You may recall my post on the political troubles in Hong Kong. Whilst Mrs. Ha and I were in Europe the protests started and they started violently. The police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons. The protesters used passive resistance and umbrellas. It became known as the umbrella revolution. Some dislike that epithet as it is not a revolution. They prefer the tag of movement. Whichever you choose it has now been going on for over 3 weeks. Key roads have been blocked, and barricades erected. The police have cleared some, failed to clear others and the cat and mouse game (more akin to Tom & Jerry) is over who can claim or reclaim a few feet of ‘territory’. Local businesses have been disrupted, cab and minibus drivers are losing money and it is hard to say whether the tide of public opinion is still with the protesters.
It was supposed to be Occupy Central with Peace & Love. It seems the movement has been hijacked by some factions. Triads are believed to be involved. Sympathy ebbs and flows. The police were videoed purportedly beating up an already handcuffed and arrested man, incapable of resistance. Then allegations surfaced that the protesters are being funded by foreign agencies. Who knows the truth?
Finding a resolution is well nigh impossible although sooner or later the denouement will come. The protesters are in fragmented groups – no overall, unified leadership. The HK SAR leadership is not empowered to make big decisions, only tactical day to day calls on handling the protests. They sway violently between good cop and bad cop. Stand off and charge in. The framework is laid down elsewhere and there is no scope for concessions in Hong Kong.
Yesterday there was a 2 hour live-televised debate between 5 representatives of the HK Federation of Students and the Government. The government side was shot in the foot by its own Chief Executive who said to the press immediately before the debate:
(Source: South China Morning Post)
This led to cartoons such as this one:
So there you have it. You have to be rich to buy a vote in Hong Kong.
The debate was surprisingly civilised. The students more than held their own. The government officials looked decidedly uncomfortable. Squeaky bums. Both sides remained calm and respectful. The outcome was a vague suggestion by the officials that they could send a new letter to China saying how awfully upset some of the disenfranchised are. This received short shrift and the protests go on. The door is however open and I would be surprised if there is not a reported sighting of Henry Kissinger before long. Shuttle diplomacy around Tamar, Admiralty and Mong Kok. The CE continues to fire bullets into his foot by suggesting we are all jolly lucky that Beijing has not yet interfered and has allowed HK to deal with the problem itself. The implication being that he would be chuffed to bits if the PLA were to storm in and clear up in a way reminiscent of 1989.
That would be political and economic suicide but who knows how the minds are working in Beijing. The biggest step forward might be for the CE to say he won’t stand again or even for Beijing to quietly remove him for ‘health reasons’. Give a decent interval of course. He is already embroiled in a ‘scandal’ over payments he contracted to receive before he became CE but received after he took up office. They were not declared as they were ‘ex gratia’ payments and therefore not income. The general circumstances whiff like a rotten fish but Teflon CY may survive unless Beijing decides this is the hook on which to sacrifice him.
So there we are. Plus ça change……..
We remain holed up in Sai Kung away from the troubles. If we did not switch on the TV we would have no clue what is going on. The biggest inconvenience to us has been that we park away from Central and use the MTR if we need to go to town. We are however saddened that the Hong Kong we love has come to this. The police have not used tear gas since their first attack. To be sure they panicked and it was a schoolboy error of judgement. It did however reveal to the people of HK that Peace & Love will not win the day. Now it is down to the hard graft of political negotiation and testing the limits of tolerance and patience. Nobody (?) wants a bloody end to this and I hope behind the scenes a solution can be found. And in the meantime, maybe CY will be telling his team “let them eat cake”. And we all know where that led to.
You might also like to see this BBC article that supports the CE’s contention of ‘foreign interference‘: