HK resistance unveils new aerial weapon

This week’s Why Didn’t I Think of That Award goes to the geniuses who marked Yuen Long 7-21 yesterday by tying banners onto helium-filled balloons and let them drift up to the utterly inaccessible ceiling of the shopping mall – while cops ran helplessly around below with their purple anti-thought-crimes banner…

A good thread on whether Beijing’s foreign-policy aggressiveness is offensive or defensive – or a self-fulfilling prophecy: the world is out to get us, therefore we must be obnoxious. [Update: account mysteriously vanished.]

Much of the world is now actively turning against Xi Jinping’s China, with Hong Kong and Covid the tipping point. (The two are linked if, as many suspect, the emperor-for-life saw global distraction over Covid as an ‘opportunity’ to impose formal direct rule over Hong Kong.) 

Germany and the Euro-weenies are still besotted with China as a lovey-dovey trade ‘partner’ deserving of kowtows. Canadian leaders seem to enjoy being kicked in the teeth by their CCP counterparts. And even some anti-Trump liberals are nervous about a Biden administration doing a ‘reset’ back to Obama-era indulgence of Beijing. But apart from some riffraff client regimes (Cambodia, Pakistan), China faces a distrustful and even hostile world.

The US leads the international reaction with ‘normalization’ of Hong Kong trade relations and signing of Hong Kong Autonomy Act. Mostly symbolic so far (the stock market shrugged), but it could cover things like air services and double-taxation agreements. Most of all, the possibility of sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials (and their families, and their banks) is, let’s say, mouth-watering.

US Attorney-General William Barr slams Disney, Google and other US corporate giants for kowtowing to the CCP. And the US issues a long-overdue statement on the South China Sea, essentially backing the internationally recognized convention whereby countries have 200-mile EEZs and no nation can claim sovereignty over the high seas beyond. US officials in the region also accuse China of undermining its neighbours’ sovereignty. You know you’ve done something right when Chinese diplomats say you’re doing disgusting things and showing a selfish, hypocritical, contemptible, and ugly face

A few months ago, one pro-Beijing business type told me post-Brexit Britain would have no choice but to grovel to China for economic ‘cooperation’. He is now puzzled about what is happening. The UK seems to have finally decided to extricate itself from Huawei-infested 5G networks (and anyway Taiwan’s TSCM will no longer supply semiconductors to the Chinese firm). London is opening immigration routes for Hongkongers. And the UK government is talking of sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials in response to the Xinjiang genocide (or whatever) and the NatSec Law. 

As I say, sanctions on local establishment figures would be a delight to behold. By all accounts, some of them are nervous (they all have family and property in Western countries). Couldn’t happen to a nice bunch of people.

Ultra-detailed and exhaustive list of recommendations on how the West can punish the CCP from research group China SignPost – this is hardcore Panda-persecution porn.

On a more relaxing note – ever tried painting in watercolours? It’s seriously tricky. Here’s a ‘quick sketch’ the SCMP’s graphics guy dashed off at Pui O beach recently (including 30-second time-lapse version).

Posted in Blog | 13 Comments

The list gets scarier as it goes on…

No, I don’t mean the menu at the Guizhou lamb noodles restaurant in Tung Choi Street – I mean the barrage of Mainlandization and related horrors hitting Hong Kong while I was on ‘staycation’. I count eight or so.

1. Beijing and Hong Kong officials orchestrate mass-freak-out over pan-dem primary polls (here, here and here). 

Behold the CCP’s extreme phobia about civil society. From a Leninist point of view, what citizens did here was usurp powers that belong solely to the government – holding a plebiscite or similar means of determining the popular will (remember the freaking-out over a ‘referendum’ on strike action). 

Amusingly, they don’t know how to frame their loathing of the exercise – so they rant about it as: cheating ahead of the actual LegCo election in September; a flagrant attempt to, er, win more seats; a ‘provocation’; an attempt to subvert the government through paralysis of LegCo; illegal because not specifically mentioned in the electoral laws; a Covid-transmission risk; and/or something to do with foreign interference.

All five electoral districts have new – and, you’ll surely agree, obedient-looking – officials with the power to disqualify candidates suspected of thought-crimes. Assuming they dutifully DQ the lot, can the pan-dems get their acts together and arrange a voters’ boycott of the LegCo election? Perhaps they can hold a parallel vote on the same day for a people’s assembly. (Cue the sound of total Panda-tantrum. It’s easy to torment people with extreme phobias.)

2. The NY Times’ Chris Buckley is expelled, and international news media start to look for alternative locations

The CCP couldn’t care less, but this inevitable trend conflicts with the long-held position of Hong Kong officials who felt the city’s status as a media hub was worth boasting about. 

Our worldly bureaucrats are going through more culture shock than many of us realize. The US measures against Hong Kong (more on that in a day or two) include the ending of cooperation in police training. Some impressionable young folk are shocked that this was even a thing. The reality is that, up until the last few years, Hong Kong was exempt from projecting a Glorious Motherland identity and free to be an honorary part of the Western/free world. Local officials took pride in this and relished the friendly hob-nobbing with overseas counterparts. No more. To make our bureaucrats sweat and squirm even more, the US measures also potentially include sanctions against them personally.

3. Facebook, Google and others suspend accepting government requests for user data, and VPN providers are pulling servers out of Hong Kong (or high-mindedly not doing so).

4. Hong Kong’s top Taiwan compatriots representatives are sent packing for (shockingly) not signing a ‘one China’ statement.

This is presumably not just bloody-mindedness but due to Beijing’s suspicions that Taiwan is among the evil forces masterminding Hong Kong’s rebellion. The envoys would be – perhaps uniquely – exposed to collusion or other charges under the NatSec Law.

5. Carrie Lam agonizes over social media’s negative influence on vulnerable youths. And a NatSec Law/all-purpose patriotism study centre for young Hongkongers will open in Shenzhen. More such ‘bases’ will follow.

Full marks to the Hong Kong industrialists and other eager United Front shoe-shiners of SOFA (the Shenzhen Overseas Friendship Association, duh) for being first off the blocks in setting up a national education camp. Rather like the hasty establishment of Belt and Road Research Institutes a few years ago. 

6. RTHK is heading for rectification in style – just ahead of the first anniversary, a documentary shows more evidence that police colluded with gangsters in Yuen Long 7-21. Summary here.

7. Amid all this, Hong Kong succumbs to a new wave of Covid.

We will look back one day and remember these times. In fairness, with such a frenzy of Mainlandization to implement, it’s a wonder the government has even remembered to pay hospitals’ electricity bills, let alone actually keep up all the testing/tracking/tracing.

8. This is just the beginning: Xi Jinping strengthens Party-centric ideology.

On other NatSec matters…

Donald Clarke in SCMP: it doesn’t matter what the law’s wording says – it’s all in the new all-powerful, unaccountable institutions. (There’s an echo of Beijing’s 2014 ‘universal suffrage’ proposal here. Endless detailed fuss about the complex multi-stage nomination process, yet it was all irrelevant because the end result was that the CCP would choose who was on the ballot – and thus who would be the next Chief Executive.)

Amnesty offers 10 things you should know about the law.

Speaking at a Law Society gathering (stacked with pro-Beijing figures), former Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross ventures to raise some slight problems issues with the technicalities of the NatSec Law.

And State TV cheerfully reassures viewers that all that extreme stuff you heard about how anyone in the world could be liable under the Hong Kong NatSec Law is, um, correct!

Posted in Blog | 21 Comments

Anything been happening while I was away?

Some leftover reading material while I catch up…

In ASPI Strategist, Minxin Pei on why China is engaging in such a self-destructive foreign policy. Among other things, the CCP believes the West remains so desperate for Chinese business that it will tolerate anything…

Until recently, the West’s acquiescence in the face of Chinese assertiveness appeared to have vindicated the CCP’s Hobbesian worldview. Before the rise of Trumpism and the subsequent radical shift in US policy towards China, Chinese leaders had encountered practically no pushback, despite repeatedly overplaying their hand.

But ….

