Clever Tactics “Add Oil” to Hong Kong Protests (and not “Hidden Hands”)

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Let me start out with a sidebar on “add oil” (加油), which you see all over the coverage of the Hong Kong protests: It originated, says the OED, as a cheer at the Macau Grand Prix in the 1960s, meaning “step on the gas” (which is good to know, because I thought that the underlying metaphor was adding cooking oil to a wok preparatory to frying). It translates roughly to “go for it!” Here, an apartment block encourages the protesters by chanting it:

Interestingly, “add oil!” was also used as a cheer by the 2014 Umbrella movement, which should tell you that Hong Kong has considerable experience in running a protest.

Sidebar completed, this post will have a simple thesis: The people of Hong Kong have considerable experience in running protests, and we don’t need to multiply invisible entities (“hidden hands”) to give an account of what they’re doing. For example, it’s not necessary to postulate that the participants in the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests consulted CIA handlers on tactics; their tactics are often available, in open source, on the Internet; other tactics are based on Hong Kong material culture, things and situations that come readily to hand and can be adapted by creative people (which the protesters clearly are).

I started thinking about this post when I read this tweet:

So, a well-meaning Westerner suggests Gene Sharp’s well-known 198 Methods of Non-Violent Action to a HKer, who politely informs him that Sharp’s work is already available in Chinese. Clearly, #genesharptaughtme is alive and well! (In fact, I remember Black Lives Matter using the same hashtag.) I am well-aware of Gene Sharp’s equivocal role as a defense intellectual — in strong form, the Godfather of “color revolutions” — but at this point Sharp’s influence is attenuated. Out here in reality, information on non-violent strategy and tactics has gone global, like everything else. You don’t have to wait for your CIA handler to vouchsafe The Sacred Texts. Very sophisticated and tested protest tactics are all available on the Internet, if you research the media coverage of Tahrir Square, los indignados in Spain, the state capital occupations in the United States, Occupy proper, the Carré Rouge in Quebec, and many, many other examples (including the Umbrella movement organic to Hong Kong). It’s not all Maidan — which is on the Internet too, and I don’t regard it was useful to forcefit all protests into that model.

So, I’m going to go through a few of the tactics used in the 2019 Hong Kong protests: Umbrellas, Laser Pointers, Lennon Walls, and a Human Chain. For each tactic, I will throw it into the open source bucket, or the material culture bucket; in either case, there need be no “hidden hand.” Also, I find protest tactics fascinating in and of themselves; I think a movement is healthy if its tactics are creative, and when they are so no longer, the movement has not long to live. (For example, Black Lives Matter started to disintegrate as a national movement when the college die-ins stopped (and when the liberal Democrats co-opted it by elevating Deray.) To the tactics!

Umbrellas

Umbrellas were already a symbol of protest in Hong Kong, from the Umbrella Movement of 2014. Here we see umbrellas being used to shield protestors from surveillance cameras (although they can also be used as shields against kinetic effects).

In concept, the testudo (tortoise) formation dates to Roman times:

One can indeed see that Maidan protestors using literal shields:

However, I would classify umbrella tactics as deriving from Hong Kong’s material culture; Hong Kong is sub-tropical; there are typhoons; there is rain, fog, drizzle; and there is also the sun. Massed umbrellas scale easily from the tens to the hundreds; they create a splendid visual effect en masse; and they are available in any corner shop. So, it is not necessary to postulate an entity translating Maidan’s heavy medieval shields to Hong Kong umbrellas; the protestors would have worked out the uses of umbrellas themselves, adapting the tools that come to hand to the existing conditions.

Laser Pointers

Hong Kong, under Mainland influence, is increasingly a surveillance state; it makes sense that HKers would give considerable thought to surveillance, and how to avoid it, in the normal course of events. How much more so protestors:

I would classify the laser pointers tactic open source, since that’s how I found out that yes, laser poinerns can knock out surveillance cameras. Again, there’s no need to postulate that some unknown entity gave the protesters the idea; anybody with a little creativity and some research skills could come up with it, given the proper incentives (like being arrested, say).

Lennon Walls

Here is a Lennon Wall (“you may say I’m a dreamer”) in Hong Kong:

Lennon Walls originated in Prague after John Lennon’s murder in 1980:

(The 2014 Umbrella movement also used them.) But these are Lennon Walls with Chinese characteristics:

The idea that one may “post” anything has been actualized with Post-It Notes, giving HK walls a digital, pixelated look:

And the authorities have just begun to tear them down:

Reminds me of the NYPD bulldozing the Zucotti Park library, sadly.

I would classify Lennon Walls in both categories: They originated, conceptually, in Prague (so open source) but they are well adapted for massed protest in the material culture of Hong Kong. (Like massed umbrellas, massed PostIt notes scale easily from the tens to the thousands; they create a splendid visual effect en masse; and they are available in any corner shop.)

Human Chain

Here is a poster publicizing “the Hong Kong Way,” a human chain across Hong Kong:

Here is the beautiful result:

I would classify “the Hong Kong Way” as open source, since the idea originated from “the Baltic Way,” where some two million people joined hands to form a human chain across the three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

Conclusion

Just to tweak the “It’s a color revolution!” crowd, here’s an image of HKers watching a movie about Maidan:

I hope I have persuaded you that (a) this Maidan movie is open source“; knowledge of Maidan as a worthy object of study, that (b) by Occam’s Razor, it doesn’t take a CIA handler to tell this to HKers, and that (c) if the HKers end up building catapults, they will be adapted to Hong Kong’s material culture (i.e., probably not medieval in appearance or structure).[1]

NOTES

[1] The HKers may also be sending a message to the authorities: If Maidan is what you want, bring it!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

94 comments

  1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Another claim is that rich Hong Kongers are behind the protests, fearing extradition.

