Yesterday I was sent a wechat message from a friend in China containing a video by a young man, Jaron Lines, in Hong Kong strongly critical of the Hong Kong protests.
The message said:
“See how nasty Hong Kong is now turned to…..this is not the Hong Kong we used to love.”
Mr. Lines, the creator of the video is a self-promoting, conspiracy theory crackpot – who has been banned on YouTube. He is certainly not an investigative reporter or researcher.
It says a lot that the Chines media have to turn to such nonsense to try to show western support for their argument that the protestors are destructive terrorists.
My reply was long: but I want to share it here.
“I still love Hong Kong, I worry about the future of the city and its people.
The trouble with your video is that we can all find a video that supports the position that we take in respect of Hong Kong. The one you sent is an edited collection of exaggerated comment and video made worse by the fact that it is promoted by the Global Times and CGTN – who are nothing more than state mouthpieces. You do not go to either for a balanced view of what is happening in Hong Kong,
Mr Lines’ YouTube account has been closed down – apparently after he was warned – but his videos are elsewhere
You do not go to Mr Lines for a rationale view of anything – his videos are standard conspiracy nonsense (9/11, vaccines, Israel, Ben Shapiro, CIA infiltration of Hong Kong.) He is a self-promoting crackpot – he is not an independent investigative journalist and he is not a diehard researcher. I am surprised (maybe more!) that you thought it worth sending to me and that it might somehow accurately record what is happening in HKG,
Since I have been personally criticised in a recent Global Times hit piece (it would be wrong to call it an article) I am fairly sensitive to the need for balanced coverage of the Hong Kong protests.
You know all of this – you were in Tiananmen in 1989. You know what happened to your colleagues and friends. You also know that the CCP and the state media continue to call a massacre an incident.
Imagine 1989 but with today’s social media….
The initial demonstrations were peaceful and drew hundreds of thousands of residents into the streets, including many older people, families and residents from other segments of the population long assumed to be conservative or at least acquiescent, whether civil servants or business people…even lawyers!
The situation might have unfolded far more gently – but that required subtlety and a light touch. There has been neither. Instead the government and police actions have gone a long way to reinforcing a stronger sense of identity among many people in Hong Kong.
Clearly the escalating violence may alienate supporters, both in Hong Kong and overseas. It also provides Beijing and its media with fuel for reporting vandalism and attacks by protesters.
But the focus of the violence is directed at symbols of the government they are opposing. While authorities have denounced them as rioters (and Beijing has called them terrorists) there is little of the random smashing and looting that characterises most riots.
Their targets are the metro stations and police stations – not the luxurious shops, not M&S.
Now both authorities and protesters are locked into violence, and it is much harder for either side to walk away.
As with any mass protest movement there are extremists – and random acts (on both sides) that are public relations disasters.
I also imagine it must be more difficult if you are working in HKG but speaking Mandarin. Nan must feel like she is wearing a target. But the attacks and the violence are still very isolated and usually only when there are cameras present.
Here is one view from a long term Hong Kong resident. As the violence has increased I asked if she is concerned – her reply:
“Life actually goes on in many ways as normal…the parts of HKG of little strategic protest value are life as usual …you know how we spend our time when the fires burn in the protest areas? We retreat to the American Club in Tai Tam and sip cold drinks by the pool. Or we have dim sum at Parkview and then head to Repulse Bay for drinks. Or we head to Sai Kung for rock-climbing and a seafood lunch.
She is convinced that the protestors are paid and that “native kids are being manipulated to blindly follow.”
The point is that for many life simply goes on – frustrated, maybe even angered, but little impacted by the protests.
Other friends of a similar vintage are active in their support of the protests. They attend the marches; they fear for the future. No one wants the violence – but there are two sides and some of the police action has been appalling – whatever the provocation – it is not the way that the Hong Kong police have worked – it breaches decades of trust that may now be irreparable.
This is Lawrence Lok writing in the South China Morning Post – “No sensible person could condone the violence perpetrated by protesters. However, condemning the violence will not help when the police force, executing the repressive policy of a recalcitrant government, is not held to account.
His full article is here : https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3033142/condemning-protest-violence-hong-kong-wont-solve-problem-not-when
Remember the SCMP is owned by Alibaba.
Maybe we should have seen this coming. One country two systems and the basic law were never likely to survive 50 years, to leave a legacy of progress or to find a way that Hong Kong could co-exist with China while retaining its freedoms.
My generation had their passports ready so they could, and can, leave. This generation does not have that luxury. Instead their fear is that the freedoms they enjoy now will continue to be eroded such that freedom of speech, expression, information, will be as they are in China – not as they are in HKG. That is a huge sacrifice for people to make.
After the 2014 Umbrella Movement it was always likely that there would be future unrest. Especially as rather than meeting those protestors part way the CCP and HKG government rolled back promises on moving to Hong Kong people electing Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, And however the mainland media tried to rationalise the extradition bill businesses and people in HKg felt threatened by how it could be used. It was damaging; but the CCP wanted it in place and the HKG government are too deaf to their people to push back.
Some third party reading for you – the following is verbatim from the Wall Street Journal on 15 October:
“The Hong Kong Crackdown Has Begun
Beijing hasn’t sent tanks into the streets. It’s trying to do the job with criminal gangs and technology.
The Chinese crackdown here is under way. Tanks haven’t rolled into Hong Kong à la Tiananmen Square in 1989. But Beijing is carrying out a subtler, though often still violent, effort to suppress dissent, hoping the world won’t notice. Ask Stanley Ho Wai-hong of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.
The 35-year-old pro-democracy labor activist planned a community event Sept. 29 in Sai Kung, a fishing village in Hong Kong’s New Territories. But that afternoon, tens of thousands were rallying in the city against China’s human-rights abuses, so Mr. Ho canceled his event at the last minute. He was driving away when a stranger called him and asked him to come back so villagers could give him a gift. “It was a trap for murder,” he told me at the hospital earlier this month.
When he arrived back in Sai Kung, he says, three men ambushed him and bludgeoned him with metal rods. Mr. Ho fell to the ground and tried to cover his skull with his hands. It took only half a minute for bystanders to rescue him, but “30 seconds is a long time.” The attack left Mr. Ho with seven gashes in his head and five bruises on his back. His right thumb and three other fingers were broken, the left index finger so severely that he needed surgery.
Other pro-democracy figures have been the targets of criminal violence, including lawmakers Lam Cheuk-ting and Kwong Chun-yu; an unnamed reporter for the Apple Daily newspaper; Davin Wong, a student activist who was acting president of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union; and Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized several protests with a million or more participants in Hong Kong this summer. The home of Apple Daily publisher Jimmy Lai was firebombed in September, and posters hung up in the metro system recently advertised his personal phone number as well as those of his children. Plainclothes thugs have also beaten up protesters, most famously in Yuen Long district in July, where some 45 were injured.
Official state violence has also escalated. The Hong Kong police have yet to release statistics about their use of force this month, but lawmaker Alvin Yeung’s office estimated that law enforcement fired some 10 live rounds, 4,500 canisters of tear gas, 1,490 rubber bullets, and 520 sponge grenades between June 9 and Oct. 1. Police have also deployed water cannons.
So far no one has been killed. But as of Oct. 9, Hong Kong’s public hospitals had treated 1,251 for casualties sustained during protests, including patients admitted in critical and serious condition. The number of wounded is higher, as many protesters forgo the hospital because they fear arrest.
Hong Kong police have seized more than 2,300 protesters over the past four months, including at least 104 children under 15. Lawyers representing them say many arrests seem arbitrary or trumped-up. Earlier this month, police picked up more than a dozen for “loitering” because they had gathered in the street to inflate black balloons to mourn the communist revolution’s 70th anniversary.
