One country, one system

2014 protests (Source)

Hong Kong’s history effectively comes to an end as the once quasi-autonomous city becomes fully absorbed into the Chinese Communist borg — only 27 years ahead of schedule:

A national security law introduced Friday at the opening session to China’s National People’s Congress to tackle the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong would allow Beijing to send its security agents to operate freely in the former British Colony to “fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law.”

Chinese law enforcement and security agents previously had no purview in Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement that allowed the Chinese international financial hub a certain degree of autonomy to runs its own affairs.

The proposed national security law, which Chinese authorities deemed an “absolute necessity” and is guaranteed to pass, is the latest and most far-reaching attempt by Beijing to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. […]

“This is the end of Hong Kong. This is the end of ‘One Country Two Systems.’ This is it. Make no mistake about it,” pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who has been the target of Beijing’s recent ire, told the media after hearing the news of the planned law Thursday night.

This comes after the coup in LegCo on Monday:

Several pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were dragged out of a legislative council session on Monday in a melee that broke out over a bill that would criminalize any disrespect of the Chinese national anthem, according to reports.

“If Hong Kong was a democracy, we would not need to start scuffles like this,” one of the lawmakers carried out, Eddie Chu, told the BBC. “Unfortunately we are forced into this situation. I can foresee more fights within the chamber and outside the chamber.”

The uproar began when pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por, who was appointed by the council president last week to oversee the election of a new House committee leader, occupied the chairman’s seat and surrounded himself by more than 30 mask-clad security guards.

The House committee, which decides when controversial bills, including the Chinese national anthem bill, will be voted on, has gone without a chairperson for months. China has accused pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong of filibustering the bill to stall until council elections in September.

As pro-democracy lawmakers entered the chamber, they tried to reach the chairman’s seat but were met with force from the guards in a skirmish that lasted several minutes. At least one person was knocked to the ground, according to the BBC.

Pan-democratic politician hauled away (Source)

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por takes charge (Source)

The Big Lychee reacts:

There is at least a morbid fascination in watching – in real time – a dictatorship destroy a free society. In just seven days since ‘Freak-Out Friday’, we’ve seen the LegCo coup, a ban on the June 4 vigil and choreographed attacks on the once-independent RTHK and exams authority.

Now Beijing has decided to impose a de facto Article 23 national security law on Hong Kong by directly inserting it into Annex III of the Basic Law. Don’t quibble about whether this is legal: if the CCP does it, it is.

All we know is that the new law will ban sedition, subversion, foreign intervention and ‘terrorism’. There are no details as yet, and the final wording will no doubt be intentionally vague. The aim is to hugely expand the pretexts for silencing and punishing dissent.

Whatever the wording, the outcome is likely to include criminalization of opinions, such as mere advocacy of Hong Kong independence or the downfall of the Communist Party. This points to Internet or print censorship. The new law will probably enable suppression of a wide range of opposition activities – for example the banning of websites used to organize protests, or even possession of anti-government banners. It could include the intimidation of lawyers who defend opponents of the regime or people who help fund activist causes (‘subversion of state power’ in the Mainland).

The ban on foreign interference will obviously target ties between the pan-dem camp and overseas politicians or other ‘foreign forces’, and probably enable the freezing of any (allegedly) foreign-sourced funds going to pan-dems. It could also be used to bar more people from Hong Kong – and even to kick out non-locals like teachers or journalists who are deemed to be infiltrators helping the opposition.

China’s emperor-for-life appears to be firmly ensconced in the Dragon Throne, and there is no prospect of the CPC loosening its grip on power anytime soon, let alone some other system of government replacing the 90-million-member party and the totalitarian hell-state over which it presides.

Nevertheless, it is worth bearing in mind that no regime can last forever, and most are quite short-lived on the scale of human history. As long as people desire freedom, as the people of Hong Kong most certainly do, then hope remains. Hong Kong in its glory and splendor will rise again.

Hurting their feelings

Imagine my shock that Joe Tsai, the Taiwanese-Canadian co-founder of Alibaba and owner of the Brooklyn Nets, is gravely displeased by a tweet posted (and quickly deleted) by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey:

Open letter to all NBA fans:

When I bought controlling interest in the Brooklyn Nets in September, I didn’t expect my first public communication with our fans would be to comment on something as politically charged and grossly misunderstood as the way hundreds of millions of Chinese NBA fans feel about what just happened.

By now you have heard that Chinese fans have reacted extremely negatively to a tweet put out by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey in support of protests in Hong Kong.

The Rockets, who by far had been the favorite team in China, are now effectively shut out of the Chinese market as fans abandon their love for the team, broadcasters refuse to air their games and Chinese corporates pull sponsorships in droves.

Fans in China are calling for an explanation – if they are not getting it from the Houston Rockets, then it is natural that they ask others associated with the NBA to express a view.

The NBA is a fan-first league. When hundreds of millions of fans are furious over an issue, the league, and anyone associated with the NBA, will have to pay attention. As a Governor of one of the 30 NBA teams, and a Chinese having spent a good part of my professional life in China, I need to speak up.

What is the problem with people freely expressing their opinion? This freedom is an inherent American value and the NBA has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues.

The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities.

Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for all citizens in China.

The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable.

A bit of historical perspective is important. In the mid-19thcentury, China fought two Opium Wars with the British, aided by the French, who forced through illegal trade of opium to China. A very weak Qing Dynasty government lost the wars and the result was the ceding of Hong Kong to the British as a colony.

The invasion of Chinese territories by foreign forces continued against a weak and defenseless Qing government, which precipitated in the Boxer Rebellion by Chinese peasants at the turn of the 20th century. In response, the Eight Nations Alliance – comprised of Japan, Russia, Britain, France, United States, Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary – dispatched their forces to occupy Chinese territories in the name of humanitarian intervention. The foreign forces marched into the Chinese capital Peking (now called Beijing), defeated the peasant rebels and proceeded to loot and pillage the capital city.

In 1937, Japan invaded China by capturing Beijing, Shanghai and the then-Chinese capital Nanjing. Imperial Japanese troops committed mass murder and rape against the residents of Nanjing, resulting in several hundred thousand civilian deaths. The war of resistance by the Chinese against Japan ended after tens of millions of Chinese casualties, and only after America joined the war against Japan post-Pearl Harbor.

I am going into all of this because a student of history will understand that the Chinese psyche has heavy baggage when it comes to any threat, foreign or domestic, to carve up Chinese territories.

When the topic of any separatist movement comes up, Chinese people feel a strong sense of shame and anger because of this history of foreign occupation.

By now I hope you can begin to understand why the Daryl Morey tweet is so damaging to the relationship with our fans in China. I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been. But the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.

I hope to help the League to move on from this incident. I will continue to be an outspoken NBA Governor on issues that are important to China. I ask that our Chinese fans keep the faith in what the NBA and basketball can do to unite people from all over the world.

Sincerely,
Joe Tsai

Those of us who are familiar with China have received this history lesson before. Many times. And in a sense, the reaction of the fans is understandable. For other examples of this type of thing, see here, here, here and here.

Quote from the second link:

The Marriott International hotel chain has apologised and condemned “separatists” in China after the Beijing government shut down its website over an online questionnaire that suggested some Chinese regions were separate countries.

China’s Cyberspace Administration, the internet watchdog, said the hotelier had “seriously violated national laws and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” after a customer survey listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries. The regulator ordered Marriott’s website and booking applications to close for a week.

Note that phrase, “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”—another formulation that China watchers will be very familiar with—and compare to Tsai’s version:

When the topic of any separatist movement comes up, Chinese people feel a strong sense of shame and anger because of this history of foreign occupation. […] the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.

Shame. Anger. Hurt feelings. Separatism. Opium Wars. This is what American companies must now deal with because, well, 1.4 billion customers. (China is the NBA’s largest international market.)

Here we see the clash between two different, utterly incompatible value systems, each with its own virtues and flaws, which are now mutually entangled in a way that never before would have been possible due to globalization. The increasing preposterousness of the situation suggests that a great Untangling is coming, and soon.

They apparently haven’t watched Burn After Reading

I think it’s safe to dispense with the idea, being promulgated by certain parties, that US intelligence is behind the Hong Kong protests/riots. One would have to be painfully naive to rule out the possibility of the US exploiting a chaotic situation in Hong Kong for its own ends. Many elements of the US establishment have made it clear that they support the protests. But it stretches credulity to claim that the CIA is capable of orchestrating a massive, open-source protest movement in a large and sophisticated Asian city. Seriously, think about it. As the Big Lychee helpfully reminds us, this is the same agency that saw its entire network in China caught and executed over a two-year period (I posted about this total debacle here). And if the “black hand” of the US is responsible for the current ructions in Hong Kong, was it also responsible for the 2014 democracy movement and the massive 2003 protest against Basic Law Article 23? That seems highly implausible, to say the least.

