HK ‘elites’ doing their thing

The ‘elite’ Correctional Services ‘Black Panthers’ riot team, plus dogs, enter Lo Wu Correctional Institute to suppress some sort of insurrection (why else deploy the riot squad and dogs?) by female prisoners armed with snacks, lipstick and hair clips. It seems by organizing and sharing these items, they were threatening to create ‘chaos’ in the facility. (At least one is being held without bail under suspicion of threatening national security by taking part in a primary election – so from a NatSec regime viewpoint, snacks and lipstick are quite possibly a mortal danger to the established order.)

The Black Panthers (who the hell picked that name?) will probably get medals for bravery after their daring raid on the snacks- and lipstick-wielding women at Lo Wu. Perhaps more deserving of a Platinum Bauhinia Award for Heroism would be Hong Kong Alliance’s Chow Hang-tung, who’s telling the NatSec police to shove their demand for data on members, donors, affiliates etc. ‘We will not help you spread fear’.

It is humiliating for the all-powerful Security Bureau and NatSec Police to be called out so bluntly. They issue frantic press releases (here and here) warning of stiff penalties for such defiance, and they will no doubt follow through with dawn raids, arrests and asset seizures.

The word ‘elite’ also crops up in this SCMP report on the 2021 Election Committee Subsector elections to be held in two weeks time – an analyst describes the process as ‘elite politics’. Gullible reporters insist that the EC is now super-powerful as it will elect the Chief Executive and select many legislators. This is absurd, as the Politburo in Beijing does not delegate personnel decisions like the choice of Hong Kong CE (even a puppet one) to anyone, and certainly not to a few hundred shoe-shiners incorporating a bunch of property tycoons’ witless kids.

The SCMP finds great meaning in the fact that these candidates mostly offer no policy ideas. The reality is simply that the candidates – in addition to (some might say) having limited intellects – mostly have no opponents, hardly any actual voters, and only a ceremonial role to play. The elite, and the politics, are a thousand miles away to the north.

On the subject of local pro-Beijing politicians, a former one has been arrested for stealing apartments (it can be done) for sale to the government’s redevelopment agency… 

…Sio was … the vice-president of the Young DAB – a youth branch of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. He ran in the 2015 District Council election but lost, after which he withdrew from the party.

During the social unrest in 2019, Sio founded a 100-member voluntary lawyer group to provide legal assistance to pro-establishment citizens injured by protesters.

An upstanding citizen! Unlike all those Hong Kong youngsters who, a Beijing education official says, are obsessed with Western ideas like freedom and democracy, and not stealing apartments.

Elsewhere in No Clampdown news – a look back, with pics, at RTHK’s City Forum – launched in 1980 to encourage free expression of views, scrapped suddenly in 2021 to shut the public up.

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More NatSec for schools

A busy week for Hong Kong’s NatSec regime ends with a focus on education. Most schools sign up for NatSec workshops, to train teachers on forthcoming NatSec classes. Teachers will also at some stage have to take an oath (presumably similar to the civil servants’ one). 

And Baptist U introduces a compulsory NatSec element to its graduation requirements. It doesn’t exactly sound onerous: a two-hour lecture, a similar amount of reading, and a ‘quiz’. (Remember what Henry IV of France said.) It’s the symbolism that counts. Of course, there’s always room for curriculum development. No word yet on when university academics will be subjected to oath-taking, Vitasoy-employee and other screening and rectification treatment.

In areas where CCP-overseers are not giving the orders, local officials are less efficient. You wouldn’t have thought they could screw up the handing out of free money – but they manage to do it. (Any idiot could have told the bureaucrats: offer free rice at the same time.)

Some weekend reading…

William Pesek in Nikkei Asia wonders if Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam realizes just what a difficult position Hong Kong is in, with the ‘Dickensian’ inequality that fueled the protests even worse than before, and a government in Beijing apparently on a drive to downgrade capitalism…

Asia’s “world city” now trails Brazil and Mozambique when it comes to inequality … Beneath the billionaire tycoons, chauffeur-driven bankers and gleaming skylines, many of the city’s 7.5 million people are falling further behind — and perhaps more keen than in 2019 to take to the streets.

…now the billionaires, too, might be bracing for what is to come. Xi’s Maoist turn is putting trillions of dollars of market capitalization at risk…

…Once COVID-19 passes, Hong Kong Inc. will likely be more unbalanced than it was before the pandemic hit. An economy that satisfies no one but Xi in Beijing is not one with a vibrant future.

Moron Western fund managers are still sticking with the ‘invest in China’ dream years after it ended as an investment concept. (Reminds me of the time a Fidelity superstar called Anthony Bolton (?) turned up in Hong Kong to perform his stock-picking miracles with a China fund just as the Mainland market peaked. The smart thing – he says modestly – was to move into Vietnam and India five years ago.)