    If they have factories in China now, and they are the invisible hands, I think they (and their factories) would be in trouble already, as in ‘now,’ and they don’t have to worry about being extradited in the future.

    I’m doubtful of that claim as well.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’ve read that claim too, and for the reasons you state and others it doesn’t pass the smell test, its simply not credible.

      Reply
  2. pjay

    Ok. I really did not want to post any more comments on Hong Kong, or China for that matter, here at NC. But I am genuinely puzzled, and I have to say concerned, about the way this issue has been framed here. One does not have to accept the argument that *either* (1) the protests are completely spontaneous and genuine; *or* (2) the protests are mainly the product of CIA manipulation of otherwise clueless dupes (a whole lot of them apparently!). This is a false dichotomy. None of the critics of the mainstream Hong Kong narrative that I am familiar with take a position any where close to (2). It is a straw-man position if applied to most reputable “skeptics.”

    Rather, the argument I have seen most often among these skeptics (including some commenters here) is that, while the protests *were* authentic and directed at real issues of concern to protesters, there have also been efforts on the part of Western agents to manipulate this situation. This included support of particular, strategically significant leaders and groups and, of course, control of the Western media narrative. We have pictures and stories in even the mainstream press of US officials and representatives of western NGOs meeting with such individuals. Hell, we have US politicians bragging about it. These connections are pretty clear, whether or not HKers can find Gene Sharp’s work on the internet.

    https://thegrayzone.com/2019/08/17/hong-kong-protest-washington-nativism-violence/

    I have no doubt that many HKers are opposed to mainland rule, so China hands here need not lecture me condescendingly on that issue. On the other hand, I have no doubt that Chinese officials are justified in suspecting covert action by the CIA to stir things up even more (though a lot of the activity is actually pretty overt). Looking at the postwar actions of the US and its allies all over the world, including China in the past, they would have to be idiots not to. And they are not idiots.

    Reply
    1. RubyDog

      Good post. As usual, reality is far more complex and not reducible to simplistic either/or narratives. Protest, rebellion, and unrest are endemic in Chinese (and world) history. In a globalized and interconnected modern world, of course there is widespread awareness and cross fertilization of movements. The “West” did not start this fire, though no doubt they are doing some fanning of the flames.

      What worries me is that I do not understand the endgame of the protesters. If you are facing a power far greater than your own, guerilla tactics are in order, but you have to know when to declare victory and back off for awhile. They seem to want to keep pushing and pushing until another Tienanmen may become inevitable.

      Reply
      1. Anon

        The HK protesters recognize that they have enough bodies to literally bring parts of the city to a halt. Soon the authorities will realize that they don’t have enough police to maintain order and some sort of compromise will be in order.

        Imagine if 200 cars stopped on an LA freeway. Traffic would be halted for hours before enough tow trucks could be put in service. Bodies in the street (cars on the freeway) can be enough to stop “business as usual”.

        Reply
      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I do not understand the endgame of the protesters

        Me neither. That’s a concern. However, there is the idea that “you taught me” that non-violence doesn’t work (in 2014), “you” being the Chinese government. There is also the idea that the Mainland is no more agreement-capable than the United States,” since they have no intention of adhering to the Basic Law on matters like universal suffrage. If the attitude among a great mass of the protestors is that they have nothing to lose, some sort of Masada-like scenario seems likely.

        As for the rest of the comment, meh. It’s simultaneously an initial withdrawal of the debunked “color revolution” theory, and a mushy reformulation of same in different terms (“no doubt that Chinese officials are justified in suspecting covert action by the CIA”). Either you believe that the Hong Kong protests are organic in origin and execution, or you don’t. See my comment here.

        Reply
        1. Harry

          My sympathy for the HK protesters is somewhat impaired by their antipathy for mainlanders and mainlander immigration to HK. Its worth reading Carl Zha on Tienamen. I thought i knew what happened in Tienamen, but it turned out i didnt.

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I’m a bit leery of Chongqing native Carl Zha and his sudden elevation. Let’s remember that the Mainland is just as sophisticated in its information campaigns as the US. For example, a claim that he has revealed what really happened, as we say, at Tien An Man, without an explanation what his views are is a red flag to me. (In the worse case scenario, disinformation is infesting the NC comments section.) No, I’m not going to “just listen to the YouTube” because I don’t have time to devote to it, as opposed to reading a transcript quickly.

            Also, weird flex on “immigration.”

            Reply
            1. PlutoniumKun

              I’ve just come across Zha once or twice and I certainly would not consider him a reliable source. The ‘official’ narrative around Tiannanman in China (as taught to Chinese people) has changed more than once, his seems to match the current version. This doesn’t mean he is lying or wrong, I’m just suspicious about anyone who claims to know the ‘truth’ about such a chaotic and charged event, and some of the things he has written is simply not a reflection of what Chinese people I know think about it.

              Its worth pointing out of course that almost all the evidence suggests that the Chinese intelligence penetration of the US has been far more competent than vice versa. The narrative that somehow the CIA was behind Tiananman (which even MoA has pushed) and the current protests simply strains all credulity. There is no doubt they would provide any help they could to anti-government movements within China, but there is no evidence that they’ve done anything more than promote a few fringe dissidents.

              Reply
              1. harry

                Zha (to my recollection) did not suggest the CIA was behind Tienamin. He did suggest that the amount of violence and the cause of the violence was not as reported in the West. There was little corroboration though. That said, he had quite an interesting take on the lone man with shopping bag stopping tank column. Perhaps it is common knowledge but he suggested that event took place on the day after Tienamin, when the tanks were trying to head back to base. Just cos he said that don’t make it true of course. But it did make me ask how i know what i think i know.

                Reply
            2. Harry

              I apologize for not outlining his views. I thought it better to just suggest him as a possible reference and allow people to come to their own conclusions. I came across him cos I follow Mark Ames on twitter. I know of Ames cos I spent time in Moscow in the 90s. So I considered it a good recommendation – but hardly foolproof. Zha suggests that students in Tienamin set a bus on fire in the square (of heavenly peace?) which unfortunately contained a number of PLA soldiers who were burned alive. I have no way of knowing whether this account is true. However he also suggested the iconic man in front of tank column took place on the following day. Which was news to me, and seemed quite plausible when you consider the interaction. But I have no reason to believe this anymore than I should believe the BBC or CNN. Its just that where I have listened to the BBC on subjects I am personally familiar with, they have occasionally been rather “economical” with inconvenient truths. Mr Zha has the advantage of Ames recommendation, a clean slate, and an interesting but unproven assertion.

              His take on HK protests is that they have become rather violent, with the aim being to prompt a violent response from the Chinese authorities.

              HKers appear to view themselves as distinct from mainlanders, and do not seem to welcome mainland immigration. Fascinating to see british colonial flags brandished when telling Mandarin speakers to “go home”. But even here I am relying on the translations applied by the makers of the videos. I dont speak Cantonese or Mandarin.

              Reply
        2. JBird4049

          I wonder if the Chinese government realizes that it created the situation, much like the British did in the 1760s in America. No one really planned for what happened. It just evolved.

          My sense is that like Parliament and King George III, the mainland government is so sure of the rightness of it position and the power of its military that it does not really need to listen to the colonists despite the fact that plenty of British officials and colonists, including governors and colonial agents like then loyalist Benjamin Franklin, were loudly and strongly pointing to the growing crisis and recommending solutions other than war.

          Reply
      3. Seamus Padraig

        They seem to want to keep pushing and pushing until another Tienanmen may become inevitable.

        And exactly whose interests would that serve? The interests of the students? The interests of Hong Kong generally?

        Answering that question will begin to take you down the rabbit hole.

        Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > But I am genuinely puzzled, and I have to say concerned, about the way this issue has been framed here. One does not have to accept the argument that *either* (1) the protests are completely spontaneous and genuine; *or* (2) the protests are mainly the product of CIA manipulation of otherwise clueless dupes (a whole lot of them apparently!). This is a false dichotomy. None of the critics of the mainstream Hong Kong narrative that I am familiar with take a position any where close to (2). It is a straw-man position if applied to most reputable “skeptics.”

      Nonsense. If you say that the HK protests were a “color revolution,” which was the original claim (following Moon of Alabama here, with the most frequent analogy being Ukraine, #2 (“clueless dupes”) is exactly what you’re saying. So, I’m not “straw manning” at all, but replying directly to a criticism expressed here. Please follow the site more closely before you mischaracterize what I wrote.

      Now, it is true that “color revolution” in strong form seems to have lost some credibility, and that, if I may characterize the discourse collectively, we see a strategic retreat to formulations like “I’m sure the protestors have legitimacy,” but they’re still “manipulated,” because, by gawd, that’s what the US does. And then we get NGOs (been around for years) and Jimmy Lai (been around for years). Constants, that is, where the protests are a variable (which is why the heavy-breathing GrayZone post about xenohobia doesn’t impress me all that much).

      The formulation employed in your comment is even weaker:

      there have also been efforts on the part of Western agents to manipulate this situation. This included support of particular, strategically significant leaders and groups and, of course, control of the Western media narrative.

      I don’t know what “efforts by” even means. (I mean, there were “efforts by” various odd Russians to meet with Trump, but no hotel was build, and so, so what?) Nor do I think that editorials in the Times have the slightest influence either on the Hong Kong protestors or the Mainland. I can’t imagine why anybody would take them seriously.

      What I am here to say is that the HK protests are organic to HK. They are organized and directed by HKers, many of whom have a lot of experience protesting. There is no need to multiply entities — whether in strong form the CIA or in very weak form “the connections are pretty clear” — to give an account of them. Now, as I said here, I’m sure Five Eyes are “sniffing around.” Probably Taipei, Japan, Indonesia, even the French and the Dutch; anyone with an interest in events in the South China Sea. But IMNSHO the protestors have full agency. (It’s also hard to avoid that there’s a whiff of colonialism here, too: How is it possible that mere Chinese people could achieve such things without Western help?

      And so, like clockwork — I’ve noticed this in other comments that start out with the weak form of “manipulation” and end up with the strong form of “control” — we come right back to that claim!

      On the other hand, I have no doubt that Chinese officials are justified in suspecting covert action by the CIA to stir things up even more (though a lot of the activity is actually pretty overt)

      (So “overt” that you can’t even link to whatever the activity might be. Fine.) First, we come back to the Mandy Rice-Davies rule: They would say that, wouldn’t they? Second, so I wasn’t straw-manning at all, then, was I? Third, after I went to the trouble of applying Occam’s Razor to your claims, you just repeat them!

      NOTE * “We have pictures and stories in even the mainstream press of US officials and representatives of western NGOs meeting with such individuals.” The picture is in a hotel ffs. Pretty low level of operational security, if you ask me.

      Reply
      1. Arturo Ganz

        I am so disappointed in NC and especially its writer Lambert Strether to argue that the CIA had nothing to do with the HK uprising, most probably aimed at smearing the the government of the People’s Republic of China. Disrupting a public transport system is a notorious CIA technique in demoralizing the population of a country that dare present a challenge to the Hegemon. There is indeed ample proof that the CIA was direclty involved in the Tianamen uprising, the name of the instigator clearly known.

        I have always had confidence that NC reports capitalism without the cover of false narratives, and deceptive commentaries about pictures taken of people’s uprising against a country which is the target of regime change.

        Sadly, I have now lost any confidence I have always had with respect to Naked Capitalism. Capitalism is no longer naked, but covered in Hollywood’s best attire. What a shame!

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I hope you find the happiness you seek elsewhere, especially since oddly, or not, this is your very first comment at NC. I’d offer congratulations, but time’s winged chariot has already carried you away….

          It would be helpful if from the outset you did not grossly mischaracterize my position. Summarizing, I believe that (1) the Hong Kong protests are organic to Hong Kong, driven by the concerns and perceptions of the people of Hong Kong. It follows that (2) the Hong Kong protests are not a “color revolution,” driven by outside sources, and that (3) while doubtless the CIA, along with every other intelligence service in the world, is “sniffing around,” that doesn’t make them the drivers. (We’ve had several attempts in comments to haze over the color revolution claim with “justified grievances” and “manipulation,” but while these comments always begin with such seeming concessions, they always revert to the claim that the people of Hong Kong are not the drivers.) That’s not at all the same as “the CIA had nothing to do with the HK uprising.” The attack on motive (“most probably aimed at smearing the the government of the People’s Republic of China”) is beneath contempt, and I won’t trouble to answer it.

          As I point out at length here, the tactics used by the Hong Kong protests are either open source, or can be derived naturally from the material culture of Hong Kong. Assuming arguendo that disrupting public transport is in fact a CIA technique, it is — since you can only be aware of it from the media, correct? — it’s open source, and therefore one need not postulate a CIA operative opening their trench coat to disclose The Sekrit Playbook to the eager, but ignorant, young Chinese. Occam’s Razor, as so often, amputates the hidden hand.

          There’s more than a whiff of colonialism about much of the putative left discourse on the Hong Kong protests. HKers are not, apparently, capable of performing their own research or inventing their own tactics; no no, only a Westerner could do that! Left to themselves, HKers would, apparently, be quiescent and accept the Mainland’s refusal to abide by the Basic Law. They are only stirred up by outside forces from Washington![1] (The power structure in the post-Confederate states used the term “outside agitators” back in the pre-Civil Rights era; today, apparently, we say “color revolution.” What on earth do our nigras have to complain about?)

          NOTE
          [1] If one postulates that today’s protests are indeed spook-driven, and not organic, then it’s reasonable to assume that the 2014 protests were as well; and those protests used a much more Gene Sharp-inflected strategy than this one has. Those protests failed, and the result is slogans like “It was you who taught me that peaceful marches are useless.” Why then would the protesters of 2019 listen to spooks who taught them a false lesson in 2014? Are HKers stupid? Gullible? Naive? Dependent on Western advice?

          UPDATE “The name of the instigator is clearly known.” What a classic! The matter is so clear that the name cannot be given! I see that level of argumentation from the wu mao tankies rather a lot…

          Reply
  3. Carolinian

    So will this protest end the way Occupy ended here in “democratic” USA? One has to suspect the secessionist aim that is one of the apparent motives will not be rewarded.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’ve often inveighed against YouTube links that don’t summarize the content. In this case, those interested in “connecting the dots” and following the money might be interested to know that the videocaster, Sarah Flounders, is a member of the Secretariat of Workers World Party:

      The Workers World Party (WWP) is a revolutionary Marxist–Leninist political party in the United States founded in 1959 by a group led by Sam Marcy of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Marcy and his followers split from the SWP in 1958 over a series of long-standing differences, among them their support for Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party in 1948, the positive view they held of the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong and their defense of the 1956 Soviet intervention in Hungary, all of which the SWP opposed.

      I don’t know what the Chinese word for “tankies” is, or even if there is one, but we seem to have one such here. Here from their newspaper, Workers World, an article originally written in 1993, reprinted in 2019:

      Immediately before and during the Tienanmen Square days, China appeared to be in danger of disintegrating into warlordism. This was overcome and the decentralizing process that threatened to emerge was eliminated. That was a victory of socialism.

      The question of how far the Chinese government can go with the capitalist reforms will certainly be up for review, notwithstanding a constitutional provision meant to make the reforms a permanent feature in Chinese society.

      One fact has certainly emerged: the millions who left the rural areas for the great cities of China and were absorbed into the proletariat have given the Chinese government and Communist Party the opportunity to strengthen the socialist character of the state. The growth of the proletariat is the objective factor most needed for the building of socialism.

      I don’t think its surprising that Flounders and the WWP would retail the mainland line.

      Reply
  4. The Rev Kev

    I guess that this comes about seeing what happened to all the young people who supported the Ukrainian “revolution” for a free, just society. Twice! How did that work out for them? How is the Ukraine going these days? What did they say when they found out that that so-called “revolution” last time had a $5 billion ‘Made-in-the-USA’ sticker on it? Conspiracy theory at the time. Recorded fact now.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Conspiracy theory at the time. Recorded fact now.

      Not so. US funding and influence was quite well-attested then, for those who were paying attention. Oddly, or not, there seems to be no Victoria Nuland-equivalent for HK. One could argue, of course, that there’s an invisible Nuland, but Occam’s Razor eliminates that. I never followed Ukraine closely, I admit, partly because Ukraine is fabulously corrupt, and partly because (like Syria) it seemed impossible to separate fact from fiction on the ground. (The only rooting interest I have in Ukraine is their wonderful enormous airplanes.) I think for HK we have a lot more well-attested information. That’s what the post is about, in fact.

      Reply
      1. John A

        Re similarities or otherwise with Kiev, we will have to wait and see if there is any sniper crowd killings in HK as with the ‘Heavenly Hundred’ in Kiev. At the time, the shootings were blamed on the government, but compelling evidence since points to US backed snipers from Georgia.

        Reply
        1. Harry

          Compelling might be pushing a point. There is certainly evidence, and some of it is quite persuasive. However I dont consider some Georgians snipers on Italian tv compelling evidence.

          Reply
  5. Anon

    RE: Catapult

    There is video of HKers using 3-person surgical tubing catapults to return to sender tear gas cannisters. I’ve seen pranksters use these “slingshots” to lob water balloons into unsuspecting civilians, but they are much better suited to return cannisters to the police.

    I did a brief search on the Internet for some video but couldn’t find it.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The Maidan catapult had its own Twitter account. Here’s what it looked like:

      I doubt very much that a catapult designed by HKers would look like this; it is not constructed of materials that come readily to hand. (And perhaps massed slingshots would be more effective anyhow.)

      (I can’t read any languages written in Cyrillic, so I defer to any readers who can on my interpretation.)

      Reply
  6. VietnamVet

    Endless wars. Smoke filled skies. Hurricanes, drought, flooding. No purpose in life. Incarceration, surveillance and insurmountable debt. Arrogant incompetence.

    Change is coming. People need hope. A movement will be born.
    “Bring it on” – “Pa’lante” in Spanish.

    Hurray For The Riff Raff – Pa’lante

    “And do my time, and be something
    Well I just wanna prove my worth —
    On the planet Earth, and be, something”

    “To all who had to hide, I say, iPa’lante!
    To all who lost their pride, I say, ¡Pa’lante!
    To all who had to survive, I say, ¡Pa’lante!”

    “To my brothers, and my sisters, I say, ¡Pa’lante!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LilVDjLaZSE

    Reply
      1. Alex morfesis

        Para Alante. Pa’lante…for forward/move forward/go forward/go to the front/continue/keep pushing forward/don’t stop

        Different spanish interpretations depending on which blend of the language your ears become attuned to….mine flow from cuban, with a twist of Puerto Rican/Newrican, a dabble of dominican, some mexican icing and a little Columbian sprinkles on top

        Reply
  7. PlutoniumKun

    Thank you for this Lambert. Perhaps its my perspective of coming from a small country, but I find the anti-HK protestor comments I see here and elsewhere baffling coming from supposed progressives. Sometimes, really, its not all about the US, or even US Imperialism.

    I know enough about HK to be a little suspicious of the motives of *some* protestors, but I’m in awe of their inventiveness and raw courage. And believe me, to protest publicly in HK/China requires real physical courage that is not required anywhere in the west, anyone who thinks otherwise is entirely clueless about the nature of the Chinese government and what it is capable of.

    The fact that neo-con elements in the US are happy about the protests is entirely irrelevant, it really is. Its like saying that when RT had approving articles about Occupy or Black Lives Matter that this proves the Russians were behind it. It really is that stupid and US centric an opinion.

    As to the questions about the endgame, I really don’t know, and I suspect the protestors don’t know either. My own opinion is that this is as much a nationalist movement as a political one. Many HKers see themselves as a nation with one foot in the east and one in the west and want to preserve this status, but nobody has to my knowledge articulated how they can achieve this. Many of them have a romantic notion of what western ‘freedoms’ mean, but not quite as romantic as people think, as so many HKers have lived in the US or UK or elsewhere and are not entirely politically naive. But they sure as hell know they do not want to live in an autocratic State led by Beijing, and they are perfectly entitled to that view.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Your last part of your comment makes the protestors sound like the Brexiteers of the Far Fast. People who want radical change but are uncertain how to go about it and with no clear aim in mind. They may not want to live in an autocratic State led by Beijing but according to the map that I use, Hong Kong is within the borders of China. They are not going to get independence and they cannot go back to the way things were so they had better sort out what it is they want their relationship to Beijing to be before it is decided for them.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        And thats exactly what they are doing. What are they supposed to do, just let their appointed leaders decide for them?

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          No. But their five demands don’t sound like a winning combination. It doesn’t make them sound even serious about full-fledged change-

          1-The complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill
          2-The government to withdraw the use of the word “riot” in relation to protests
          3-The unconditional release of arrested protesters and charges against them dropped
          4-An independent inquiry into police behaviour
          5-Implementation of genuine universal suffrage

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > 5-Implementation of genuine universal suffrage

            That’s a demand that Mainland China adhere to the Basic Law that transferred Hong Kong from British sovereignty to PRC sovereignty. What’s unserious about that?

            Reply
            1. The Rev Kev

              Agreed about that last demand but it is the outlier on that list. Demands 2, 3 and 4 sound like they are trying to ‘prepare the battlefield’ for the next series of protests by undermining the ability of the Hong Kong Police to do their work. Demand 1 is just fulfilling the casus belli for this series of protests.

              Reply
              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > ‘prepare the battlefield’ for the next series of protests by undermining the ability of the Hong Kong Police to do their work

                In what sense is that not serious? (I’ll say again that I think the HKers want what they think is liberal democracy as the US/UK may once be said to have had it this is not a proletarian revolution. Hence, the presence of billionaire Lai is unproblematic, despite heavy breathing at Grey Zone.)

                In what sense is asking for one’s first demand not serious? Is it more serious to write it off?

                Reply
                1. The Rev Kev

                  I realize that this is not a popular line of thought but I believe that you do have to consider all aspects of such a big event to be fair. I mean, even Paul Joseph Watson came out with a video supporting the protests-

                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVu9b6mcWos

                  But here’s the rub. Can you imagine what would happen if this all happened in a western country? Imagine this happening in New York for example. Actually we don’t. The authorities came down on the Occupy Wall Street movement like a ton of bricks so we had a taste of what would happen.
                  I am not saying that the Chinese government is right but I can understand their position here. They give Hong Kong a ‘special deal’ and the rest of China will want their own special deals.

                  Reply
                  1. PlutoniumKun

                    Hong Kong already has its own special deal, ‘one nation, two systems’ is the official slogan from Beijing. Its Beijing that is backing away from this, not the protestors.

                    Reply
                    1. The Rev Kev

                      That’s right. A 50-year deal and China was not in much of a position to do a lot about it. Times change and I guess that the Chinese feel that it is time to redress the wrongs of the past according to their lights. I wonder if Macau has the same issues.

