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.
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)

Protesters on a suicide mission

This is pretty much my take on the situation. Pretty much our take, as Jing would agree. The simple take is: no matter how well-intentioned, the protests, the violence, can only lead to a worse Hong Kong. A Hong Kong with less Freedom and Democracy, not more. That’s a reality, sad and inconvenient. 
Forgive me if I don’t want to see the destruction of our city by a bunch of deluded millenarians....
It has been more than four months since Hong Kong plunged into its current wave of violent protests against Chinese rule. It started with large-scale demonstrations against proposed amendments to an extradition bill sought by the government, which then snowballed into an all-encompassing struggle for the protection of human rights and democracy in Hong Kong, as embodied by the Basic Law in the eyes of most Hong Kong citizens.
Meanwhile, the hard core of the protest movement pursues a strategy of urban guerilla warfare to engage Hong Kong’s security forces in almost ritualised – and increasingly violent – showdowns, mostly at weekends. These are the actions of several thousand protesters.
Gone are the days, it seems, of millions of people peacefully taking to the streets to speak out against the bill and Chinese infringement of Hong Kong’s guaranteed autonomy. Many are wary of the clashes between protesters and police, which are following a predictable logic of escalation on both sides.
People have been wounded by gunfire and fatalities are likely to follow soon if the stand-off continues. Where is Hong Kong’s protest movement heading? What is at stake for the city’s future?
When Joshua Wong Chi-fung came to Germany in September, he called Hong Kong the “new Berlin”, drawing a comparison with the West German enclave within the socialist (and authoritarian) German Democratic Republic during the cold war. He demanded that the German government, as well as the entire European Union, stand firmly behind the people of Hong Kong in their struggle against Chinese oppression.
In the end, no European government stood up and took a firm stance against Beijing. Wong’s attempt to internationalise the “Hong Kong problem” by taking it to the level of a fight between democracy and authoritarianism, between good and bad, has failed. It was predictable.
Although Western governments are sympathetic towards the protest movement, they do not question that Hong Kong is an integral part of China. Nor do they publicly reject the Chinese understanding that the Basic Law is a gift Beijing bestowed on the Hong Kong people in 1997, rather than a source of legal authority that now stands above the Chinese party-state.
Read the rest:
Hong Kong’s protesters will find that violent action to achieve abstract ideas is a suicide mission 



And remember it’s perfectly safe to like this cartoon! It’s not bigoted.…

The “you made me do it” argument

“It’s you who taught me peaceful protest is useless”
Barrister Lawrence Lok counters the article yesterday by Edwin Choy which had argued that not condemning the violence is Shameful Silence
It strikes me that Lok’s argument is a version of the graffiti above. “You made me do it”. Which is a version of the terrorist’s “it’s your policies made me kill them”. Isn’t it? I mean, after the ritual “violence cannot and must not be condoned”, Lok says we must understand that “the problem is an intractable executive”. And if non-violence doesn’t work, well… Lok doesn’t quite say, but the logic is violence. Condemnation of which has been pretty thin. And so, Lok’s “non condoning” notwithstanding, it is de facto encouraged, at least enabled. And now we learn that most people are favour of escalation to violence if “the government doesn’t listen”. That, I find alarming.
Lok claims that there are beatings in police stations. That has to be investigated and stopped. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating. Let’s see how that goes.
We also know how stories are being spun. There’s the totally bogus claim that police killed three people on 31 August at Prince Edward MTR. Hence the “8.31 War Crimes” meme. And students are trying to pin the police with murder of a young girl, who appears actually to have committed suicide.
People today will believe any bad thing of the police. It was not this way until the escalation of the violence which happened with the complicit silence of people and organisations like Lawrence Lok’s.
An unconcealed tactical aim of the protesters has been to taunt the police until they react. And Lok is playing along with that. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Carrie fiddles while Hong Kong burns: comment on the policy address

As published 18 October

[Chief Executive of HK, Carrie Lam, just delivered the annual Policy Address, pre-recorded.
She had tried to give it to LegCo, our parliament, but was prevented by screaming
pan-democrat members.  She tried twice then withdrew]

LATER (18 October): Alex Lo says she’s like a rabbit in the headlights

Carrie fiddles while Hong Kong burns. And that's not even a metaphor.

Nero famously played his fiddle while Rome burned. Carrie Lam literally fiddles, while Hong Kong literally burns.

She spends her time fiddling with various "value to loan ratios", fiddling with land use targets and fiddling with tunnel toll fees. On the protests — our gravest challenge since 1967 ever — she says only that violence is not good. We get it, Carrie. We don't need any more of your lectures.

By the way, when mentioning "One Country Two Systems"(一国两制), how about including "Hong Kong people running Hong Kong" (港人治港)? That used to be a regular, and it's worrying that it's missing.

This performance by our CE puts in stark relief the yawning gap between the government and the people. The huge chasm between what needs to be done and what's not being done.

If ever there was a time for a visionary speech this was it. But all we got was bureaucratic bumph. As if nothing were happening.. "Loan to value rations….Tunnel tolls"…. really?. If it wasn't so sad, so tragic, it would be funny.

Fail, Carrie.

Pf, etc...

ADDED:  in a leaked conversation Carrie Lam said she’d wanted to resign but was not allowed to by Beijing. This ought to give her flexibility and leverage. She could sacrifice herself for Hong Kong. Take on the Five Demands. And if sacked by Beijing she’d get what she wanted but go out as a hero. Rather than as the ineffective bureaucrat 狗官.
ALSO: Michale Chugani Carrie Lam could have address the 5D  (17/10)
AND: SCMP Editorial (17 October): Carrie Lam fails to come up with answers

How a stranger’s offer of a lift home restored my faith in the city

My family has made Hong Kong our home for five generations. As I try and process the barbaric scenes playing out on our streets, it is clear to me that the Hong Kong I have proudly boasted of to outsiders for many decades is no longer one that I have any connection with. I have empathy for the people of Hong Kong, who deserve to have more certainty over their future, but the cowardly, degenerate thugs who rampage through our streets are from a world totally unrecognisable to me.
Among these scenes of depravity, let me share an experience which lifted my heart and gave me hope that Hong Kong just may find a way through.
I was standing on the Central MTR platform on October 4 when services were suspended. Emerging onto the street with many others, confronted by an eerie absence of any form of transport, I decided to head on foot towards Happy Valley in the hope of flagging down a taxi.
This walk was not pleasant. The streets, devoid of vehicles, were a sea of young dressed in the livery of battle, with clusters of press in protective gear. I felt like I was walking through a movie set. From Admiralty, down Queen’s Road East, I eventually reached the intersection by the racecourse. I was very weary and had discovered that my business shoes were not great for urban hiking.
At this point, I was out of ideas. It was late at night and, from here on, the walk to my flat in Stanley was going to get very challenging.
I stood in the vain hope of a taxi (or a magic carpet) for some time, tired, bewildered and despondent.
Then a car appeared as if from nowhere. Before I could leap out and prostrate myself in the path of this magnificent vision of conveyance, it had stopped beside me and the window was down: “Good morning sir. Can I ask you where you are intending to get to?”
The driver, who I will call Sam the Saint, had gone to bed earlier in the evening in his home in Ap Lei Chau. He was unable to sleep, deeply troubled by the knowledge that all transport had been suspended and, as a car owner, knowing that he was able to help. Sam had got out of bed and driven to where he thought he could help most. He had just run a woman home near Happy Valley when he spotted me.
Sam drove me home. We spoke as brothers do about our fears and hopes. He dropped me off and headed back to town to seek out others in need. He refused to even let me pay for the tunnel fee. Sam is my Hong Kong and while we have Sam making Hong Kong his home, there is hope. Thank you Sam – for so much more than the priceless ride home.

Listening to psychologists on RTHK radio… (Radio 3, FM 99.7, available online)

… and some interesting points. Also from phone-in calls:

No one expected what we now have going on in our streets. Surprise to all.

Maybe one of the reasons for the rioting is the pressure Hongkongers have been under for so many years: too much homework, huge exam pressure, long work hours, tiny apartments, no hope for younger ones to buy even a shoe box (some now just 12 sq.m, the size of a car park). So maybe part of it is just people having a collective mental breakdown.

Many people suffering a form of PTSD.

Many families are gravely divided over the protests. Young v old. Yellow v Blue. Pro-protests v pro-government.

A phone in with latest HKU polls: increasing tolerance for violence “if the government doesn’t listen” (61%). About 52% have “zero faith” in police.
That last one is lunacy. In thirty years we’ve had various run-ins with the police, both ourselves and on behalf of local friends. The police are always strict, stern and by-the-book. They are a good disciplined force. Before the riots 84% admired the police. They were “Asia’s finest”. They haven’t changed! Except that they now have to deal with daily threats to themselves and to Hong Kong. They’ve had to learn to be a riot police force. Let there be no doubt: what’s happening each weekend are riots. Nothing less.

