Thursday, 24 October 2019

Beijing’s Black Hand

Moral equivalence from Tom Plate:
Our [US’] own current leader, after all, was “elected” not by a majority but by an antiquated system that vitiates the overall voice of the people. Our electoral college produced Donald Trump; Beijing’s functional/geographical representation system produced ­Lam. Enough said. 
I don’t like the scare quotes around “election”. After all, the fight was over Electoral College votes not the popular vote. And in Hong Kong the functional constituencies were set up by the UK, not Beijing. Quibbles aside, there’s more than a skerrick of truth here: that the US system is far from direct democracy and Hong Kong has democratic elements. District Councillors elected by universal suffrage (I’ve voted many times) in turn vote for the selection committee that nominates Chief Executive candidates. That developed since the handover. Thus, two imperfect systems, with elements of democracy.  It’s a far from perfect analogy, sure, but it’s a skerrick of truth.

I’m bearing this in mind when reading this article by David Zweig, who makes some good points. The main one being that Hong Kong troubles are redounding to Beijing’s benefit. I was always sceptical of that, but maybe. The argument is vandals in Hong Kong show mainlanders the downsides of its system vs the peace and good order and economic growth of Beijing’s authoritarianism.. He’s certainly right about Chinese fear of chaos. In Chinese it’s luan (乱) as in pa luan to be afraid of chaos and it’s one of the first things you learn about in Chinese history. A deep and abiding fear of chaos. (亂  in traditional Hong Kong yellow-ribbon approved format).
Further on Zweig says:
These are the precise institutions – a free press, an independent judiciary which affords citizens fair trials, the right to elect a parliament and leader through a free and open process – that pro-democracy forces here in Hong Kong are fighting to preserve if not expand. And these are the same institutions whose curtailment by Beijing has helped foment the current crisis.
My comment: free press continues. Hong Kong has the forest press in Asia and one of the freest in the world. That’s just not the English language, like the Post, that I often recommend. The Chinese press is wide, deep, bristling with robust contention. Ditto the government broadcaster RTHK.  So I don’t know what Zweig means when he says “curtailed”. Perhaps he’s thinking of the kidnapping of several booksellers a few years ago. But as I said then and seems to be the case, that was likely a rogue operation, not approved by Beijing, shut down and not repeated.
Independent judiciary continues. As shown in the very article linked in Zweig’s quote above.
As for the third, the right to elect parliament, I refer back to my comment above on Tom Plate. Not perfect but better than pre-1997. Moreover suffrage could have been increased in 2015, but was voted down by the Pan Dems because it wasn’t perfect. The same Pan Dems who are encouraging the “yellow ribbon” protesters and enabling rioters. 

Democracy movement hijacked by xenophobia (or bigots, take your pick)

As I was saying … today’s Post
 … I have become painfully aware that many “yellow ribbons” [protesters] are nothing more than nativists and bigots hiding behind the banner of democracy – who simply dislike anyone and anything from north of the border, who grimace whenever they hear Mandarin being spoken.
Trashing Bank of China, Tsuen Wan, October 13

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Hong Kong protests: from throwing bricks at police vans to becoming experts at putting out tear gas, meet the teenagers who are risking it all for their ideals