                    2. Carolinian

                      So if China is, as accused, reneging on the “two systems” then where are the protestors on the “one nation”? To some of us it appears that these young people simply don’t want to be a part of China. If true then that’s an aim that goes far beyond mere reform.

                      And the reason USG involvement matters is that some of us don’t believe the US should be meddling in other countries–even ones as unfree as China. The protestors could reassure about the purity of their aims by renouncing US support or the sanctions that some Republicans in Congress are threatening rather than waving US and British flags.

                    3. PlutoniumKun

                      A 50-year deal and China was not in much of a position to do a lot about it.

                      Where on earth did you get that idea? It was actually China’s idea, promoted by Deng Xiaoping – part of their strategy to woo Taiwan and ease the concerns of their neighbours. Plus, it made perfect sense for them economically.

                  2. JBird4049

                    But here’s the rub. Can you imagine what would happen if this all happened in a western country? Imagine this happening in New York for example. Actually we don’t. The authorities came down on the Occupy Wall Street movement like a ton of bricks so we had a taste of what would happen.

                    In the 1960s and decreasingly into the 1980s, the United States and Europe had multiple very large, often very violent, protests although it was often the police who were the violent ones. Sometimes they were worse than Hong Kong’s. I think that the current generation of political leadership has become intolerant of any protest whatsoever; Just like the Chinese leadership, they see everything as a nail to be hammered flat. I think that the Chinese military could obliterated Hong Kong quite easily, but just as the United States has lost all its credibility along with all of its soft power with its destruction of much of the Middle East, China’s similar determination to be in control will also costs it more than it believes.

                    A similar dynamic happened in the umpteen demonstrations and riots of the 20th century. The more the police clamped down, the worse it became. Generally, the less violent the police were, the more quickly the violence died out. When the police broke out the riot shields the protesters became rioters.

                    Reply
                  3. Lambert Strether Post author

                    Why is what the Chinese government wants even relevant? It seems to me that demanding that the Chinese government adhere to an agreement it signed is not unreasonable.

                    Surely you would not say, of Occupy, “Well, the NYPD has a valid viewpoint, too?”

                    Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The fact that neo-con elements in the US are happy about the protests is entirely irrelevant, it really is. Its like saying that when RT had approving articles about Occupy or Black Lives Matter that this proves the Russians were behind it. It really is that stupid and US centric an opinion.

      The NYT wrote some editorials! ZOMG!!!!!

      Reply
    3. DJG

      PK: Thanks. You mention coming from a small country, and I think it would benefit all U.S. peeps here to adjust their perspectives accordingly. Good advice.

      Second is dispelling the typical “Don’t know much about history” attitude in the U S of A. I notice how Lambert Strether ties together several recent organic protest movements. (Should we also throw in Iranian protests after the presidential election in 2009, Taksim protests in Istanbul, and Greek protests against austerity? All of which were organic and fit these models–the chants from the apartment building remind me of the videos of call and response at night in Iranian cities during those protests.)

      Americans like to act as if every event is brand new. And the “don’t know much about about history” attitude means being “nonjudgmental”–which means having no control to assess facts and not much concern for critical thinking.

      One question to be asked here would be: How can protest in the U S of A be raised to the HK or Taksim level of disruption?

      Just like the Chinese elites, the U.S. elites don’t want to deal with the citizenry, and protest is something that shocks them.

      And the endgame? The endgame is protest. What comes next? We may be in an era where more protest is needed. Time to study again the disruptions of 1848?

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        And the endgame? The endgame is protest. What comes next? We may be in an era where more protest is needed. Time to study again the disruptions of 1848?

        Maybe. I would read about the 1968 riots in America as I have read and been told by family that we came this close to going to an actual civil uprising.

        Reply
    4. Tom67

      I suppose you are Irish. I am German and I went from Ireland and an Irish girlfirend to Beijing to study Chinese when I was 22. I been following China ever since. You are absolutely right. I would just add one thing: Hongkong has an independent judiciary and a free press. But no democracy. From a German perspective I might add that even having those two things makes a huge difference. Frederick II of Prussia allowed these two things in the 18th century and he was lauded by Voltaire. The first to abolish them were the Nazis.
      What this is all about is the independence of the judiciary. As soon as a Hongkong citizen is liable to be handed over to China all freedon of expression is gone. This is what this is all about. Not about Democracy meaning free elections. That fight has been lost in 2014 because the majority of the population didn´t care. But the judiciary really matters. If Lam would have withdrawn the extradition and on top had promised some enquiry into police tactics she would have had the majority of Hongkongers on her side. The most radical elements would have been isolated and could have been mopped up quite easily. Now though things will escalate. I believe it is because Beijing is expecting hard times on the mainland and freedom of expression in Hongkong is to dangerous to be any longer allowed. For my money the best and most astute observer is Ann Stevenson-Yang. Read her book: “China alone”. There she makes the case that China is again about to withdraw behind a wall. Taking Hongkong with her..

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > If Lam would have withdrawn the extradition and on top had promised some enquiry into police tactics she would have had the majority of Hongkongers on her side. The most radical elements would have been isolated and could have been mopped up quite easily. Now though things will escalate. I believe it is because Beijing is expecting hard times on the mainland and freedom of expression in Hongkong is to dangerous to be any longer allowed.

        That’s a tenable theory. I do like the idea of applying “These are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand” (from All The President’s Men) to the situation. Just as it doesn’t take brain-genius CIA spooks to give an account of the protests, it doesn’t do to assume that the Xi regime is composed of brilliant chess-players, calmly thinking ten moves ahead.

        Reply
  8. Seamus Padraig

    What really makes most HK skeptics suspicious is the way the media and the political establishment in the West are constantly slathering the students there with pure,
    unadulturated praise, while lambasting us skeptics as ‘conspiracy theorists’. So comparisons of HK to Maidan are indeed apt. And please contrast the media’s treatment of this protest with their (non-)treatment of the gilets jaunes movement in France. On that rare occasion when the MSM did deign to mention the gilets jaunes, they always faithfully accused them of ‘racism’ and ‘anti-semitism’. But note how the HK protesters get pass for using Pepe the Frog as their symbol!

    Whom the media cover and how they cover them will always tell you a lot about who is really behind a protest movement … and who really stands to benefit from it.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Whom the media cover and how they cover them will always tell you a lot about who is really behind a protest movement … and who really stands to benefit from it.

      No, it doesn’t. Occupy got good coverage at the very beginning. So did Black Lives Matter. So, for that matter, did the Civil Rights movement (until MLK got whacked, of course). Later, the press may decide to pull the wings off the fly, as it so often does.

      Also, the protesters are not “students,” unless marches of millions of people are all students. Consider getting the detail right?

      Reply
  9. Seamus Padraig

    Let me start out with a sidebar on “add oil” (加油), which you see all over the coverage of the Hong Kong protests: It originated, says the OED, as a cheer at the Macau Grand Prix in the 1960s, meaning “step on the gas” (which is good to know, because I thought that the underlying metaphor was adding cooking oil to a wok preparatory to frying). It translates roughly to “go for it!”

    I have noticed that Germans often the phrase Gas geben (to floor it, to accelerate) with roughly the same colloquial meaning of ‘to get a move on’.

    Reply
  10. XXYY

    I do not understand the endgame of the protesters.

    The idea of protest is to disrupt the system and generally gum up the works, raising the costs of the offending campaign, hopefully to the point where the material and reputational damage makes the whole thing no longer worth pursuing. This is the end game.

    To paraphrase Noam Chomsky: Elites want a smoothly-running system of oppression. There is no reason to give them this gift.

    Reply
    1. DJG

      XXYY: Yes. And there were a few essays recently about disobedience. The question isn’t why people disobey. The true question is: Why is the mass of citizens so obedient?

      Reply
      1. XXYY

        During the Occupy protests one continually heard this question: What do they want?!?!

        Leaving aside the fact that a group of 5000 people carrying large signs generally makes answering this question pretty easy, there seemed to be a limited ability to grasp the idea that protest is in fact an end.

        I think we have somehow been seduced or indoctrinated with the idea that if you do A, it must be strictly in service of getting B. Often the motivations are just inchoate rage or anger, and often the intention is just to call attention to something or just f*ck sh*t up!

        As we saw with Occupy, a major turning point in US history and society and the origin of much that was to come, it’s fine to just trust the universe to helpfully spin your actions in ways your never could have predicted.

        Reply
    2. Harry

      There have been suggestions that the aim is to force the marginal use of violence, to cause massive reputation damage and make the country ungovernable. And if that means some of the police need to be the victims of violence then so be it.

      Of course, I think the suggestion may have come from Mr. Zha again. So perhaps one should consume with care.

      Reply
    1. John k

      To what end? That doesn’t boost the number of cops. China brings in the tanks? That maybe ends hk usefulness to China as offshore financial center… and certainly ends rapprochement with Taiwan.
      IMO China’s instinct for heavy handed response has led them to a series of mistakes. Perhaps the trade war has them on edge.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > China brings in the tanks?

        The PLA already has a 28-floor building in downtown Hong Kong. I don’t know if tanks are there, but I would bet that armored personnel carriers are. Best to be prepared!

        Reply
        1. CB

          Possibly more now, but when we were there, (under normal circumstances); only a few tanks that stay at Stanley Fort, and yes, lots of armoured personnel carriers and soldiers. They host the local club kids’ min-rugby there every Sunday. It’s not hidden.

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > It’s not hidden.

            Did I say it was hidden? 28-floor buildings tend to be obvious. (Distressing that the kids are being militarized, although that happens here, too, probably worse.)

            Reply
  11. XXYY

    Re: https://www.wikihow.com/Blind-a-Surveillance-Camera

    In general, the techniques described here seem unreliable and dangerous if masking your identity from surveillance is vital. The idea that you are going to identify and precisely target every video camera that can see you, 100% of the time, esp. in a moving and rapidly changing environment, seems extremely naive. Video cameras are small, cheap, inconspicuous, and easy to disguise. All that’s needed by the opponent is a single video frame that shows your face clearly.

    A much better approach to work on seems like trying to obscure your own identifying features. Obviously people are doing this with masks, hoods, goggles, hard hats, umbrellas, and everything else.

    One thing I haven’t seen too much about is strategies specifically intended to defeat facial recognition technology. AI-based recognizers seem to be extremely brittle; small and even undetectable modifications to the source data seem to be able to throw them off completely (e.g. https://mashable.com/2017/11/02/mit-researchers-fool-google-ai-program/). One can imagine these approaches being deployed deliberately as camoflauge or a “disguise”. Obviously the problem would be finding robust techniques.

    Reply
  12. CB

    Just learned of this site today. So happy to have found you all! Thank You for this article. Some of the best discussion I’ve seen on this situation in HK anywhere. I’m an American ex-Expat, lived in HK for 17 years and just in the last 2 years, back in the USA. I’m still in close touch with many friends and online groups in HK, so: a few points I have learned from folks on the ground that I haven’t seen here:

    Yes, it is neither totally one or the other – apparently the protest movement is, in fact getting financial aid from National Endowment for Democracy, (NED) which is in turn partially funded by the CIA budget. I’ve found this article on it, however cannot find the investigative report video where I first saw it – who also said the amount funded – it was paltry, I can’t remember the exact amount, but it was certainly not enough to pay people to protest or hire expert advisers, maybe buy a few gas masks. I’ll keep looking and post it if I can.

    https://www.globalresearch.ca/american-government-ngos-fuel-fund-hong-kong-anti-extradition-protests/5680581

    As an American who pays some attention to our politics – I don’t see the USA (either party) caring very much, one way or another about the situation or outcome for HK. If things get too bad, US and international banks and companies will just move. To Singapore or KL.