From Niao Collective, a thread of categorized protest-art threads.

For history fans, a niche but fascinating subject – how Hong Kong (Chinese) moveable type spread into the Dutch East Indies.

And for map/WWII freaks, an impressive cartographic database on military preparations before the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941 (intro here). A vivid illustration of how the Brits didn’t expect invasion from the north. 

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‘No crackdown on civil society’ continues

Are you one of the thousands who made donations to the 612 Humanities Fund, which helped with protesters’ legal costs? The Hong Kong police want to see the group’s records, and those of the pan-dem umbrella Alliance for True Democracy, suspecting threats to national security, collusion with foreign forces, etc. The wording of the police statement is almost a parody of sinister-intimidating-creepy-bureaucratese. 

If the NatSec cops do get hold of their details, will donors get a 6.00 am knock on the door? Will they be put under surveillance? Will the authorities inform their employers? Will employers – Vitasoy, say – feel the need to fire them? They will be in good company: among Fund trustees are former lawmakers Margaret Ng and (now jailed) Cyd Ho, Cardinal Joseph Zen and singer Denise Ho.

Which of course brings us to the HK Arts Centre’s cancellation of the forthcoming sold-out Denise Ho concerts, citing a public order/safety clause – saying it is ‘duty bound to observe closely the recent development in society and the laws concerned’. More here and here.

Seven pan-dem activists get 11-16-month prison sentences for ‘inciting’ and ‘organising’ an unauthorised assembly on October 20, 2019 (I think that was the one where the police water cannon managed to spray the mosque on Nathan Road)…

Six of them are already in jail for three previous cases of the same charges.

The Confederation of Trade Unions – which has dozens of affiliated labour groups – is next on the chopping block, according to Ta Kung Pao (which previously targeted Denise Ho).

The sound of bags being packed continues…

“Just two months ago, I believed that those who were leaving the city didn’t truly love the city,” a 26-year-old female primary schoolteacher told Nikkei, “but now emigration is slowly becoming an option at the back of my head.”

Still to come…

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The pros and cons of an impossible PR campaign

With jails full of politicians, protestors, speech therapists and activists, and professional and protest groups disbanding, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam denies that there is a crackdown on civil society. (Geremie Barme writes on the analogy between the Taliban entering Kabul in 2021 and the CCP taking over in Beijing in 1949. His description of post-1949 crackdowns might tell you something about what more Hong Kong can expect in future.)

Would you expect Carrie to say? Still, her claim highlights Hong Kong’s ongoing image and reputation problems.

HK Free Press offers a crosstalk-style pair of articles on the government’s multi-million dollar PR consultation and the supposedly forthcoming (post-Covid) image relaunch campaign – one pro and one con. At least that’s the theory. In fact, the establishment advocate, Regina Ip, thinks the official PR approach is crap as well – though not in the same way. 

She thinks the consultation’s survey of overseas perceptions should have included the Mainland, which is classic wannabe-CE virtue-signalling. She also says that the eventual messaging should not try to gloss over political ‘sensitivities’ (which she chooses not to detail). This too is designed to please CCP overseers who don’t see anything to apologize for. But it also makes some PR sense.

Why were two million people on the streets in the first place? Why did authorities not listen to public opinion and seek a political solution – as you would expect of an open dynamic cosmopolitan world city – but instead go for the Third World-dictatorship option of tear gas, mass-arrests and a subsequent NatSec dismantling of human rights, rule of law and civil society? If you really want to relaunch Hong Kong as a brand, a PR consultation needs to address these things.

Regina of course still thinks like a local bureaucrat. Beijing’s officials would have none of this ‘public relations’ flim-flam – they just screech their version of the truth at you and throw you in jail if you don’t believe it.

A truly credible positioning of Hong Kong’s brand would be: ‘the world’s best business location run by paranoid Leninists’.

Which brings us to some more recommended reading…

David Shambaugh on how Beijing’s ‘conflicted nationalism’ is a drag on China’s soft power…

Notwithstanding … efforts to project a positive image, Beijing has punctuated them with periodic angry outbursts, accusatory rhetoric, and an aggrieved national persona…

Michael Turton on how China’s propensity to be ‘provoked’ shifts the blame for its aggression onto others, often with the international media’s help, ‘in a move likely to anger Beijing’.

Brilliant analysis of China’s over-the-top anti-Australian trade policies…

…there are some signs that we are witnessing Chinese hubris and overreach rather than Australian contumacy or pigheadedness.

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Another NatSec day – seditious sheep and soy milk

I sometimes wonder if we can go 24 hours without at least one absurd/creepy NatSec horror. It never seems to happen. Today, we have two.

It says here

Three more members of a speech therapists’ union have been charged and remanded, over children’s books featuring talking sheep that prosecutors say are seditious.