Some think that this article romanticises the Young Ones protesting on the front lines. Others think that it’s useful to know what’s on their minds....
Their yearnings, as revealed on social media, imagine a Hong Kong where people speak Cantonese, patronise family-run shops and not chain stores and pharmacies catering to mainland Chinese tourists, and care for one another as neighbours in close-knit communities. Maps and guides online provide a list of “yellow” restaurants and stores – the colour symbolising democracy in Hong Kong – that protesters should support.
My view: this strikes me as outright nativist.  If it were said something similar in the UK, or Australia, or the US, you would be hammered for being xenophobic, bigoted, racist. As was John Cleese when he said that “London is no longer English”.  And here in Hong Kong, there’s not even the ethnic difference between Hongkongers and mainlanders.  And yet, they’ve grown to hate their mainland cousins, because they’re here, not there, and they’re buying up milk powder and cutting queues. And in the west that’s praised as fighting for “Freedom” and “Democracy”.
Almost two-fifths of the 12,231 protesters cumulatively polled in 19 protests from June to August were younger than 24 and about 11.8 per cent of them were 19 or below....
As of October 21, around 35 per cent of the 2,671 arrested protesters are students, according to figures obtained by the Post from police. One in eight arrestees – or nearly 360 – are high school students. Around 140 of them are below 16, with the youngest being just 12 years old. A total of 232 people have been charged with rioting, an offence punishable by 10 years in prison. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung described an earlier set of figures released as “shocking and heartbreaking”.... 
Dr Samson Yuen Wai-hei, of Lingnan University, said the secondary school students’ involvement in the protests was unprecedented.
 So, as we know, they’re very young, and younger even than most other demos around the world.  Many just school kids.  Which begs the obvious question: how much do they know of the issues.  And the answer is; about Hong Kong before handover, nothing. About China: almost nothing, for very few of them have even visited China.
And we know, they think it’s fun:
But the increasingly dangerous stand-offs with police have sometimes also been thrilling, they admitted, giving their weekend protests an almost addictive quality.
Henry, a fit athlete, gave a sheepish smile as he recalled how he felt he was in a “Korean drama” when he had to sweep a female teammate into his arms and rescue her from smouldering tear gas.
For Bosco, who described himself as an introvert, the feeling of unity on the front lines is intoxicating. No one from his school or family would have thought he would be a hard core protester, he said.
“In a group, we hurl bricks together,” he said. “Wouldn’t you be happy if you get to hit a police van?”
And this? Below. .
But it was also easy for adults to dismiss them as young, foolish or being manipulated by other adults, a tendency common in movements worldwide.
Well, they are young!  Foolish? Well, who aren’t we all foolish, to some extent, when this young?. Manipulated by adults? The Pan-Dems are around always, spurring on. So, yes, I’d say that it’s true, if not dismissive.... We should not, as responsible adults, be letting the future of our fine city be decided by kids as young as 12. 

Democratic reform is the best way to protect Hong Kong’s autonomy and halt the cycle of protests and repression

It’s a bit of wishful thinking, but what the hell... we need some of that.... Sadly, Hong Kong bureaucrats have preemptively kowtowed to Beijing, and it will take some getting past that habit...
While Beijing has been reluctant to accept the universal suffrage it once promised, it is important to emphasise that a democratically elected government need not be one that is constantly at odds with Beijing, as mainland officials may fear, but one that could find its voice to explain Hong Kong’s concerns when necessary.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Kowtowers and others

The “Bad Boys” are those that haven’t kowtowed to China (the NBA took some time getting there....).
The “Good Boys” are those that are bending to China’s will.  And those in between on a watch list.
From last Sunday’s demos.

Radical revolution and independence

From last Sunday demos

The Chinese is: 光复香港,时代革命,Guangfu Xiang gang, Shidai Geming.
Which they’ve translated as “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now”.
“Free” can also be translated as “Liberate”.  And “Revolution Now”, as “revolution of our times” or even “era revolution”.
This slogan was first used in the Occupy Central demos of 2015. It was put out by Liang Tianqi and, as he says, meant to mean something like "people of all ages taking part in innovation and change." Benign, and rather good. in other words. [ref]
Well, as they say these days,  it’s been “weaponised”.
The Guangfu (光复) bit, for example, was originally used about Taiwan’s liberation from Japanese occupation in 1945. So what does Hong Kong want to be liberated from?
They claim it’s not for independence, but clearly it is.
And the revolution is no longer “innovation and change”, but something rather more radical.  The anarchist symbol is all over,  around the graffiti:

Photo essay last weekend in Hong Kong

Photos here

Really good photos. I was there at the demo, last Sunday, and posted various bits and pieces, but nothing like a great photo essay.....

Some things are better since the handover

I’ve questioned the narrative of “Beijing encroachment”. Asked “when, where, how”.
And noted some ways things are better since the handover: like District Council elections which are universal and proper. I’ve taken part in one, as the chairman of an election committee for our candidate. The process was tough and rough fought just like an election anywhere.
In this letter R. Heng (21/10) makes the same points.

I wonder how much of the “Beijing encroachment” narrative is actually more day to day stuff: mainlanders buying up milk powder, occupying hospital beds, taking top end jobs, not following queueing etiquette, dancing aunties simplified characters, etc. All grating, perhaps, depending on your patience and tolerance, but not the same as Beijing’s black hand.
And today an article on why such hatred of mainlanders, here.
/snip from Heng’s letter…

Monday, 21 October 2019

Are we silent majority or terrified minority?

From here
/Snip from this important piece I. Hongkongers views of the protests/ riots:

[From a survey of 738 Hongkongers randomly chosen, by phone]
More than 70 per cent said they would understand if protesters wanted to escalate their actions because the government had failed to respond to their demands for an independent inquiry into police conduct, amnesty for all those arrested so far, an end to the characterisation of protests as riots, and a revival of the city's stalled political reform process with universal suffrage as the goal.
But when asked whether there were actions they found unacceptable, more than a fifth cited vandalism at MTR stations. Nearly 15 per cent disapproved of shops being targeted, and 7 per cent were upset about petrol bombs being thrown.
“It is obvious that a considerable number of citizens have some reservations," Lee said.
[PF Comment: I don't think it’s a "a considerable number". I find these figures disturbing. Only 20% of Hongkongers think it's not ok to vandalise the MTR?? Only one in five? The MTR is - at least has been for 40 years - much loved. And now it's hated (黑铁, Black Rail) and trashed and 80% think that's OK? And only 15% think it’s not OK to trash shops? That's scary. Not just “citizens have some reservations” Have we gone mad? Isn’t it crazy for Lee to think this is a “considerable number” with reservations?]
But when asked who should be held responsible for the violent clashes between protesters and police, more than half named the government. Only 9.6 per cent blamed the protesters.
[PF: and of course no matter what the police do, they're always at fault. They “do nothing" or it's "police brutality"]

The streets…

(1:10 AM) … are strewn with trash and bricks and barricades and just general rubbish, laap saap.
In all the areas I mentioned before, Prince Edward, Mongkok, Cheung Sha Wan, Tsuen Wan.
And couples are wandering around, holding hands, surveying the carnage. Vandalism tourism.
The Black Guards have a routine now. They have a routine on how smash the MTR and blockade roads.
So is this to be the new normal? Every weekend?
What can the government do to stop it? Even meeting every one of the 5D won’t cut it. They’re having too much fun!

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Jordan road just now…

LATER (6:00 pm): back home and watching live stream, which is the most trusted news source. Nothing but the staring eye of the camera. No voiceover, no editing.
There’s vandalism going on in Tsim Sha Tsui, Lai Chee Kok, Sham Shui Po, Prince Edward, Mongkok, Cheung Sha Wan. Again, all working class areas. Smashing mainland linked shops. And the MTR. Graffiti on the MTR: 黑狗, hei gou Black dogs. And 黑铁, hei tie, Black Rail (but with the traditional form of 铁 (which I don’t have o my keyboard). You don’t want to write simplified characters these days. Otherwise you’re a running dog 走狗 zou gou of the communists. Lots of dogs).
I was just rethinking my Flying Squad idea: that the police fly in to just the places where they’re vandalising and arrest them. Don’t bother trying to clear whole streets. But for sure the vandals would hear about it and melt like water.
Today shows clearly, as if we didn’t know: there’s a deep, visceral, bitter, frightening  hatred of the police. It used not to be so. Not before June. The police athe enemy, representatives of the hated occupying power, China. The graffiti is “Fuck CCP, Fuck Popo” (popo = police)
EARLIER (2:00 pm): Jordan… I’m up the road from Austin road, going north along Nathan road, Hong Kong’s main tourist street, now (2:30) in Jordan road and they’re barricading the streets. There’s one black-clad protester directing traffic. Not a policeman in sight. This is this is control of the streets by random mobs.
Have asked many if they know what the Five Demands (5D). Not a single person knows all five.  Most cite the demand to investigate police “brutality”. Some “democracy” but not sure what they mean by that, though a few mention universal suffrage. I ask what will stop the protests. “The 5D, not one less”.  No response to “but some are impossible”.
It’s like the original demos against the extradition bill. No one had read it. But I forgave that because it was easy to imagine how it could be misused.
Now the misuse seems to be on the other side. Random mobs controlling the streets.
I read and see how in London and Australia people are very upset at the disruptions of the XR mobs. They are NOTHING, compared to this.
And yet if police do try to restore order, it’s “police brutality”. (ADDED: a guy just pissed on the TST police station. I fear for Hong Kong, we have the madness of crowds)
People watch a Bank of China branch get vandalised.
Vandal tourism … Jordan Rd. 
The sound of the Star Spangled Banner, in the background, FFS. A few people have HK colonial flags. Forgetting, or more likely not knowing, that they had less democracy under the Brits than we do now, and that in 1967 riots the troops came out of their barracks, clamped down hard on the demos and 50 people were killed.
It’s looking to ramp up to a bad day… plenty of vandalising. The odd thing is the more violence and vandalism, the more the government gets blamed. Even when they trash the MTR and it has to close, it’s the government’s fault. (“It’s you that taught us peaceful protest is useless”)
Sigh… I think I’ll go watch the Rugby somewhere. Wales v France 