ADDED: that figure in support for violence, 61%, I find alarming. For what use can it be to trash MTR stations? So people can’t get to work? What possible help can that be to anything or anyone? To imagine that it will help bring Universal Suffrage is a fantasy, a delusion. The opposite is the case. The more the violence, the less likely this government can even offer to restart talks.
That’s so for reasons within the Basic Law, which I won’t  go into right now. Maybe later. The BL is our constitution. It can’t be gainsaid.
And if “Free Hong Kong” means independence, then that’s even more delusional. There is no way this side of a frozen hell that Beijing will stand by as HK declares independence. Xi will indeed “shatter bones and crush bodies”. It’s crude and horrifying, but true.
Forgive me if I don’t support the violent destruction of Hong Kong by anarchists for the sake of insane illusions.
Graffiti at the Airport. The Chinese says the same as the English
In Cantonese characters.
Note: “Chinese communist party is capitalist”! (and therefore bad)
I was in China in the 70s when it really was Socialist.
Barely able to feed and clothe its people.
We all had ration cards for rice, meat and cotton. 
Post-Deng, China became successful to the exact extent that it became capitalist. 

ADDED: a listener says why not worry more about the mental health of the “oppressed" than the oppressor. This too is loony. Who are the “oppressors”? What oppression? This is the freest, safest city in Asia, if not the world (at least it has been, till these riots).  In what precise, exact, factual way are the people “oppressed”?
I sometimes think we’re seeing a mass hallucination here.

Alex Lo: Condemn those who don’t condemn the violence. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Don’t support the US’ Human Rights and Democracy Act…

Story here
…no matter how high-minded it sounds. The mass rally demanding the US pass this law think it will punish Hong Kong and Chinese officials who damage human rights in Hong Kong. It does that, but it also removes the special treatment Hong Kong gets, since 1997, in all sorts of international trade, investment, health and sporting bodies.
We are treated separately, part of the One Country Two Systems concept. These are not trivial. If they are removed, we become more a part of China which is what these mass rally people think they are fighting against. 
The road to hell, as always, paved with good intentions.
UPDATE: (16 October): the US Reps passed the bill so we’ll see. In the category of just-because-China-says-it-doesn’t-mean-it’s-not-true, Beijing says the Bill will embolden the rioters. That seems certain. They are deluded enough to believe that the US will stand up for them when the proverbial hits the fan. Sanctions, sure. But by then things will be so dire they will be meaningless.
UPDATE (19 October). US will destroy “one country two systems”

It was only a few months ago…

… that Jing and I were watching in amazement as protesters on the MTR (our subway) were sticking their feet in the sliding doors — mind the gap! — so the trains couldn’t move. What disorder! What disobedience!  What unlawfulness!
And now that’s just nothing. Now they smash the turnstyles, they burn ticket machines, they set off the fire sprinklers, they vandalise MTR shops, they throw trash down the entrances and set them on fire. They spray “black MTR” (黑铁) on the walls.
They managed to close the whole of the MTR two weeks ago, the only time in its forty-year history. Yay! Victory for freedom!
So that’s how fast things can escalate.
Should we think the unthinkable? That someone is going to set off a bomb? They’ve tried it already.
Check out the headline today…
Oh dear, oh dear…
Tuesday October 15, 2019

SCMP - ‘Not feasible to relaunch a debate on universal suffrage now,’ Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam tells EU, according to internal report

A few months ago Jing and I thought that the pan-Democratic parties, supporters of the protests, enablers of the violence, would lose big in the November District Council elections.
But now it looks like it's the pro-government parties who will lose big
The opposite, in other words.
... Lam also "acknowledged that a heavy defeat for pro-establishment parties was in prospect" in the upcoming district council elections.
This is because of the totally inept handling of the protests from Lam and her band of bozos. 
Saying out loud that there’s no hope for moves on suffrage is plain dopey. There must be some hope, some vision for restarting election talks. Or else it’s demos all the way to Christmas. Xmas 2020 ... 21...
Other recent examples of her dopeyness:
Calling off meeting with Sen Cruz where she could have set him straight about violence on the streets. 
Her letter to Sen Scott of Florida, where she got "Streisanded". 
The ineffective Town Hall. One and only?

A shameful silence

This is quite the best piece on our troubles. Edwin Choy gets it all right....
I suspect my mindset must have been hampered by the narrowness of my practice as a criminal lawyer. I find myself forced to identify what I have been seeing on my TV screen for the past few months as grave crimes committed against our community: burning bank branches, destroying grocery stores and restaurants, desecrating crucial railway stations and brutally assaulting other citizens, apparently for holding different political views.  
Anyone barely civilised would understand that indiscriminate violence is counterproductive. This probably explains why criminal laws in virtually all civilised jurisdictions proscribe violence. 
In the context of the present situation, the collapse of order is bringing significant economic woes and may in the end deal a most severe blow against Hong Kong’s unique but increasingly precarious system of limited self-rule. 
For me, the greatest absurdity is that all the sufferings and destruction serve no meaningful purpose; Hong Kong has become embroiled in the flames of senseless nihilism. At the end of the day, no sensible person expects that the continuing unrest will result in “true democracy”.
Read it all. It’s great. And the comments are running strongly in support. Commenters don’t always agree with the OP, as there are pro-Beijing views, anti-Beijing views, anti-government views, anti-American views. Choy is against the violence, but not obviously pro-Beijing. I suspect that that’s one of the reasons the Bar Association have not come out against the violence. The principle of “one divides into two” (一分为二), leads to polarisation. “Oh, you are against the violence? You must be pro-Beijing!” So the Bar Association may be scared of being tarred “pro-Beijing"