Hong Kong is criminalizing huge swaths of its population. Authorities often refuse to issue a permit for protests, and those who demonstrate anyway risk charges for participating in an unauthorized assembly, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Arrests sometimes occur months after the alleged crime.
On Oct. 4 Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked emergency powers to prohibit protesters from wearing masks, paint or any other face covering. At least 77 have already been arrested for defying the ban; they face up to a year in prison. Many are willing to risk charges because they fear Beijing’s surveillance-state prowess more. Several told me they worried Hong Kong’s shift toward smart ID cards is intended to abet facial-recognition technology.
In addition to arresting protesters, authorities have targeted their livelihoods, an effort that may intensify as the government deploys surveillance technology. Watch next spring to see if high school activists fail to gain admission to Hong Kong colleges, says Cyd Ho, a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helps pay medical expenses and provides other support to protesters. At least 26 Cathay Pacific employees and 10 other airline-industry workers have been fired for supporting the protests, according to Carol Ng, chairman of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions. Even working abroad may not offer protection from blacklisting, given Beijing’s penchant for bullying foreign companies—and their tendency to kowtow.
(RAS note – ask the NBA !)
Now that Ms. Lam has set a precedent by using emergency authority, worse may follow. The same law grants her explicit power to censor, arrest, shut down transportation, seize property or enact “any regulations whatsoever” considered “desirable in the public interest.” Protesters especially fear Ms. Lam will try to block WhatsApp, Telegram and the online forum LIHKG, which have enabled them to respond nimbly to the riot police. Hong Kong already has strict gun control; such a move would give the government a monopoly on communications technology as well as deadly weapons.
Not all crackdowns are carried out with bullets and tanks. Hong Kong’s freedom may die of slow suffocation.”
End of WSJ article.
One day after this article was published Jimmy Sham was attacked by a group (likely triads who have form for this). Jimmy Sham is a Hong Kong political and LGBT rights activist. He serves as convener of pro-democracy organisation Civil Human Rights Front.
Sham was smashed in the head with hammers and spanners by at least four assailants.
Here is another link for you – from the Financial Times weekend magazine this morning: Inside the Battle for Hong Kong. I think this article over – romanticizes the protestors – but it is still a worthy read and some of the characters might remind you of how you and your friends felt 30 years ago.
There is a fear of authoritarian China held by many in Hong Kong. They will say they are Hong Kongers – just as the Taiwanese do to assert their different status.
Xi Jinping is seen as a hardliner – probably in part as he changed the longstanding rules of succession to allow himself to remain in charge for life.
Hong Kong is therefore a threat to the new Chinese assertiveness – visible in Xi’s signature undertaking, the Belt and Road Initiative; the economic colonisation of Africa or the parade of new weapons systems during the 70th anniversary parade – a declaration of China’s intention to rival American military power more openly than at any time in the recent past.
Under Xi China has been intervening more directly in the governance of Hong Kong. Xi came to power in 2013 – maybe it is not such a surprise that the big HKG protests have been in 2014 and 2019.
Abducting booksellers; banning pro-democracy political candidates and the proposed extradition law all reflect greater interference. Public approval of Carrie Lam has plummeted since then, and her position hasn’t been helped by her acknowledgment that many of her options are determined by Beijing.
There are claims from the Chinese media that the protestors want to separate from China – this is not in their demands. With the extradition bill shelved what they want is the direct election of the city’s leaders and an independent investigation of violent abuses by the police. The protestors look unlikely to get either.
Beijing argues that its 1.4 billion people stand united in their opposition to Hong Kong’s protest movement. But that is a claim only sustainable in an environment of suffocating media control.
At some stage as in 2014 the protests will eventually simmer down and a degree of order will return but the underlying discontent will still be there. And as 2104 became 2019, then 2019 will become the next round of protests. Protests won’t die down in Hong Kong – they just get taken up by new people and new voices.
And finally because you enjoy YouTube videos here is “Glory to Hong Kong” in all its brilliant creativity: you had better not play it too loud at home!