Just now in Salisbury road …

Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
1:30 pm. Taken from just near the Space Museum looking towards The Peninsula Hotel, world famous. And just to right is the Sheraton where we arrived in September 1976 before heading off to China.
Things peaceful so far. But violence is usually at night. We’ll see.
Some of the signs are new ones to me “Justice must prevail”, which I imagine we’d all agree with.
I’m here with my iPad, blogging live…
It feels and looks pretty big…
Most are wearing masks …
AUSTIN ROAD: (2 pm): Just up the road from Salisbury road and where we had the headquarters of our business where I used to go to my office every day. They’re tearing down the barriers. Bear in mind this is an illegal march today.

Freedom and democracy, yay…
Police? non c’e

How not to make friends and influence people

When I first saw that China was bullying the National Basketball Association over a tweet it didn't like, I guessed they would be "Streisanded". Barbra Streisand wanted the press to stop covering a Malibu property of hers, so she complained. Result: even more coverage. And so with China's NBA complaints. They just highlighted just what a horrid bullying thug Beijing is. And it backfired on them. We say "shot in the foot" or "own goal". The Chinese say "pick up a stone only to drop it in your foot". 
Also: this piece by Minxin Pei is another example of a Beijing critical article. The SCMP strives for neutrality in these difficult times. Significant when the Post is now owned by mainland billionaire Jack Ma of Alibaba. I wouldn't have been surprised if it had started to hew a line closer to Beijing's.  I'm pleasantly surprised they don't. Just in the last few days the Post has run a number of op-ed pieces strongly critical of the government or of Beijing and strongly supporting the protesters. (Which were hammered by the commenters, by the way).
I suspect the reason the Post can keep criticising China is that Beijing views it as a gweilo paper, foreigners' little sandbox, where they can let off steam harmlessly. And they'd be right, though it's also educated Asians who read it, opinion makers. Then again, the NBA thing was mostly a foreigner thing too. Twitter is not even available on the mainland. It could just be a matter of the right hand not knowing what the left is up to, as Pei suggests. A lower level functionary thing and they've been reined in. 
The NBA finally got its stance right. It would be good if other western companies showed a bit more spine too.

Looks like Hong Kong …

… but i’s Santiago, Chile’s capital. Add to the list, with Barcelona, of cities like Hong Kong, wracked by violence and the trashing of subways, the target du jour.
Also burning subway stations
What are they protesting about in Santiago? Rising cost of living. Sigh… if only it were that simple here. 