A Cambridge academic weighs in:

Jeppe Mulich
@jmulich
[Thread] The idea that foreign forces, and specifically the CIA, is either behind or heavily involved in the #antiELAB protests in Hong Kong seems to endure, somehow. So here are a few thoughts on why that is silly.

The first problem with the “foreign black hands” thesis is the underlying assumption that Hongkongers are unable to organize these protests themselves. That somehow they need the guiding hand of foreigners to mobilize.

That there simply is not enough motivation to take to the streets without outsiders stirring up trouble or offering incentives to do so. This is the same logic behind every colonial administrator or crony politician in history

complaining that the only reason the ‘natives’ or the ‘masses’ are protesting their rule is due to foreign troublemakers. It is devaluing the capacity and motivation of ordinary people and, in this case, it’s orientalist to boot.

The second problem with the thesis is that it greatly overestimates the capabilities of the CIA. Don’t get me wrong. The CIA is good at some things, and a lot of those things are deeply troubling and unethical.

Those things include funneling arms and finances to established groups of insurgents or to foreign regimes; extrajudicial rendition and detention; gathering particular types of intelligence and sharing it with select allies;

killing people with drones (sometimes even the intended targets); and supporting the more kinetic divisions of the US forces during on-the-ground military operations. They’ve also had some success with ruining Castro’s cigars and funding abstract expressionist art.

But none of these things are happening or would be relevant in HK today. There is no established insurgent group for the CIA to co-opt. There are no arms being funneled in (protesters use umbrellas, hard hats, dishwashing detergent, and a few Molotovs!)

Langley wouldn’t begin to know who to talk to in this type of leaderless, highly networked movement (look at their failures during the Arab Spring). I doubt they even have enough people proficient in traditional Chinese (let alone Konglish) to keep up with LIHKG and Telegram.

So, the idea of foreign black hands driving HK protests puts too little faith in the capacity of Hongkongers and too much faith in the capacity of those foreign forces. And worse, it plays directly into Beijing’s attempt at discrediting what is in fact a bottom-up mass movement

That’ll learn ’em

Merlin Swire and Carrie Lam

Merlin Swire and Carrie Lam

This should do much to improve business confidence in Hong Kong as a transparent, law-governed, international financial center:

The forced public kowtow by Cathay Pacific and parent Swire Group is punishment for the airline’s nonchalance over its employees’ involvement in Hong Kong’s protest movement. […]

  • Group chairman Merlin Swire was summoned to Beijing and ordered to fire Cathay’s top two senior managers.
  • For additional humiliation, the news was broken by state CCTV before the company had a chance to make an announcement.
  • The share price plummeted (sending a message that China could ruin stockholders and perhaps enable second-largest owner state-owned Air China to buy up the remains).
  • The SCMP quotes a source as saying “Merlin had to save [ritually dismember] Cathay to save Swire.” Swire’s Mainland interests include property, Coca-Cola bottling and much more. The great and ancient hong had zero choice.
  • Top executives Rupert Hogg and Paul Loo have been banished from the Swire Group as a whole. Anyone else who hires them in future will be defying the Wrath of the Panda and will, in Beijing’s eyes, be ‘hostile to China’.
  • Hastily appointed replacement CEO Augustus Tang, the SCMP implies, has been chosen for his ethnicity, as a further sign of submission to the Han emperor.

Fascinating to see the iron fist poking through the velvet glove.

In the mood for war

Looks like world is gearing up for a major conflagration:

  • Israel is now striking Iranian military targets in Iraq (the first Israeli strike in Iraq since 1981).
  • China’s top official overseeing Hong Kong affairs has described the protests as a “color revolution” and apparently suggested that the PLA could be deployed.
  • India has decided to revoke the autonomous status of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, a move that Pakistan deems illegal.
  • “Turkey has threatened to re-open the floodgates of mass migration to Europe unless Turkish nationals are granted visa-free travel to the European Union.”

Better get to work on that home fallout shelter…