan Province of China’. And then there’s the grumpy neighbour downstairs who complains if your drying laundry dangles too far down from your washing line and can be seen from his window. The one you suspect is doing money-laundering for Joshua Wong.

To take part, you ideally need a single-use disposable email address, access to a coffee shop or other public PC during a busy time of day, and – to be safe – a face mask.

On a not unrelated note, Ming Pao (in Chinese) on up-market schools losing students due to the NatSec regime. There are also various stories on apartment prices and rents falling in Tung Chung and other districts, though owing to airline layoffs as much as emigration. Haven’t been to any going-away parties yet (back in the 1990s they were every week). RTHK3’s plan to play the national anthem every morning might help change that. And a German think tank (never heard of it) leaves Hong Kong for Taiwan.

Some reading…

An introduction to Prof Michael Davies’ book Making Hong Kong China

Imagine you live in a freewheeling city like New York or London—one of the world’s leading financial, educational, and cultural centers. Then imagine that one of the most infamous authoritarian regimes takes direct control over your city, introducing secret police, warrantless surveillance and searches, massive repression and the arrest of protesters, and aggressive prosecutions…

Transit Jam reports that district councils are proposing to link Hong Kong Island’s coastline paths to create a 65km walkable route around the island, so you can walk from Central to Admiralty via Stanley. Though it sounds like the new route might take all the fun out of such a hike…

Under the existing segmented trail, several sections are not easily accessible: a few broken links require crawling on all fours along a pig track or bouldering along rocky streams. 

An interesting explanation of how China has no idea how to run a Twitter network.

And Willy Wo-lap Lam with all you need to know about the Fifth Plenary Session of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee.

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HK government resolutely stamps out ‘shared mic’ menace

Punctuation fans rejoice at RTHK’s headline ‘Activist faces new sedition charge, over shared mic’. The government is piling on sedition charges against pro-democracy broadcaster and activist Tam Tak-chi. Without the comma, the headline would suggest that all the charges have been over a shared mic. But thanks to the plucky little punctuation mark, it is clear that only the latest one is. 

RTHK’s editors are also taking care to be impartial. A sloppier writer (ie me) might write ‘Activist faces new sedition charge – over shared mic’. 

The government prosecutors allege that by passing someone a mic, Tam ‘conspired to utter seditious words’. This means ‘inciting hatred and contempt against the government’. A hyphen in that headline would imply a surprise – that something is amiss. It might implicitly suggest to readers that maybe it is the prosecutors, not Tam, who are encouraging hatred and contempt toward the government, and indeed further damaging the rapidly declining reputation of Hong Kong as a whole, perhaps making it look like the sort of place where consulates have plans to evacuate citizens and top officials excuse police perjury.

Fortunately for the government, RTHK is admirably grammatically correct and objective.

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HK Police remind everyone of their collusion with Yuen Long thugs

If you’re a police force that appears to have colluded with gangsters in violent attacks on members of the public – and you were bitter and angry about the widespread perception that you had – what could you do? For the Hong Kong Police, the obvious answer is arrest a journalist who uncovered significant evidence of the collusion on suspicion of a trivial and normally overlooked technicality. If anyone had any doubts about the cops being in cahoots with the thugs, they don’t now. It is also clearer than ever that the HKP are vindictive (let alone institutionally narcissistic and delusional about their own image).

RTHK producer Choi Yuk-ling allegedly applied for details of vehicle ownership (which is essentially public information) for a reason other than the vehicle/transport-specific ones specified on the Transport Dept’s website. (Details here.) Like many investigative journalists, she did this in the course of her work. In her case, making the documentary 7.21 – Who Owns the Truth? (English subtitles), which spells out the collusion and subsequent cover-up. If you haven’t seen it, the HK Police now direct your attention to it.

Inevitably, hundreds of commentators deplore the arrest as a threat to freedom of the press. This is like expressing shock and outrage, after witnessing a vicious tiger attack, that the creature had stripes. The HKP today is an arm of the CCP – of course it aims to curb freedom of the press.

But it’s not personal! The wrathful CCP can also wreak vengeance (or ‘snag’, per SCMP) on non-state-owned fintech giants just about to be listed in the biggest IPO in history – as Jack Ma’s Ant finds out. This is murky, but it’s possible to see parallels with the Choi arrest. Panic, over-reaction, complete blindness to reputation, Hong Kong officials strutting around pretending to be on a par with London and New York left looking like idiots.

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Some Tuesday links

From Benedict Rogers – a sobering summary of the choices and limits facing HK’s protest movement. As he says, ‘the harsh truth has not yet sunk in for many’. Figures like Jimmy Lai and Joshua Wong are now essentially waiting to be thrown behind bars, and it is surely futile for others to risk joining them. 

And this is while we still have a reasonably independent judiciary. Jerome Cohen writes on the judges acquitting people charged (without anywhere near enough evidence) with ‘riot’. How long will the CCP tolerate such displays of rule of law? From Beijing’s point of view, the courts constrain state authority, belittle the police and prosecutions departments, and provide relief to people the CCP wants to humiliate and punish in order to intimidate the whole population.

HKFP offers a critique of ex-judge Henry Litton’s views on the Hong Kong judiciary. Does a good job of deciphering Litton’s ramblings and making them more coherent than they are in his own words.

One of Litton’s bugbears is judicial reviews, which he says are overused. He doesn’t ask why this is so. With no representative political mechanisms, and a cronyistic bureaucracy contemptuous of public opinion – even before Beijing introduced direct rule via the NatSec regime – JRs have been the only recourse people have apart from setting fire to things in the streets.

A kick up the backside for bores who blame the victims: a Taipei Times column saying that, contrary to the popular media narrative, China is not reacting to external events – it is making others react.

And a pic from a family member in the US passing her local polling station as it is being prepared for election day – in the spirit of inclusiveness, the warning is even spelt out for Korean speakers…

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Another reminder to pan-dems: abandon LegCo

The arrests of (mainly moderate) pan-dem lawmakers is hardly surprising. As clear winners of majority support from voters, they have a mandate the government clearly lacks. A flexible colonial ruler might consider absorbing them into the power structure – but instead they are living proof of the system’s lack of legitimacy. They expose the government’s shortcomings while occupying public office, and the new NatSec order does not permit such liberties. 

Participation in the joke legislature is futile: whatever you do, you are playing into the CCP’s hands. Meekly accept the rigged rules, and you play into their hands. Make a fuss and fight back, and you play into their hands. 

And what on earth is the Public Order Events Investigations Squad anyway?

Worth watching: RTHK Hong Kong Connection’s interviews with family members of the HK 12, with English subtitles.

Perhaps worth avoiding: non-Twitter users have been largely spared, but users of the ‘hell-site’ are recovering from a massive mouth-froth eruption over the Mark Simon/Christopher Balding/Apple Daily/Jimmy Lai/Hunter Biden uproar mayhem scandal. Villains of the piece are the Next Media company gwailo (now – like some others in that noble profession – retired) and the former Shenzhen/Vietnam-based economist. 

Looks like they were so besotted with Donald Trump – and so in tune with the Republican Party’s apparent need to cheat in this election – that they concocted a harebrained scheme to make Joe Biden’s son look slimier than he really is. (Update: an explainer.)

While the attempted smear is aimed at a US audience, it resonates in Hong Kong, where many people hate the CCP, observe Joe Biden’s ‘senile Panda-hugger’ persona (and overseas leftists’  ‘soft on China’ leanings) and conclude that they should support Trump. Lai himself, for example. It’s all a godsend for the pro-democrat media tycoon’s local detractors.

For relief, surrealist video artist Vic Berger comes to the rescue, via Vice. They call it a ‘cinematic exploration’ of President Donald J. Trump. Others might describe it as a deranged medley of clips with special sound and other effects. Hallucinatory mushrooms recommended.

(Can’t help thinking of the work that went into making it. Is there a really user-friendly on-line video editing app? Hong Kong needs something like this.)

Berger also did one on Jim Bakker and Covid, and did lots more on Bakker because, seriously, how could you not?

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