Hong Kong – an update

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:

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 10.04.00

(Source: South China Morning Post)

This led to cartoons such as this one:

Hahaha you're poor

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.

Postscript:

You might also like to see this BBC article that supports the CE’s contention of ‘foreign interference‘:

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18 thoughts on “Hong Kong – an update

  1. Thank-you for posting something that I can understand regarding this whole sorry mess, Andrew. No movement ever succeeds these days, of course, for the same reason that this one won’t: people run out of patience and lose sight of what’s going down. The end game becomes organised by others. The result pleases the people with money.
    As you said, plus ça change

  2. “The HK SAR leadership is not empowered to make big decisions, only tactical day to day calls on handling the protests.”

    The HK SAR Government is empowered to make all the public order decisions it needs to, including requiring the police to forcibly disperse the protestors, if the CE considers that necessary. The problems is, we’re not seeing ANY leadership from the Government, and diffuse leadership among the protestors.

    Result: stalemate.

    • John, that may be the legal situation but I doubt very much whether they would do so without tacit approval from Beijing. Power comes in many forms. Much of what is theoretically in local hands is likely to be exercised only in the knowledge that it has approval from HQ. I would regard street clearance as tactical rather than strategic, depending on what steps they intend to use. Their challenge is that when they resorted to teargas it brought out more protesters rather than clearing the original ones. So what is the escalation they could adopt to ensure clearance is permanent? The strategic question is what the medium to long term solution should be. I would include the future of the CE in that category.

  3. Once HK was handed over to Beijing, I never expected things to continue as they had and, although the present regime seems more interested in Capitalist way of life, the Chinese government is watching and things could change very quickly if they decide they have seen enough.
    I am glad that you are far removed from the territory involved and hope you do not need to go there more than necessary, Andrew. From a distance, it seems the support for the protests are not likely to grow out of fear for what the Chinese gov’t will do if things get out of hand.

  4. Speriamo che riescano a trovare presto una soluzione pacifica, basta con tutte queste violenze che ci sono nel mondo, è diventato insopportabile tutto questo.
    Ciao, Pat

  5. I’m not political, however just like everyone has a butt, I have an opinion!
    We here in the US have had that same comment (poor shouldn’t vote) blow an election. Romney said something to the same effect that the “47% of the American public are “dependent on government”, will vote for obama.” Sadly, although his comment was a fact, people on the dole don’t like being called poor or to lose thier free income. Boom, ratings down, another 4 years of giving 33% of my check to taxes (+ property taxes raised) and I kick myself for having a work ethic. If I lost my job now, I’d get 2 full years of unemployment! The wheels are turning in my hamster wheel driven brain! I could get a new degree in that time! Oh, and school would virtually be free.

    • The difference here of course if that people don’t have a vote. They would in 2017 but you can only vote for a candidate approved by Beijing. So its not really a vote as such, more of “which of these candidates would you like to endorse?”. They will have identical policies and so it will be a personality poll except all of the politicians in HK have had a charisma by-pass.

      • I’m not sure it isn’t the same here. I have a vote but no way to find a candidate worth voting for. Plus, if I did, he or she wouldn’t be able to move the arrow . . . too much inertia. I’m afraid it will all have to collapse before it can change. Hope I’m dead first.

        On the other hand, was it Socrates or Aristotle who said that young people were becoming more and more worthless and the world was going to hell in a hand basket? (Some paraphrasing involved.)

  6. Equality and freedom. Every sane and responsible person wants this for their country. It’s too bad that HK was given back to the Chinese years ago. That’s where the problem, started. On the other hand I suppose it was the right thing. Maybe not.

    I hope that you, Mrs Ha and, the family remain safe. Frankly I’d be very uneasy for there is likely more to come.

    • There was no choice over the handback, Yvonne. One of HK’s biggest problems is that it has very little water (although it could consider desalination plants). Guess where we buy our water from. China! We are a hostage.

  7. Very mixed feeling on the foreign intervention behind the protests. If you are going to protest peacefully then it makes sense to learn from when it went wrong in the past, on the other hand a protest that has a global intent rather than a local need is very worrisome.

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