Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Dirty War for Hong Kong Democracy Heats Up




Things got  hotter for C.Y. Leung, with Australian journalist John Garnaut revealing that Leung has signed a non-compete agreement when he parted ways with an Australian company, UGL, that also included a multi-million dollar consulting clause that might have exposed him to some conflict of interest ethics problems when he became Chief Executive.

Though the sin seems to be of a venial nature as RFA reported it:

While there was nothing apparently illegal about the contract itself, Leung didn't disclose it during his election campaign, the paper said.
 
That’s not good enough for the pro-democracy movement:

Pan-democratic lawmakers in Hong Kong said they would impeach Leung over the allegations,

Fair enough.  IMO a not unpredictable escalation of the crisis, an effort to get the pro-Beijing government on the defensive when dealing with the negotiations with the students, intimidate the government with the pro-democracy movement’s clout and capabilities and, perhaps, decapitate the HK government by forcing C.Y. Leung’s resignation and putting the accommodation-minded Carrie Lam in the driver’s seat.

So Leung has his work cut out for him.

No problem with that.  We’re clearly in the hardball phase of the struggle.

I predicted there will be a continual escalation of pressure against the Hong Kong government in order to reform and co-opt it and present the pro-democracy case to Beijing, maybe not out of conviction but because of the desire to dodge the intense political pressure that the democracy movement will continue to bring to bear, inside and outside the governments, from elites and key constituencies, and backed up by the ability to put students on the streets to protest.

Educators now in open support of the movement, as I also predicted.  A student told RFA only half the students were in class:

"[The rest] are all in Admiralty and Central," Chin said. "The college still supports us, and the teachers are e-mailing stuff to us, to help the students."

And indeed, Garnaut’s audio segment (illustrated with a quite timely Next Media animation), editorialized about the “travesty” of the nine day delay in the Hong Kong government’s beginning talks with the students and opined that revelations about the deal “add to the pressure on C.Y. Leung to be more reasonable in upcoming talks.”

What I do have a problem with is bullshit.  In this case, the bullshit is the meme, put out by the democracy movement and apparently adopted by sympathetic members of the press, that Beijing leaked the Leung story to John Garnaut, a journalist resolutely antagonistic to the CCP regime, in order to push the Chief Executive out of office.

Here’s Quartz:

It’s not clear where Fairfax Media obtained the contract. When asked about the publicly-floated theory [David Pilling of the Financial Times obligingly started the attribution ball rolling--CH] that Beijing may have leaked the information to Fairfax, Nick McKenzie, one of article’s authors, told Quartz:

I’m afraid we never comment on the identity of sources, I can only say they were people with deep concerns about the probity of CY and UGL’s dealings and that we only got the story very recently.

The fact that John Garnaut co-wrote the story is notable. Now back in Australia, Garnaut was for many years a highly accomplished foreign correspondent in Beijing, thanks to his many sources connected with the Chinese government.

For Pete’s sake.  John Garnaut is Xi Jinping’s go to guy for radioactive tittle-tattle?  I smell…bullshit.

As I smelled in a tweet by another journo, who passed on the tidbit that Alan Leung, who has emerged as perhaps the democracy movement’s most brazen flak, was claiming the Legislative Council had recessed because:

Civic Party's Alan Leong suspects Legco session suspended bc pro-Beijing lawmakers got messages that Beijing wants to fire CYL over payments

Double-stacked bullshit.  My fingers would curl up in embarrassment if I tried to type something like that (fortunately I was able to cut-and-paste).

If the journalistic community is unable to recognize, as I put it on Twitter, plain vanilla psyops meant to sow FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) between Beijing and Hong Kong at a level befitting an IQ test in a petting zoo, while dodging the fact that the pro-democracy movement is engaged in a calculated and rather inelegant exercise in dirty tricks…

…but who am I kidding?  

My general feeling is this.

The Western media wants a big story to come out of this.  Heck, there’s a certain prestige media outlet that’s laying off journos by the fistful while maintaining an expensive, top-heavy presence of exiled reporters in Hong Kong; it needs a big story.

And it’s hoping that story is democratic revolution in Hong Kong and maybe, just maybe, in mainland China.

Unfortunately, that’s just one story.  And right now it’s not the main story.

The main story right now is that the pro-democracy movement is coordinated and financed by a group of clever, determined, and ruthless bigwigs who are using the student demonstrations as part of a sophisticated political campaign against the Hong Kong government to achieve some electoral reforms.

Maybe not the story the pro-democracy media wants to tell.  

But it’s the true story.  And I don’t think there’s any shame in telling it.  The democracy movement has a solid agenda and support, and the facts, if they hurt, aren’t going to hurt too much.  And it’s easier on the discriminating reader than flogging the dishonest and increasingly tedious line that what we see playing out in the streets and in the media is just a spontaneously evolving outburst of impassioned students, or pretending that a carefully prepared and timed hatchet job against Leung is some kind of circular firing squad gambit by Beijing.

Speaking of facts—actually, facts, leaks, and oppo research dumps from the other side of the fence--pro-Beijing operators unearthed another interesting nugget from the computers of Jimmy Lai, the Next Media tycoon who is bankrolling and overseeing much of the democracy action in Hong Kong.

The Lai camp has not challenged the authenticity of an audio recording purporting to be Lai’s own record of his discussions with Taiwan democracy icon Shih Ming-teh, in October 2013.  

Shih did 25 years—yes, 25 years, including 13 years of solitary and four years of hunger strike-- of hard time in Taiwan’s prisons during a struggle for reform of the Republic of China’s political system (under Chiang Kai-shek, and until his son Chiang Ching-kuo yielded, the ROC operated under a martial law regime inherited from the mainland that gave Taiwaners only a minority voice as one of the two dozen or so Chinese provinces in the parliament).  As a result, he is called by some “Taiwan’s Mandela”.  

As befits the factionalized character of Taiwanese politics, Shih broke with the DPP and is now on the outside looking in.  His most relevant experience to Lai apparently was his organization of the “Million Voices against Corruption,President Chen Must Go” “Red Shirts” action in 2006, an orchestrated multi-stage, multi-week street action that contributed to independence-minded Chen Shui-bian’s removal from office, much to the delight of Beijing; in fact, Shih was accused of acting as the PRC’s cat’s paw.  

Today, Shih Ming-teh pursues a relatively idiosyncratic but rather KMT-friendly agenda of “Greater One China” which splits the baby between independence and reunification with a call for overlapping sovereignty.  

So it would seem that democratizing the Hong Kong arrangement within the PRC context would be somewhat to Mr. Shih’s taste; and either Mr. Lai believed that Mr. Shih would not blab his plans to Beijing, or didn’t care if he did.

In any event, they met.

The tape—in nice, clear Mandarin, by the way—has Lai blustering in the trademark da kuan fashion, while Shih goes Zhuge Liang in advising on how to win at high-stakes democratic brinksmanship.

The accompanying news story says Lai made an offering of 200,000 yuan (currency not specified) to arrange the meeting (which was puckishly described as Lai “going to pick up the scriptures” as Tripitika did in Journey to the West) and Lai collected everybody’s phones so they couldn’t be used as listening devices (Lai apparently knew about the ability of government surveillance authorities to secretly turn on cellphones and turn them into microphones). Shih supposedly gave Lai advice on putting students, young girls, and mothers with children in the vanguard of the street protests, in order to attract the support of the international community and press, and to sustain the movement with continual activities to keep it dynamic and fresh.

We’ve certainly seen that, though these particular elements are not addressed in the audio and transcript that made their way into the world a couple days ago.

For some reason, Lai openly recorded the conversations himself (he refers to shutting the recorder off at presumably sensitive moments) and then the audio file got hacked off his computers.  Go figure.

The meeting was apparently meant to be a super secret summit between Lai, some Hong Kongers, and Shih Mingteh and some other Taiwan figures who had experience in the use of mass street politics.  One of the other attendees at the meeting, a local media nawab associated with protest politics named Fan Keqian, revealed on Taiwan TV that he was furious at Lai—who had demanded complete, “silent as the grave” secrecy—for letting the audio get out, calling him “a son of a dog”.  Neither Fan nor another attendee, Yao Liming, a political commentator who also helped put the wood to Chen Shuibian in the 2006 mass action, can be heard on this excerpt.


The audio is an interesting look at the nuts and bolts of high-stakes activism by two serious players, one well-heeled and determined, the other bringing a lifetime of experience to the table.  Shih talks about the importance of a commitment to go to jail for the cause (he says he’s willing to go to Hong Kong and get arrested) and the inevitable dangers of provocateurs.

Interestingly, Shih does not share the “Tiananmen Redux” anxieties voiced by so many journos and pundits during the Hong Kong street demonstrations.  “No blood has to flow”, he declares.

A year before Hong Kong Occupy kicked off (but a full six months after he had rained millions of $HK on democracy-inclined politicians) Jimmy Lai already seemed to be “in it to win it” as we say in US politics (“It’s decided!” he trumpets, his enthusiasm perhaps a function of Shih’s confidence that jail time for Hong Kong protesters won’t be anything like what he went through on Taiwan).  

Lai offers to send some journalistic cheddar Shih’s way and indeed Shih contributed a hopefully well-compensated opinion piece to Apple Daily on October 1 on “Tear Gas and the Freedom that Wants to Fly”. 

Maybe further releases will fill in some interesting gaps, like the reference to “the meeting on the 14th” and scheduling a visit by Shih “after the round table conference”; and the “Ma” action on Taiwan; and what seems to be Shih’s interest in using the Hong Kong action to jumpstart his new political alignment in Taiwan with some supporting street demonstrations.

Rely on it, there’s plenty more out there, and plenty more worth reporting.

For the sake of posterity and interested readers and journos, I have roughed out a translation of the transcript below the break.


 

密谈录音全记录
以下为已公布的黎智英向施明德“取经” 录音记录。
The tape of Jimmy Lai pilgrimage (“retrieving the Buddhist scriptures”) to Shih Ming-teh
黎智英:这个已经录了吗?
JL: This already recorded?
施明德:我刚刚听你讲了说要追求普选,而有人已经决心要去坐牢,告诉你,只要敢坐牢,就一定会成功!
SMT: I just listened to you talking about striving for universal suffrage, and that there were some people who already had the resolve to go to jail.  I tell you, as long as there are people who dare go to prison, success is assured!
黎智英:这个很好!
JL: Great!
施明德:一定会成功!
SMT: Success for sure!
黎智英:这个非常好!
JL: That’s really great!
施明德:所以这个信心要有,你敢牺牲,敢付出,天下没有白吃的午餐,只要敢去付出,就一定会成功,事先我就可以敢这么讲,而且不需要流血。
SMT: You want to have that confidence, you’re willing to make the sacrifice, pay the price.  There’s no free lunch in the world, if only you’re willing to pay the price then you’ll certainly succeed.  Before matters get underway, I can say this, and blood won’t have to flow.
黎智英:是。
JL: Yes.
施明德:而且代价不会像我们以前对抗两蒋那样被判那么重,因为现在即使在中国政府,在咱们这讲,也不可能因为做一些对抗的行为,或者争取的行为就判得很重,但是它会引起全世界很多人的关心。
SMT: And no way is the price going to be as heavy as we paid when struggling against Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo.  Because today, even though it’s under the Chinese government, what we’re talking about, they won’t condemn some opposition or struggle behavior too severely, otherwise they will attract the attention of a lot of people from the whole world.
港人在追求香港的民主,也会鼓舞香港人的热情,但接下来就是方法应该掌握,怎么来处理。所以,我里头也有提到,第一个要有理想,我这里头讲到任何运动,反 抗的气氛变成反抗的势力,由于这种气氛要求直选,这个已经有了,但是这个气氛是散漫的,要怎么把它转变成势力,是需要3个条件。
Hong Kong people seeking Hong Kong democracy will excite the enthusiasm of the people of Hong Kong.  However, the next thing is the methods that should be grasp, how to manage.  Therefore, here I also raise the point, the first is to have an ideal, here I first talk about how in any movement a spirit of opposition has to become an opposition force.  Because this kind of spirit wants direct election, this [first] condition has already been met.  However this spirit is dispersed; in order to convert it into a force, there are three conditions.
第一,当然要有理想,就是我要直选,要民主化;第二个,要有组织,要怎么把人组织起来;第三个,要有领导,领导的不是一个人领导而已,要有一个领导团体。要有这3个条件,它就会从一个反对的气氛变成反对的势力。
The first, of course, is you need the ideal, that’s I want direct elections, I want democratization.  The second, there must be organization, people have got to be organized; the third, leadership is needed.  Leadership isn’t a matter of just one person leading, there has to be a leadership group.  With these three conditions, an opposing spirit can be changed into an opposing force.
黎智英:是。
JL: Yes.
施明德:好,没有关系,我们今天就跟你讲到这些。那当然还有坐牢的,要怎么坐牢,那当然以后再说,香港坐牢不会比我们以前坐牢……
SMT:  Ok, no matter, today we’ll take it to this point.  Of course there will be people who go to jail, how they go to jail, we’ll talk about that later, going to jail in Hong Kong isn’t going to be like the jail time we had to spend here in the past…
黎智英:差得远了,你们惨很多。
JL:  Conditions were terrible, you [plural] suffered greatly.
施明德:那个不用讲了,我们刑服啊,这个东西不用讲了。那我现在……我突然想了,如果14号,这样好了,14号我至少带两个人来。
We don’t have to talk about that, we served our sentences, we don’t have to talk about that thing.  As for today…it suddenly occurred to me, the 14th, that’s good, on the 14th I’ll bring at least two people with me.
黎智英:带两个人啊,好。
JL: You’ll bring two people, OK.
施明德:我突然想一下,不要就我一个人,其实他们这些人现在已经,最近因为“马”这个事情 在动了……然后这次的状况,一做起来就会朝向带领一个新的政治势力了,不是像“红衫军”只是要求一下就算了,这次一定要蓝绿合起一个新的政治势力,如果真 的要上街头一做的话,就一定会做成这样,这个是一定也会,我相信气氛到了这种状况,已经不是……