I think it’s the books, rather than the actual cartoon sheep, that allegedly…

…bring hatred, contempt or disaffection against the government and the administration of justice, to incite people to commit violence and to ‘counsel disobedience’ of the law.

But maybe it’s the animated wooly ruminants. Either way, it’s so borderline self-parody that even the most devout CCP loyalist among the Justice Dept’s prosecutors must find it embarrassing. Maybe the idea is to test their willingness to debase themselves.

Second, we learn that

Vitasoy is [reportedly] planning to collect personal information on its workers and their family members, including employment history and membership of various associations… 

This is presumably aimed at weeding out any staff at the soy milk maker who might stab a cop and then kill themselves, or express sympathy to the family of a colleague who does so.

Is such a tragedy involving a company employee likely to occur again? Will a background check on staff members’ and their families’ affiliations help to prevent such a thing? And how does Vitasoy enforce this? Let’s say the company’s deputy assistant accounting manager’s husband is a member of the speech therapists’ union – how do they force her to admit it? And what action will Vitasoy take if she does come clean about it?

The family-run company has supposedly hurt the feelings of Mainlanders by blaming them – ’not its own misdeeds’ – for a fall in profits. The management is petrified about being in the CCP’s Big Book of Enemies, and desperately needs to do a public kowtow. A corporate version of political screening might do the trick. Watch more companies follow suit.

And Hongkongers are once again talking about boycotting their most venerable brand of soy milk. (Am I the only person who remembers the mint-choc flavour Vitasoy? It was amazing. In its absence, I can probably live without the company’s products.)

We also have the raiding of a movie screening on rather selective Covid grounds. 

Coming next: the makers of the dystopia-come-true film Ten Years release a previously unseen sixth vignette about speech therapists being rounded up for subversive cartoon sheep, explaining that it was cut from the 2015 production as too ridiculous.

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UK leaves judges’ pullout for another day

The UK Supreme Court decides that two of its top justices will, for the time being, remain as non-permanent judges on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal. 

Many find this an inexplicable and shameful endorsement of a system that no longer protects citizens’ rights but sides with a politicized prosecutions function – ‘the best piece of free PR that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has had in years’.

A less critical view notes that, while the government will welcome this as a vote of confidence, the UK judges’ announcement was cautiously worded, and much of the legal profession in Hong Kong also wants overseas judges to stay on the CFA. (Conversely, the CCP-loyalist crowd dislike foreign judges and would welcome their departure.)

This thread argues that UKSC made the ‘right call’. Essentially: the Hong Kong judiciary is still technically independent, even if Beijing’s NatSec law and other edicts have reduced its power; and the CFA is still in theory able to use its powers to protect rule of law. In other words, it’s better that the UK judges stay on the CFA for now while there’s a possibility they can do some good. 

This implies that it’s a matter of timing: at some point in the future, the withdrawal of serving British judges (and probably several retired ones) from the CFA will have a greater impact than it would now. (The same goes for imposing Magnitsky-style sanctions on NatSec regime officials, which the UK is also yet to do.)

While the UK hesitates on pulling its judges, Hong Kong activists set up digital archives of the city’s pro-democracy past.

The last memo from Bleak House Books. HKFP story here.

And Variety on film-makers’ responses to the NatSec regime’s extension of film censorship.

Some worthwhile reading on Beijing’s media influencing and shifting approach to the private sector… 

How disinformation on Hong Kong spread in Malaysia.

A look at the Beijing-centric content (typically older) Sinophone Singaporeans get in their local Chinese-language media.

Kevin Carrico on Chinese state-media propagandists who pose as independent journalists.

Nothing very new, but a War on the Rocks explainer in case you haven’t been following Beijing’s clampdown on China’s tech tycoons…

Xi Jinping will likely be confirmed as leader for at least another term — if not for life. China’s billionaires, seen as occupying rival centers of power and influence in the country, are being put in their place.

…leading to ‘a sudden outburst of philanthropic activity’.

Willy Lo Lap-lam on Xi’s ‘Common Prosperity’ thing

In Scholar’s Stage, a review of a book on the USSR as a ‘failed empire’ includes a discussion (towards the end) on whether Xi Jinping’s enthusiasm for a return to earlier Marxist-Maoist values is a sort of Chinese boomer-nostalgia thing.

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Candidate-screening chamber claims first non-shoe-shiner

In its debut performance, the NatSec regime’s ‘Candidate Eligibility Review Committee’ bars Cheng Chung-tai of the localist/maverick group Civic Passion from running for the Election Committee. The vetting body doesn’t give any specific reasons for rejecting the would-be candidate, but they have a ‘negative list of behaviours’ and can bar someone for ‘things they have said and written in the past’. While they’re at it, the CERC also eject Cheng from the Legislative Council, where he was one of just two remaining/surviving non-establishment members.

Cheng says he ‘respects the decision’. It’s hard to see who’s trolling whom. 

The nativist’s account confirms that the CERC inquisition imposes a CCP-style religious test. It’s hard to see why the unjailed remnants of the Democratic Party might still be tempted to run – or try to run – for election, though I bet a few will. 

To repeat: Beijing officials and their local underlings might blather about ensuring that only patriots are admitted to ‘governance’ of Hong Kong. But this whole electoral ‘improvement’ thing is about completely excluding public opinion from any actual political decision-making – leaving the Legislative Council and other supposedly representative bodies no more than a ceremonial role. The exclusion of dissenters is purely symbolic, just as the ‘insider’ status loyalist/shoe-shiner candidates will enjoy (Gay Games mouth-frothing notwithstanding).

Yet officials still want people to vote in the coming pointless elections, and Carrie Lam is suggesting that it will be the political parties that are pointless if they don’t participate – even though her puppet administration has put most of their leading members in jail. A distinct lack of enthusiasm for elections, compared with the 71.2% turnout in the 2019 district polls, will be one of few ways for citizens to register their views.

The UK has received 64,900 BNO applications in the first five months of the settlement option.

Some other reading…

How many have you forgotten? A spreadsheet of 300 horrors that have taken place since… March 2021.

An investigative piece on for-profit operations at the public-subsidized South China Athletic Association.

George Magnus on Xi Jinping’s attack on private-sector companies.

More from Jamestown on Beijing’s exploitation of Western social and digital media. 

A good summary of what might come next in the Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou extradition case.

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Beijing’s Hong Kong fairy tales

The latest civil society group on the chopping block: the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, founded in 1989 and running annual gatherings with police cooperation for decades. The NatSec police say they might be agents of foreign organizations and are demanding details of staffers and financial dealings with Mark Simon (of Next), the National Democratic Institute and others. 

Combine this with the Andy Li/crowdfunded ads ‘international conspiracy’ (there’s at least some overlap), and the NatSec enforcement establishment is purportedly busting a major Western plot to bring down the whole PRC via foreign-manipulated Hong Kong traitors and subversives. If anything of the sort had really happened, Beijing would at least have recalled an ambassador over it years ago.

Former Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma says that defending the rule of law is not ‘political’. He tells Reuters that – thanks to that convenient judicial can’t-possibly-comment thing – he can’t discuss how people defending rule of law now get criticized by CCP-backed media or the Chief Executive for ‘being political’. Perhaps on this occasion he didn’t need to: he was speaking at the Law Society’s AGM, as the body voted for the ‘non-politicizing’ bloc in internal elections. (That’s the don’t-get-threats-against-their-families bloc. As someone put it, you can either castrate yourself or have someone else do it to you.)

A few months ago, the idea that Hong Kong schools would introduce Xi Jinping Thought classes was a grim, almost tasteless, joke. Now it’s a matter of time.

And a Beijing official declares that Hong Kong is now optimistic and patriotic. He also says that emigration from the city has nothing to do with the imposition of the NatSec regime. Huang Liuquan – hereby renamed Huang Christian Andersen.

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Movies that could topple 9,000-year-old civilization to be banned

Can films endanger the security of a nation? In the case of China, it seems they can. Hong Kong plugs the loophole with a censorship law that imposes heavy punishments on anyone showing past, present or future cinematic works that imperil the motherland. Films that were released in the past – and did not appear to threaten civilization at the time – have now become a particular problem…

Permits issued in the past do not have an expiry date, meaning that a movie can be screened again after its first screening…

What a scary thought! There are countless thousands of possibly dangerous films that the authorities recklessly approved over the decades for public viewing, though the government does not have a list yet. For example, have you noticed how The Sound of Music omits any mention at all of ‘Belt and Road opportunities’?

Hong Kong will now be able to impose a HK$1 million fine, or sentence offenders to up to three years in prison for the screening of movies that suddenly now imperil the country – perhaps, say, for airing any film from Taiwan that mentions ‘Taiwan’.

On the other hand, the Nicole Kidman smash hit Expats should be acceptable, thanks to the production’s tireless efforts to present authentic Han culture and its strong underlying message against collusion with foreign forces.

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Nothing good happening

In today’s warm-and-cuddly NatSec regime ‘hearts and minds’ successes: an activist is arrested for unauthorized assembly at a 2019 protest against the Yuen Long attack; and Esther Toh of Hong Kong’s oh-so independent judiciary denies bail to Roy Tam, jailed since April for participating in a primary election.

Trouble on the way for the legal sector, especially if the Law Society doesn’t vote the way the CCP wants today.

More depressing points about the Mainland-style trial of Andy Li, co-option of the courts and retroactivity of the NatSec Law in our own comments section, if you haven’t read them.

Time to listen to some music.

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