Please don’t let South Asians burn in this revolution | Yonden Lhatoo

Yonden Lhatoo is another SCMP columnist I’ve had run ins with in the past (another is Alex Lo). He’s a bit of a leftie, tends to be an America hater and stern government critic. Like me, like Jing and me, he’s gone from being a supporter of the anti-extradition bill demonstrations, to being a critic of the protest movement as it is now. Especially it’s bigoted parts: anti-mainlander bigotry and, as here, anti-South Asian bigotry.
An ill wind is blowing in Hong Kong that threatens to add a whole new dimension to the ugly side of the civil unrest that has been plaguing this city for well over four months now.
I’m talking about the targeting of ethnic minority groups, easily visible South Asians in particular, as those who have subverted the anti-government protest movement
 with venom and violence look for more victims and scapegoats. 
It’s bad enough that extreme resentment against Beijing is regularly misdirected at mainlanders who have been abused, harassed and attacked on the streets in the name of this great “revolution of our times”. Now another vulnerable demographic is facing persecution by the champions of freedom and democracy as they go about “liberating” us. 
When a bunch of thugswent on a rampage
 in July at Yuen Long MTR station, indiscriminately beating up commuters and protesters returning from a mass rally, public outrage quickly took off on a xenophobic tangent, thanks to scurrilous rumours spreading online that South Asian men had been paid to carry out the attack.
The widespread online racial hatred seeks to further polarise society by scapegoating and fomenting hatred towards an already vulnerable, visible ethnic minority community. Such incitement of racially motivated hate breeds chaos and threatens to undermine rather than advance principles of inclusion, the core value being pursued by the movement.” [two anti-racism activists’ open letter]
 Let’s hope their words will resonate in this age of intimidation, when mob rule is the order of the day, and people are not speaking out for fear of being shouted down, doxxed and lynched. Evil triumphs when good men – and women – do nothing.
Read on

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Fox, meet marmot. Marmot, meet your fate

Winner: “The Moment”, shot on Qinghai-Tibet plateau, China

Wonderful photos in today’s Post and I found the link. It’s Wildlife Photo of the Year, sponsored by the Natural History Museum in Britain. 

It looks like Hong Kong…

… but it’s actually Barcelona.
Barcelona, not Hong Kong!

The images on BBC look for all the world like the ones coming out of Hong Kong since June. Burning streets, masked protesters smashing shops, police baton charges.
The government are threatening a crack down. Will they be labelled “authoritarian”?  As they have here in Hong Kong. Police are arresting people. Will this be labelled “police brutality”? As they have here in Hong Kong.
And Alex Lo has his Take

Friday, 18 October 2019

Lee Hsien Loong says the 5D intend to humiliate HK government

He’s a thoughtful man and well-regarded leader. Snip:
…Lee said the five main demands [5D] of Hong Kong’s anti-government protesters were intended to “humiliate” the city’s administration.
Acceding to them was unlikely to solve the deep-seated issues linked to “one country, two systems”, he said.
“I don’t see any easy way forward because the demonstrators, they say they have five major demands, and not one can be compromised,” said Lee, 67.
Read it all here

Harbingers… simplified characters vs traditional characters

We now realise that some seemingly minor things that we’d dismissed as trivial were part of the growing Hong Kong resentment of all things mainland China.
Example: the battles over simplified characters (used in the mainland) and traditional characters (used here in Hong Kong).
I got involved in a couple of  “letter wars” starting in 2011. I asked “what’s the big deal about the spread of simplified characters?“ I wondered why the “brouhaha”, why the “kerfuffle”. My main line was: if I, as an adult gweilo, could learn traditional characters after having learnt simplified ones, surely native speakers could go from traditional to simplified, which is the easier route.  That was “common sense”.
But common sense wasn’t what this was about. It was an emotive issue.
Those in the other side of the debate — railing against simplified characters— saw them as “Beijing influence”. Which resentment they could add to many others, like the “dancing aunties” and Chinese tourists behaving badly. All became part of the “Beijing running Hong Kong” narrative.
The “character wars” were a harbinger of our troubles today.

[Prompted by SCMP article today: “An identity crisis” by Franklin Koo]

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Hong Kong is exporting its protest techniques across the world

The "Be Water" nature of Hong Kong's protests—fluid, flexible, and fast-moving—has taken on a new form half way across the world in Catalonia: as a tsunami.

(And "tsunami" is Japanese)