SMT: It suddenly occurred to me, it doesn’t have to be just me.  Actually those other people are already, just now because of the “Ma” [agitation involving ROC president Ma Ying-jyeou?] matter are at work…afterwards this situation, once it gets started it may show the way to a new political force.  It wouldn’t be like the “Red Shirt Army” which would have only one demand [removal of Chen Shuibian in 2006], this would be a “Blue Green” (i.e. KMT & DPP elements) union into a new political force.  If street action is really needed, this is certainly the way it would be done, it certainly can be done, I am confident that when the spirit is like this, it’s already not…
黎智英:这个不用录下来吧?
JL: We don’t need to record this?
施明德:这个不要录,我们在这里让它作为背景就好。
SMT: Let’s not record this, we can use the recording for background.
黎智英:蛮精彩的。
JL: Fantastic (?)
施明德:未来追求民主直选,这个是人权的一部分,我如果去了,把我抓起来,我愿意去坐牢。我愿意陪着香港人一起去坐牢,因为民主、人权、自由是普世的价值。不只是香港人的自由、民主而已,这也是普世的人类的共同追求的目标了。所以我如果真的去了,我就会做好这个打算。
SMT: Seeking direct democracy in the future is one part of human rights.  If I go, and they arrest me, I’m willing to go to jail.  I’m willing to join Hong Kong people in prison, because democracy, human rights, freedom are universal rights.  It’s not just for the freedom and democracy of Hong Kong people, it’s a universal goal of all humanity.  So if I really go, I’ll be prepared.
黎智英:你觉得应该圆桌会议以后去,还是之前去?
JL: Should you go after the round table meeting, or before?
施明德:当然以后。
SMT: After, of course.
黎智英:以后比较好?
JL: After is better?
施明德:当然是以后啦,这个我们就可以这么讲了,香港的自由之花,就有可能变成中国的自由之花,这个是有历史意义的。
SMT: Of course after.  As to this, we can explain it this way, the freedom flower of Hong Kong may very possibly become the freedom flower of China, and this is of historical significance.
黎智英:主要我们愿意坐牢?
JL:  The main thing is that we’re willing to go to jail?
施明德:对!你们愿意坐牢绝对会成功。然后这朵花开出来就会是香港自由之花,也可能会是中国自由之花,也就是这样开始了。这个很重要!香港现在多少万人啊?几百万?
SMT: Right! If you’re willing to go to jail, you’ll certainly succeed.  The flower that subsequently unfolds in Hong Kong will be the Hong Kong freedom flower, and it also might be China’s freedom flower, and that’s how it will start.  This is very important!  How many people in Hong Kong?  How many million?
黎智英:750万。
JL: 7.5 million
施明德:啊,750万。
SMT: Ah, 7.5 million
黎智英:不是只是赚钱啊。
JL: Not just making money.
施明德:肯定不是赚钱啊,香港人的意识出现了。
SMT: Certainly not just making money, the awareness of the people of Hong Kong has appeared.
黎智英:九七以后?
JL: After 97?
施明德:九七以后,逐渐这几年来,我就看香港人,我就是香港人,我住在这里,这里属于我的,所以这里的自由、民主,跟我,跟我未来的子孙很密切相光,我们有权利决定我们自己的命运。
SMT: After 97, gradually over these few years, I have seen Hong Kong people, [his emphasis, switching to the persona of a Hong Konger] I am a Hong Konger, I live here, this is mine, therefore the freedom, democracy is important to me, and the future of my children and grandchildren.  We have the power to decide our own fate.
黎智英:而且我们基本法是有的嘛,已经既定我们有这个权利。
JL: And we have the basic law, which already fixes these rights for us.
施明德:对,有这个权利,只是在拖延给香港人而已。
SMT: Correct, these rights just have to be extended to all Hong Kongers.
黎智英:是。
JL: Yes.
施明德:所以这几年我真的是有强烈的感受,虽然我没有去到,香港人已经出现了,很生动有力 地出现了,在那里,而且愿意为自己的现在跟未来去追求。这个很重要、关键。以前如果是浮萍,要是不行我就跑掉了,我跑到哪里去?我跑到美国,我跑到英国。 现在是完全不一样了。我是完全是香港人,我有权利……
SMT: Therefore in these years I’ve had a very strong impression, despite the fact that I didn’t go there, that Hong Kong people had already emerged, emerged with great vitality, over there, and are also willing to strive for the sake of their present and future.  This is very important, it’s key.  [Again speaking in voice of Hong Konger]  Before, I was free and easy, if things weren’t working out, I could escape.  Where could I escape?  I could escape to the United States, I could escape to England.  Now it’s completely different.  I’m 100% Hong Konger, I have rights…
黎智英:就是为了这个地方,我可以牺牲。
JL: For the sake of this place, I can sacrifice.
施明德:我可以牺牲。
SMT: I can sacrifice.
黎智英:就成功了。
JL: Then, success.
施明德:而且加上了一个牺牲的精神出现了,那就不得了了。


