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.


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

Hong Kong and democracy

Thank you all for your many comments in the last 2 days – I will respond but I am juggling too many things at the moment. In the meanwhile I will try to explain what’s afoot in HK, politically.

Under British colonial rule HK never knew democracy. A Governor was appointed and administered the colony on behalf of HMG. The Last Governor was Fat Pang, otherwise known as Lord Patten or as he simply was then, Chris Patten.

After the Great Chinese Takeaway in 1997 HK became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. We have a Chief Executive answerable to the Legislative Council and ultimately Beijing. The CE is voted in by 1200 legco members who represent a fairly narrow swathe of interests. It is not democracy in any real sense. Beijing has a right of veto.

However Beijing granted HK considerable autonomy under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. In 2017 there was a promise of universal suffrage. In its simplest interpretation this means one person, one vote. The current brouhaha is about who is allowed to stand as a candidate.

The democrats in legco want ‘civil nomination’. That is to say the public can nominate anybody to stand. Names would then be screened by a nominating committee and everybody eligible would cast their vote. At the last legco election candidates needed the support of only 12.5% of members to stand. This enabled a democrat, Albert Ho, to stand against the 2 establishment candidates, Henry Tang and C Y Leung. Ho could never have become CE because Beijing would not have approved him but if sufficient legco members voted for him it would have created a political embarrassment. As it was C Y won and has since proved to be the perfect puppet for Beijing. He is almost universally loathed.

The democrats have been lobbying vigorously for true democracy. At the weekend Beijing delivered its verdict. Max 2-3 candidates allowed to stand. Each candidate needs to be approved by 50%+ of the nominating committee. This means no democrats can possibly be on the ballot paper. And of course Beijng has a right of veto.

Well known and respected democrat Martin Lee asked “But what’s the difference between a rotten orange, rotten apple and a rotten banana?”

Emily Lau, a legco member said: “This is one person, one vote, but there is no choice. They have that in North Korea but you can’t call it democracy,”

The biggest issue now is the role of a democracy movement called Occupy Central. They have promised a campaign of civil disobedience (with love and peace) in protest. The figurehead is a university law professor, Benny Tai. Many people worry however that it is the younger generation that will end up in the front line, fuelled by idealism. A prime example is Joshua Wong of Scholarism. They can mobilise hundreds of thousands of protestors and some fear a repeat of Tiananmen Square. It is evident already that the police will take a vigorous approach towards protests. Expect to see tear gas, pepper spray and lots of arrests. The PLA is on standby in its HK Barracks. How will it end? It will end up with Occupy Central being crushed and defeated. I don’t think Beijing wants bloodshed but it wants civil disobedience less and if bloodshed is the price to pay, so be it.

The other angle here is that currently the democrats have a blocking minority vote in legco. So they can theoretically block Beijing’s proposal. They have promised to do this. Then any form of universal suffrage is off the table and it is back to the 2012 method to re-elect CY in 2017. I am not so sure how this will play out.

Minor protests have started and there is a visibly high police presence all over HK’s Central business district. I saw it at first hand on Sunday night and Monday morning. We live about 45 minutes away by car from Central and our approach will be to stock up with food and water and hide in our bunker until the fallout has drifted away.

Whatever your idealism true democracy was never going to happen. Beijing will not let the genie out of the bottle. They would rather smash the bottle, contents, genie and all. What does it mean for the future of Hong Kong? Well the expats here are, in my discussions, more optimistic than the locals. They think it will ‘blow over’. HK will muddle through. We shall have to wait and see. For now though the tension is high and it would not take much to set off the tinderbox.

The children of the revolution

As Hong Kong approaches a fever pitch of indifference about universal suffrage I thought it might be useful to remind us all how the last revolution went here. It was along time ago. Way back in 2011. This was my Bluffers Guide to a successful revolution. Power to the people!

All downhill from here

Due to the underwhelming reaction to yesterday’s blog, here are a few more images from the uprising in Hong Kong including some handy tips for making your revolution a success.

They were lulled to sleep by the dulcet tones of Marc Bolan.

Never start a revolution on an empty stomach.

Always have a guitar handy for those catchy protest songs.

When spreading the word about where to start, have a distinctive meeting spot – perhaps a colourful vase of flowers. Use a flag too in case greenfly destroy the roses.

Make sure you have a be-sloganed T shirt attacking the establishment. It really annoys them.

A large police presence adds street cred to your revolution. Three is normally considered the minimum.

If it all starts to go wrong do have a mop handy to clear up afterwards. Are you really sure those eggs were fresh the chef used?

I hope…

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