The SCMP carries a comparison of Hong Kong and Northern Ireland. Maybe there are some interesting similarities – but Northern Ireland was more-or-less sorted out when two democratically elected governments in London and Dublin put differences aside and got  pragmatic. That’s not going to happen with the CCP calling all the shots. Still, if you want to be dreamily naive… 

Now that there’s draconian legislation that keeps Beijing happy, the atmosphere is surely ripe for Hong Kong to show that, as its leaders repeatedly argue, it has lost none of its ability to debate, protest and openly criticise [so] Beijing’s new leaders in the territory [will] open themselves up for regular scrutiny and rigorous questioning … Back-channel discussions on conflict resolution in private between government and its opponents were also crucial; one hopes these are actively going on right now in Hong Kong.

Doesn’t quite sound like the CCP’s style does it?

Quirky ‘thought experiment’ about how the US could help Hong Kong residents protect their savings while undermining the HK Dollar peg – without resorting to a nuclear option. (Assuming anyone would want to do this.) Essentially by providing incentives for residents to move cash offshore into US accounts.

Relax! Hong Kong’s Mainland NatSec Office boss Zheng Yanxiong has written books on making Australia’s cities livable.

How Shandong demolishes villages and, eventually, puts everyone into neat and tidy apartment blocks.

And, led by Xi ‘Rick’ Jinping, the NPC sings a special song to Hong Kong.

Will get over jetlag by Monday, probably.

Posted in Blog | 5 Comments

Street-less demonstration attracts 600,000

Oh to be a fly on the wall of the Resolutely Safeguarding National Security Office this morning as the Mainland goons ponder why – after whiny foot-stamping threats and oh-so original police raids of a pollster – 600,000 people turned out to vote in pro-dem camp primary polls. (Hint: it’s not the mainly-inconsequential primaries – it’s the chance to say Screw You CCP.) 

The lack of police and other harassment of the polling stations was surprising. Did the sheer number of premises confuse the cops? Or did someone higher up the chain of command have enough brain cells to realize the authorities had already messed this one up enough?

Today is taking place over here

(Struggling to find anything new to say on all this. From now on, this is an experiment in (re)colonization by a regime that, it seems clear, is as deluded and clueless about the outside world – including Hong Kong – as the most insular Ming and Qing emperors. If there is a clean way to curtail a community’s longstanding rights and freedoms, it would involve stealth, subtlety and patience. You can be sure the CCP will use none of them.)

For the next few days I will be on vacation. After considering various options – from exotic Cheung Chau to the Sai Kung riviera – Mongkok it is! Hotels are cheap. Huge range of restaurants. No tourists. Glorious mountain views to both the north and south. 

Something to listen to…

Posted in Blog | 24 Comments

How a PR company damages your PR

Is it Friday? One of the strange things about retirement is that you don’t track these things.

Your weekend treat: a juicy PRovoke piece on the Hong Kong government’s new PR company, Consulum. Reading between the lines, it seems the firm lives largely off its Saudi government account. It is also extremely secretive, in an industry whose practitioners are nowadays increasingly aware of the need for transparency and ethics in general. (You learn something new every time you read this mag.) Consulum – a PR company, remember – makes a point of not answering reporters’ questions.

Hong Kong needed a PR agency far more than a PR firm needed Hong Kong.

…If Hong Kong really wanted to build a more positive narrative, hiring a firm that carried [Consulum’s] kind of baggage … seemed like an odd way of going about it. 

One communications guy says… 

“…by selecting Consulum, the Hong Kong government has indicated it’s in the same boat as Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Bahrain…”

Reuters on the Hong Kong Police under Commissioner Chris Tang. Shortly to be re-titled Commissar. Some more about his New Territories connections might have been interesting, but we understand. I’ve said it before: prepare for him to be Chief Executive (not that it matters who sits in that chair).

Times Higher Education on academics avoiding Hong Kong quoting Steve Tsang of the SOAS China Institute…

“This law is extraterritorial, which means it applies to anyone writing about China, whether they are in Hong Kong or London,” said Professor Tsang, who added that he would no longer feel safe travelling to Hong Kong. “I would absolutely consider it a risk,” he said.