SMT: And once the spirit of sacrifice emerges, then incredible.
黎智英:一个牺牲的精神出现了,不得了啊。
JL: When a spirit of sacrifice appears, incredible.
施明德:嗯,不得了啊!真的不得了啊!我听你今天早上讲的,本来以为只是喊一喊,那如果我一波一波的愿意去坐牢,我这里说的……
SMT: Uh, incredible.  Really incredible.  I heard what you said this morning, originally I thought it was just words, but now wave by wave I’m willing to go to jail, as I say here…
黎智英:对,已经决定了!
JL: Right, it’s already decided!
施明德:对,我这里头,我有讲了一句话。
SMT: Right, here’s I’ve got something to say.
[Break in recording]
……
黎智英:……来搞乱。
SMT: …disorder erupt.
施明德:来搞乱,这个你要小心。
SMT: Erupting disorder, you want to be careful about that.
黎智英:是,就是他会派一些人,假装很积极……
JL: Yes, they can send people, pretend to be very active…
施明德:很积极,很激进。
SMT: Very active, very eager.
黎智英:什么激进?
JL: Eager, how?
施明德:激进就是我一定要冲进去了啊,我要丢火把了啊,干什么的。假装的我会为这个牺牲生命。其实我们讲,牺牲是说,我就让你抓了,我并不是要跟你拼命的。但是有人会有表演这个,这些人要提防。
SMT: Eager in saying we must charge in, we most throw in firebrands, do whatever, pretend we’re willing to sacrifice our lives in the process.  Actually when we’re talking and talk of sacrifice, then I arrange to have you detained, we don’t want to struggle to the death with you.  But there are always people who will pretend this; these people must be guarded against.
黎智英:有人会要这样吗?一定的。
JL: There are people like that?  Really.
施明德:他一定会派人进来做这个事。
SMT: They will undoubtedly send people to do this.
黎智英:他已经有了,已经派了……已经开始了,有些人在讲了。
JL: They already have, already sent people…it’s already started, there are people talking.
施明德:这个是要小心。在运动里头讲的很积极的人,往往看起来讲的很勇敢,“我可以牺牲生命”,讲的比别人都勇敢的人,而且你不了解他的人,这个是要小心的,真的是要小心。这个后来才有那个嘛。
SMT:  Have to be careful about this.  In the movement there are people who talk very actively, always seem to be talking very bravely, “I can sacrifice my life”, talking more bravely than the other people, and you don’t understand what they’re like as a person, this is something to be careful about, really careful.  Afterwards, then comes that.
黎智英:嗯,很好吃,嗯。
JL: Uh, delicious, uh.
……
施明德:我太太在上班,她在工作在上班。
SMT: My wife’s at her job; she’s working at her job.
黎智英:哦,她上班?
JL: Uh, she’s at her job?
施明德:她当然上班,要不我要怎么生活。
SMT: Of course she’s at her job, otherwise how am I going to live?
黎智英:你真的?
JL: Really?  For you?
施明德:真的。很久了。她在一个公司当总经理,我跟你讲,我太太的能力很强的,非常强的。
SMT: Really.  For a long time.  She’s general manager of a company.  I tell you, my wife is very capable, extremely capable.
……
[break in recording]
施明德:她赚钱养我们的。
SMT: She makes money to support us.
黎智英:真的?
JL: Really?
施明德:真的!
Really!
黎智英:你要不要在我们的传媒写点东西?长期写东西啊,也可以啊。
SMT: Would you like to write something for our media.  Write stuff for an extended period, it could happen.
施明德:这个应该可以。
SMT: That should be OK.
黎智英:也可以有点收入,我可以跟他们讲啊。好不好?
JL: Can have some income.  I can talk to them.  OK?
施明德:这个……是啊。
SMT: That…yes.
……
黎智英:谢谢。
JL: Thank you.
施明德:我因为几年有肝癌以后,我吃东西都比较小心,这些都是有机的。
SMT: Because after I had liver cancer a few years back, I have to be relatively careful about what I eat.  These things are all organic.
黎智英:哦,你有癌症以后啊?
JL: Ah, after had cancer, huh?
施明德:有癌症以后,所以我吃东西比较小心,不太喜欢在外面吃东西。
SMT: After I had cancer, I have to be relatively careful about what I eat; I don’t like to eat outside the house too much.
黎智英:你现在癌症没有了是吧?
JL: Your cancer is gone now?
施明德:我没有了。
SMT: I don’t have it anymore.
黎智英:看出来一定没有了,人挺好的。
JL: From what can be seen you surely don’t have it any more; you look great.
施明德:我精神好得很。
SMT: My spirit is very good.
黎智英:精神好得不得了。
JL: Your spirit is incredible.
施明德:我常常晚上写东西搞到2点多钟才睡觉。
SMT: I frequently write things until two AM and only then go to sleep.
黎智英:晚上?
JL: At night?
施明德:早上7点多钟起来,顶多下午闭一下眼睛,这样子。一辈子把生命献给自由、民主、人权的人,听到香港这样子,我真的蛮兴奋的,我是有被感动。
SMT: I get up a little after seven in the morning, maybe take a nap in the afternoon, like that.  For my entire life I’ve given my life to freedom, democracy, human rights, when I hear Hong Kong is like this, I’m really excited and moved.
黎智英:谢谢。
JL: Thank you.
……
[break in recording]
黎智英:我们是好朋友,我讲一句话……这个关掉。
JL: We’re good friends, I’m going to say a word…turn this off.
[end of audio file]


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