Thursday, October 30, 2014

Clap Harder or the Hong Kong Tinkerbell Gets It!

Chronicle of a Leak Foretold

[I was preparing to post this on October 24.  If I had, I would have gained major Nostradamus cred, since I predicted the next shoe to drop from the pro-Beijing oppo research caterpillar would probably drop on Benny Tai’s head.  That’s because the leaks seem to track the Occupy strategy and the central figure at each phase, and I figured it was time for Benny Tai to assume more overt direction of the movement--and get doxed.  I wrote: 

If Benny Tai has any skeletons in his closet—or even if he doesn’t, not really--I suppose the pro-Beijingers will try to bring it to our attention soon enough.

Instead, I got sidetracked by parsing the fuzzy reporting on the circumstances of the aborted Occupy referendum.  Curse you, syntactically obtuse world media!  

A couple days later the story dropped via leaked e-mails that Benny Tai had funneled HK$1.3 million in contributions to Hong Kong University to pay for the July 1 referendum (organized by HKU’s polling outfit) among other things.  The money came to Tai from Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, who together with Tai and Chan Kin-man, is one of the “3 Occupy Guys (占中三子).  This umbrella-washing seems to relieve Tai and the University from restrictions on accepting anonymous donations, at least in their own eyes.  But where the money really came from, well Tai and Chu ain’t sayin’.  Here’s the piece, with a couple grafs on the Oslo Freedom Forum brouhaha.  CH, 10/30/14]

In Peter Pan, Tinkerbell has apparently succumbed to the villainy of Captain Hook.  In the book and in the play, generations of anxious children have been instructed to clap if they believe in fairies and thereby resuscitate Tink.

I think billmon coined the Clap Harder! meme to characterize the conviction that sufficient levels of will, determination, desire, and, if necessary, denial can overcome material obstacles to a goal, even if those obstacles are fundamental shortcomings in conception, capability, and execution.

The Hong Kong democracy movement seems to be getting the Clap Harder! treatment from the Western world.

But I don’t think it needs it.

The Hong Kong democracy movement is relatively robust.  It already enjoys enough popular support to be able to disrupt the operation of the pro-Beijing government without causing a tremendous backlash.  It benefits from mature, experienced leadership, financial and moral support from a variety of sources, and advocates in the press (Jimmy Lai’s Apple Daily) and in the Legislative Council (the pro-dem coalition).  Demographics are on its side; residents increasingly identify themselves as Hong Kongers and this proportion will almost certainly grow as Hong Kong’s youth grow into political maturity.

Opposition certainly exists, from stick-in-the-mud Hong Kongers and via Beijing’s determination to mobilize its assets (tycoon support, its bespoke media, the enormous financial pressure it can bring to bear on its opponents, and the fact that the PRC has its boot poised above Hong Kong’s neck not only in the matter of the intimidating shadow of the People’s Armed Police and PLA, but also in Hong Kong’s vulnerability to China in matters as crucial as the stability of its financial services industry and as mundane as its supply of food and water).

For anti-imperialist observers, the Hong Kong agitation is viewed as an Oh No, Not Again! instance of Western regime-change cupidity, coupled with the hope the PRC can hold the line against another U.S. destabilization exercise.

I like to think of myself as not quite in that camp.  

If the PRC gets outplayed in the Hong Kong endgame, I’m like Meh.  Lee Ka-shing will just have to start writing bigger checks to the Civic Party.

If Taiwan goes the same way (the DPP and the Sunflower Movement will certainly exploit the Hong Kong dynamic in their separate efforts to confound KMT rule and push the independence envelope), well Meh for that, too.  Never was the PRC’s to begin with.

If the democratic contagion spreads to the Uyghurs and Xinjiang goes up in smoke, that will be a horror of a different magnitude which will make everybody nostalgic for the good old days when pepper spray was the worst that CCP-bespoke muscle dished out; but again, the PRC made its burning neocolonial bed in western China and may just have to lay in it.

The Occupy Hong Kong movement is, as far as I can tell, primarily indigenous.  I do also think its organizers and promoters are not loath to accept certain kinds of assistance from the West, nor is the West loath to provide it.  

[No shame in that, though that’s not good enough for Occupy supporters, judging by the furious attack of the journalistic purity police on a BBC report on the Oslo Freedom Forum.  By reporting the obvious--as the Beeb gleaned from attendees at the OFF, a regime change Woodstock, OHK had been studying the color revolution playbook for years in order to construct a sturdy battle strategy—the BBC provided aid and comfort to the enemy, as Chinese state media eagerly picked up the “Hong Kong demonstrations hatched abroad two years ago” meme.  Much angry, righteous spittle ensued and the BBC added a clarification at the bottom of its article.