While Professor Tsang maintained that his academic output on China was “critical commentary” as opposed to “advocacy”, which could be prosecuted under the new law, he said he was not confident that Chinese authorities would see the situation in the same way.

Pro-democratic party activists are grateful to Constitutional Affairs Secretary Erick Tsang for publicizing their otherwise low-key ‘primaries’ to decide candidates in the LegCo elections in September. Maybe if they called it a ‘survey’ it wouldn’t get officials so agitated – as with ‘referendums’. The idea of course is to ensure a multitude of tiny pan-dem parties don’t split the vote. Here’s the details. And a stand-up offers a zippy explanation.

Given that many candidates will likely be disqualified, it will probably send a louder message if pan-dems boycott the election. Let Beijing explain a 20% turnout.

New Republic on the Left’s aversion to criticizing China’s human-rights violations in Xinjiang. (I’m in the who-cares-what-they-think camp, but it would be nice if the article did more to explain why the tankies think like they do.)

At the other end of the spectrum – just because John Bolton says – it doesn’t mean it’s nuts. A proposal that the US recognize Taiwan. Yaay.

A bit dated now Canberra has done the deed, but why Oz (and anywhere) should scrap HK extradition arrangements.

Atlantic on collaborators and why they do it – from East Germans devoted to the Soviets to Republicans going along with Trump. 

…“voluntary” collaborators [were placed] into two additional categories. In the first were those who worked with the enemy in the name of “national interest,” rationalizing collaboration as something necessary for the preservation of the French economy, or French culture—though of course many people who made these arguments had other professional or economic motives, too. In the second were the truly active ideological collaborators: people who believed that prewar republican France had been weak or corrupt and hoped that the Nazis would strengthen it, people who admired fascism, and people who admired Hitler.

Insert the names of the Hong Kong CCP shoe-shiners of your choice.

And the perfect gift for the man who has everything except a 10-year prison sentence for possession of illegal secessionist materials, the Glory to Hong Kong music box.

Posted in Blog | 12 Comments

Taking a break from my piece for HK Free Press…

…to highlight a report on how conservative media outlets accepted op-ed pieces by fake writers with Twitter accounts. (Middle East connection – not PR firm Consulum’s work by any chance?) Complete with an interesting Hong Kong angle that doesn’t reflect very well on the SCMP’s (mainly) awful op-ed pages. 

I assume that SCMP doesn’t pay for opinion pieces from non-staffers. At the same time (for Alibaba’s sake), editors have to avoid having too many spicy or punchy columns. So they’re particularly receptive to contributions that are both free and bland. Is there a better explanation for the Alice Wu ramblings, and the barrage of David Dodwell in the Business section?

But that’s the strangest part of this story, judging by phony contributions wisely rejected by HK Free Press: the phantom writers’ output – while pushing particular agendas – is so boring. Still, better the world has fake journalists than fake brain surgeons or airline pilots.

If you want to make one at home – here’s how.

Posted in Blog | 16 Comments

Correction – it’s Mainlandization of the minute…

Today’s supply of Mainlandizations de l’heure are mostly in the Implementation Rules for Article 43 of the NatSec ‘Enabling’ Law. Searches without a warrant, freezing/seizure of assets, intercepts/surveillance, removal of online materials and compulsory disclosure of information. 

One thing it says is this:

Anyone who knows or suspects that any property is property related to an offence endangering national security is obliged to make a disclosure to the Police Force as soon as is reasonably practicable, and must not disclose to another person any information which is likely to prejudice any investigation which might be conducted following that first-mentioned disclosure. 

This sounds like your roommate or landlord is liable if they do not inform the Stasi (behind your back) of the presence of (say) Joshua Wong books in your home. If ‘property’ includes money, then it applies to banks with accounts in the name of (say) Joshua’s publisher.

The parts about on-line information or messages is as creepy as it’s predictable. One potential/obvious outcome is the banning of social media sites. Which is of course why it’s called ‘Mainlandization’. Facebook is already resisting.

But wait! There’s more! Schools are now being purged of books containing dangerous ideas. And stop going on about the independent judiciary – there is no separation of powers in Hong Kong.

I’ll be working on a piece for HK Free Press over the next few days.

Some reading…

An annotated copy of the NatSec Law from Human Rights in China. 

Activists ponder a Hong Kong government in exile. Sounds like a joke at first, but maybe not. Could it have less legitimacy than the current administration? (And of course it would drive all the right people totally Panda-tantrum nuts.)

Kevin Carrico sums up the new regime in Apple Daily (not sure if link will work)…

What can one write to live up to this moment? … what actually is there left to say?

How about, who cares?

After thinking it over, I have decided that the most authentic possible stance that one can take on this pseudo-law is to simply look down and laugh at it as the farce that it is. 

Posted in Blog | 26 Comments

New! Mainlandizations de l’heure

The management have announced that Mainlandizations du jour are being phased out in favour of Mainlandizations de l’heure. And pre-emptive kowtows will henceforth be pre-emptive repressions. 

Hong Kong’s public libraries suspend loans of books by Joshua Wong and Tanya Chan in case the works are subversive. Special librarian sniffer-dogs are nosing through the pages as we speak in search of prohibited thoughts. The HK Police – who make Cultural and Leisure Services look amazingly subtle – have arrested a teenager for possession of stickers that might threaten national security by bearing the word ‘conscience’, a passage from the Bible, a cartoon of Xi-as-coronavirus and – weirdest of all – a quote by Chris Patten.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government issues a ‘solemn’ statement on the slogan 光復香港, 時代革命. Protesters’ flags usually bear the translation ‘Liberate HK – revolution of our times’. The official release does not explicitly say it is an offense to use the slogan, just that it ‘connotes’ vaguely defined illegal acts. The second paragraph condemning law-breaking and reminding you to obey the law does not actually follow on from the first, though you are supposed to infer that it does. (The cops’ warnings use this trick.) 

Teresa Cheng warns against using the slogan, as does poor Matthew Cheung.

This is an invitation to broadcast it even more. It obviously infuriates someone up there. (It goes back not just to Edward Leung but the anti-Qing movement.) My local scribblers waste no time in adorning our neighbourhood protest palimpsest zone. Rebels are creating Rhyming, punning or coded versions of it. The more you try to ban the words, the more you’ll see them.

A thread from Christopher DeWolf on how a HK graffiti artist – and the media covering her story – would be treated today with the NatSec Law.

A fetching Winnie vs bees cartoon.

And remember those jokes about how New Zealand has more sheep than people? Now it seems to have more CCP United Front creepos than sheep.

This just in: Orwellian has been cancelled; from now on, things are Kafkaesque.

Posted in Blog | 10 Comments

A quick set of NatSec law links for reference…

The NatSec law in English.

From HKFP, a basic explainer covering all the main points.

NPC Observer goes through the legal horrors, not least of which is the lack of definitions for phrases in a large number of proscribed acts, such as ‘provoking by unlawful means hatred among Hong Kong residents towards the central government or Hong Kong government, which is likely to cause serious consequences’, plus the extraterritoriality clauses.

As Donald Clarke writing in the China Collection says, the real issue is not the words but the new institutions and processes – unaccountable NatSec bodies, secrecy, vetted judges, direct Mainland jurisdiction and so on…

Language matters only if there are institutions that will make it matter. This whole law is about avoiding the involvement of such institutions. 

Reuters on Beijing agents’ immunity from local laws…

Significantly, the law allows Beijing to create a new national security agency in the city able to take enforcement action beyond existing Hong Kong laws in the most serious cases.

It even specifies that local authorities cannot inspect agents’ vehicles.

A QC notes, among other things, how the CCP’s ‘foreign forces’ conspiracy theory has been written into the law.

Amnesty’s take.

Posted in Blog | 15 Comments

HK govt, PR company finally snare each other

Best news since the Hindenburg Airship Corporation announced its supplier of fire extinguishers – the Hong Kong government has found a PR agency. PRovokeMedia reports that the lucky winner is Consulum, a Bell Pottinger offshoot specializing in Middle East governments and sovereign wealth funds, and one of many agencies hired by Saudi Arabia. Juicy bit: the company cobbled together a Hong Kong office with hours to spare in order to qualify to bid for the account. You might think it sounds like both client and agency are scraping the bottom of the barrel – but I couldn’t possibly comment.