Monday, 14 October 2019

Police, arrests, and the "Violent Margin Theory"


Who said the following?
Everybody has a right to protest. But that right does not extend to disrupting people's lives and their livelihood.… 
We've been really clear that the activity of the protesters …is unlawful. Obstruction of the highway is an offence....  They are now committing a criminal offence and are liable to arrest. … we're absolutely determined that people who commit offences go through the criminal justice system. 
in April we arrested over 1,100 people. 900 have been charged and 250 now have a criminal record.
It sounds very much like someone in Hong Kong, the Police Commissioner, perhaps.

It's actually the Deputy Commissioner Laurence Taylor of the Met in London, referring to the XR protests.  (Transcript, with errors, is mine).

But whereas in London these moves are accepted, indeed welcomed, here in Hong Kong similar moves are seen as draconian, authoritarian, a slide into dictatorship.

The police are not innocent, these recent months. I do wish they hadn't used the baton quite so freely, especially on the MTR on August 31.  And sometimes they seem to turn up when things are relatively calm where their very presence ignites tension.  But they are not violent and they're not "murderers" (I've seen some graffiti calling them that). Compared with US or French police, they're panda bears, pussy cats.

Moreover, they have been deliberately provoked. A New York Times article on June 30, by Fred Chan Ho-fai recommenced a so-called Violent Margin Theory, drawing on Leninist analysis, to incite police to hit them. Chan's article was widely spread on social media and has now developed to the point that demonstrators are willing to do anything to get police to react. Up to grabbing handguns and, last night, cutting a police officer's throat. Chan has a lot to answer for.

[Isn't there something distasteful in the New York Times running an article exhorting violence against our police and linking to an article of Leninist revolutionary theory?]

Two pleas: Police, stop using guns and batons. Protesters: stop the violence. 

Pf, etc...

Extinction Rebellion protests challenge police....

It sounds very much like Hong Kong. But it’s actually the Deputy Commissioner Laurence Taylor of the Met in London, referring to the XR protests, here, and above.
But whereas in London these moves are accepted, indeed welcomed by harried commuters, here in Hong Kong, similar moves are seen as draconian, authoritarian, a slide into dictatorship.
The police are not innocent. I do wish they hadn’t used the baton quite so freely, especially on the MTR on August 31.  And sometimes they seem to turn up when things are relatively calm, and their very presence ignites tension.  But they are not violent and they’re not “murderers” (I’ve seen some graffiti calling them that).
ADDED: I did a letter to SCMP about it, post above.

“Crushed bodies and shattered bones”. Really, Xi?

Good ol' uncle Xi. Doing what he does so well… Calming things down. Not.
Not reeealy gonna help…
It’s awfully horrible, really.  Obscene.

Tsuen Wan post

South China Morning Post, 14 October 
While I was watching the goings on at Nathan Rd, Mongkok last night — which ended up being just your average roving black-bloc gangs spraying graffiti and blocking the roads — some violence was being done over in Tsuen Wan (headlines above and link). Tsuen Wan is where we had of one of our businesses, so we know it and its people well. Working class. That’s who are being impacted. Working class folk.
So if clueless Ted had stayed a day longer and picked up the paper, maybe then he could have the “evidence of violence”.
In Mongkok last night a couple of taxi drivers got out of their cabs removed the road blockage and drove on. A few weeks ago, when one of them did this in Wanchai — an elderly man — he was blocked, forced from his cab and beaten. His cab was trashed. And no one did anything. We witnessed that one live, ourselves, till we saw him being comforted and looked after by some bystanders. This time the protesters did nothing. I suppose that counts as being “peaceful”. An advance of sorts…

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Nathan Road post

I’m watching the demos on Nathan Rd, the main tourist street in HK.
All the way up the road the graffiti on the central dividing strip is “fuck the popo” (police), free Hong Kong (in English) and 狗官 gou guan, which is kind of “dog government” (Imperial Chinese slang trash talk for “bureaucrats”), all repeated, just like the signage at the World Cup. Repetition is persuasion.
A feeling in the air…
People want something to happen.
The police are marching up the street. Not doing anything. Just clearing the street. I guess.
Added (11;00):  police are now blocking Nathan Road. Because protesters have blockaded the road. And a couple of convenience stores seem to be attacked. One thing for sure. This is not the fault of the police. It’s the fault of the protesters along the road.
Nathan road tonight
ADDED (11:20):  all of a sudden everything quiet. Traffic normal. Probably a social media driven thing…