My personal opinion is that, however important it is to the Occupy movement and its supporters to promote the myth of 100% indigenous 100% spontaneous demonstrations, it is at the bottom a myth and defending that myth is going to lead to some awkward if not dishonest moments.  Some of the most awkward moments revolve around the fact that the movement is not springing up like an avenging Fury from the holy blood of slaughtered democratic aspirations to battle the butchers in Beijing; instead it is relying on emotional appeals and the media BS megaphone to discount, demean, and distract attention from a rather important and cool concession: that in 2017 the entire population of Hong Kong would get to vote for a (pre-screened) slate of candidates for Chief Executive for the first time in its history.

Funny, nobody has suggested that everybody wait and see if the exercise of universal suffrage under PRC-managed democracy in the concrete is as terrible as the pro-dems promise it will be in the abstract.  Are they afraid that Joshua Wong will have exhausted his righteous rhetoric by 2017; will the bottomless well of Alex Chow's tears run dry?   Or are they simply afraid that Hong Kongers might amble to the polls instead of march to the Occupy village?  Hmm. CH, 10/30/14]

For me, Hong Kong is a very interesting and not insignificant political struggle playing out on the doorstep of one of the world’s biggest regional powers.

For neo-liberals, clearly Hong Kong is The Big One, a much-needed chance to demonstrate the universality of Western democratic ideals and repudiate Red China’s narrative of the advisability and inevitability of authoritarian rule.

Fact is, when I see the eagerness of Western supporters to celebrate the Hong Kong democracy movement, I reminded I’m still waiting for the Asian Edward Said to write about the West’s need to frame, appropriate, and validate its 21st-century concept of the “Orient”—and self-validate its own values, attitudes, and increasingly embattled sense of superiority—by defining, parsing, and condemning the mainland Chinese Other it chooses to observe across the Pacific.

My deconstructivist musings on the issue are prompted by the appearance that—by my subjective impression perhaps reinforced by selection bias and the fact that a combination of paywalling and my own disinclination to try to read every scrap of coverage preclude a comprehensive, scientific analysis, OK, that’s enough caveating—nobody covering the HKO movement in English in the West seems as interested as I am in the documents dredged up by the pro-Beijing side’s oppo research.

There have been quite a stream of interesting tittle-tattle: the hack of Jimmy Lai’s e-mails that revealed his sizable funding of pro-democracy organizations, individuals, and politicians back in July; and, more recently, a virtually undocumented bill of particulars concerning Joshua Wong’s contacts with the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong: another Jimmy Lai dump, this time of an audio tape, recorded by Lai himself, of a strategizing session with Taiwan democracy notable Shih Ming-teh: the leak of about 40 pages of minutes from Alliance for True Democracy strategy meetings, plus a few audio tapes: and, last week, a massive dump on Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Union and Labour Party honcho Lee Cheuk-yan. 

It seems the disclosures are timed for nobble whatever pro-democracy worthy is expected to play an important role at a given moment.  For instance, from what I can tell (from the leaked AFTD minutes), it looks like Lee Cheuk-yan was expected to assume a greater role in the Occupy Central activities—maybe because the student occupiers might be reinforced and/or superseded by adult activists from the labor/political realm—but whatever he was supposed to be doing, he’ll have to do it while wrangling a passel of allegations self-servingly put forth by the pro-Beijing press based on revelations in the dump.

If Benny Tai has any skeletons in his closet—or even if he doesn’t, not really--I suppose the pro-Beijingers will try to bring it to our attention soon enough.

I suppose the chary Western coverage I perceive could be ascribed to the fact that there are no devastating smoking-gun revelations in the various dumps, or that victims have declined to confirm the authenticity of the documents, which would require the outlets to make Tough Calls about the newsworthiness of the allegations (in my personal estimation, the dox I’ve seen look pretty sound); but I think they warranted some attention, more attention perhaps than the endless stream of coverage about the adorable, homework-doing, trashpicking students, or the relentless attention paid to the tedious scrum of activists and cops down in Mong Kok.

And compare and contrast, of course, with the three-alarm-fire coverage given to John Garnaut’s scoop based on leaked documents of…some deal…apparently legal…unrelated to the democracy movement…but involving C.Y. Leung…money...bad man…oogah.

My undoubtedly unworthy and unfounded suspicion is that Western journos feel that less coverage of the hatchetwork of the pro-Beijing crowd contributes to the leveling of the playing field.  The pro-dem media force is mainly Jimmy Lai, whose person, reputation, business, and finances are the subject of concerted attack by the CCP’s cats paws, including the formidably large and ruthless Beijing-backed media presence in Hong Kong.  Not quite kosher to help the anti-dems in their dirty work, after all.

I welcome correction.  With examples, if possible.

To believe that the pro-dems require the assistance of the international media to make a go of it is, in my opinion, condescending and demeaning, and also a death knell for interesting and insightful coverage.

The Hong Kong democracy movement is tougher than Tinkerbell.


Xinxi said...

In other words: Western media journalists are intentionally distorting coverage and reporting, i.e. lying to us readers. So much for moral superiority then...

Freedom Hong Kong said...

You may wish to consider the documents published at: These are receipts by Reverend Chu Yiu-ming to Jimmy Lai/Mark Simon for the generous donations.