In true consultant fashion, Consulum will start with ‘baseline research’ to tell Hong Kong officials what they should already know – that the city’s international reputation is a pile of steaming wombat doo-doo. They will then, with a totally straight face, present a slick strategic plan to fix it. All parties concerned will know damn well it can’t possibly work, because, to the CCP, the very features that made the city great are a regime threat and must be destroyed.

Forget biased foreign media – the messaging reality is that both client and agency will be conflicting with Beijing here. It’s a futile mission.

For a one-year gig, then zip off back to Dubai, it looks like a pretty easy US$6 million.

(Pure guesswork on my part, but I’m wondering what the profit margin will be. A Hong Kong government contract is like taking candy from a baby. Say: office at 19/F Two IFC = US$0.5 million; housing in Mid-Levels for two suave expat shysters = US$0.1 million each; salaries for same plus a few local staff = US$0.5 million; sprawling off-the-peg survey from market research company = US$0.3 million? The Grand Relaunch visionary campaign plan = a bunch of PowerPoint templates. That’s a 75% margin – assuming implementation of the subsequent stomach-churning publicity/ad/press activities, which must extend beyond mid-2021, have a separate budget.)

This unfortunately spoils a HK Free Press opinion piece on the government’s search for PR help by a contributor who is an English writing coach. If you think that’s an easy target, the author also – as a public service and/or teaching aid – critiques SCMP chief editor Tammy Tam’s columns for substance and style. This is like reviewing a night-old puddle of vomit in Lan Kwai Fong as if it were a signature dish at Gaddy’s. Get your literary tips here and here. (She’s a severe task master – doubt if I’d come out with any more than a C minus.)

Inspired, I can’t resist checking the latest Tammy-gram. In precis: 

Hong Kong’s financial secretary is giving every resident a HK$10,000 handout; he might be wondering how people will spend it, as will they; even more, he must be wondering if this (Coronavirus-related) handout will become a regular thing; meanwhile, we don’t know whether Beijing will support Hong Kong as opposed to Shanghai as a financial hub in future.

That’s it. A non sequitur comes to a point (albeit it illogically), but this doesn’t even have one. 

Some links for the next few days. Don’t gobble them all up in one go – they will have to last until next week, when I settle down, log-in from home, and resume…  

The US starts downgrading Hong Kong’s export license status.

SCAD, a very pricy US design college’s Hong Kong campus and cornerstone of the Creative Industries Hub-Zone Vision, closes

Uwu’s collection of protest art. (Gone in pre-NatSec Law shutdowns. Try here.)

Some districts in Hong Kong did better at fighting the Coronavirus than others. What sets them apart?

Yesterday, I airily mentioned McDull as proto-HK Localism. Behold – the thesis.

A group of UN human rights experts’ statement on China.

Definitions of genocide have grown fuzzy over the years, but here’s depressingly creepy chart of the week. Also this. Starting to hear a few voices calling for a boycott of China’s 2022 Winter Olympics. 

The Marxists who tried setting up a union at the Jasic factory in Shenzhen.

From the Spectator, a Dummy’s Guide to the CCP. The US National Security Advisor offers his version.

Remember when new songs entered the charts with a bullet? Here’s the Chinese national anthem – with several

A thread on a town in Gansu that tried to claim a link with ancient Rome to boost tourism.

Great moments in the history of fruit: China’s mid-1960s outbreak of mango-worship

Wang Xiaoping, an employee at the Beijing No 1 Machine Tool Plant, received a wax replica. The fruit itself was destined for higher things.

“The real mango was driven by a worker representative through a procession of beating drums and people lining the streets, from the factory to the airport,” says Wang.

The workers had chartered a plane to fly a single mango to a factory in Shanghai.

A bus I could understand – did factory workers in Cultural Revolution China charter planes often?

Back to wiping the office PC. Til next week…

Posted in Blog | 18 Comments