    Without a doubt this is an organic HK led and organised protest/campaign. No question. I do remember during the Occupy Central pro-democracy protests, SCMP, Apple Daily, Bored Panda and some other news outlets took polls and pretty consistently found around 86% of HK citizens did not want full, Western style democracy. They were most concerned with preserving the Basic Law and retaining the One-Country-Two-Systems arrangement and equally concerned with fixing the problems/corruption in what affects HK citizens and residents the most – the housing debacle. I personally think ‘Fair-enough’ Western style democracy is not showing it’s best face these days. Apart from a pollution problem and housing – that system seemed to work fairly well without full on Western style democracy. I know there are some who do want that, but apparently not the majority.

    If I were to give my 2-cents worth – I’d advise the protesters to drop that 5th demand and focus on renegotiating the timeline of the expiration of the ‘One Party Two Systems’ shoring up the Basic Law, and the housing problem, (a whole other long post and no one is asking for my 2 cents. ;) )

    3rd: On the ground the animosity between Hong Kongers and Mainlanders is there, but IMHO very overstated. Hong Kongers are urbanites and do not like Mainland tourists, often very inexperienced travellers, rural people who defile, (poop in the street) or act ‘rude’ jumping the queue, smoking in train stations, etc.. It is a cultural difference, but certainly not insurmountable. Beyond that, I’ve never seen much evidence of such a massive divide. There is constant traffic over that Shenzhen border, back and forth – they’re not isolated. I have not seen any poll, but from what I’ve gathered – yes, Hong Kongers prefer their Hong Kong identity, but do not want independence from China completely.

    4: Given the actions of the HK police during the 2013 protests and the actions of the HK police now – I find it very hard to believe they are the same officers or have not been infiltrated by the PLA. It’s been reported in personal interactions that some do not speak Cantonese. Given the ‘outraged shop-keepers’ that fought protesters during the Occupy Central movement, (the shop-keepers that also could not speak Cantonese or had strong Putonghua accents) that theory is not out of bounds, I think.

    I still feel very invested in this beautiful city, and will keep watching for their best outcome. <3

    Again, ThankYou for this article and discussion.

    Reply
  13. Seamus Padraig

    As usual, Caity Johnstone nails it:

    I see some of my readers voicing confusion about the protests in Hong Kong, but if you understand the basic dynamic I just described you’ll see that this is really no different from the protests and uprisings we’ve seen in Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Libya and Ukraine: the western political/media class are backing an uprising which benefits the imperial blob and undermines an unabsorbed government. This doesn’t mean that the protesters don’t have grievances or that none of those grievances are legitimate, it just means that you’re being told to cheerlead for an agenda by empire narrative managers solely because your doing so benefits that empire.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t care what the empire managers say. That goes for both the United States and Mainland China. And if China wants the situation to go off the boil, they could do worse than implement the Basic Law (see demand 5 for universal suffrage). Of course, China may be no more agreement-capable than the United States is.

      There is a kind of easy cynicism that comes from doing a lot of media critique, as Johnstone, and MoA, and the Grayzone all do (as does yours truly, in all fairness). Lost in all this is what the mass of the Hong Kong people, in the majority, want and are doing, which is the focus of this post. Many seem utterly unable to believe that HKers have agency; this underlying, and dare I say it, colonial attitude is often covered with a gesture toward “legitimate grievances,” but then the focus always shifts right back to the imperial chessboard.

      Reply
      1. Rojo

        What you characterize as a “gesture” toward grievances can also be called an acknowledgement that the situation is complex.

        Johnstone has the right to look at the “imperial chessboard” since she’s Australian and so lives in a country that was the victirm of US regime change, You don’t need a colonial attitude to suspect Western subterfuge The history is there.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > You don’t need a colonial attitude to suspect Western subterfuge The history is there.

          It would be really, really helpful if vague gestures toward history weren’t replacing actual analysis, wholesale. Either the protests are organic to Hong Kong, or they’re color revolutions, which are not organic to Hong Kong. I’m really struggling to find another way to characterize a general attitude that HKers are incapable of driving their own protest than colonialist. After all, as you yourself point out, the history is there.

          Reply
  14. Rojo

    Over the past few years, the left has some divisions about Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Hong Kong and the Color Revolutions. I’ve usually approached these issues with a fair amount of neutrality.

    But I have to say that the skeptics are usually insulting and that drives me away. It’s maddening when, to give one example, Jeff St. Clair at Counterpunch starts to throw out terms like “Assadist” or “Sputnik Left” to anyone questioning the Syrian gas attacks, It pushes me closer to Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton, Mark Ames, MofA and the rest.

    It’s quite nonsensical to knock down NED-led regime change theories as conspiracism then turn around and accuse people of having fallen prey to foreign propoganda. That’s when I wonder who’s side your on.

    FTR, I believe the Hong Kong are organic. We can disagree without using words like “infest”.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > It’s quite nonsensical to knock down NED-led regime change theories as conspiracism

      I don’t think I did that. I think “NED-led” doesn’t survive Occam’s Razor, no more than Color Revolution does.

      > Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton, Mark Ames, MofA and the rest.

      I think these are all very different media figures. I wouldn’t lump them together.

      Reply
    2. Seamus Padraig

      It’s maddening when, to give one example, Jeff St. Clair at Counterpunch starts to throw out terms like “Assadist” or “Sputnik Left” to anyone questioning the Syrian gas attacks …

      When someone’s favorite counter-argument is an ad-hominem, that’s a pretty good clue that they don’t have much of an argument at all.

      Reply
  15. Ian Perkins

    It’s slightly off topic, but from A Walk in Hong Kong, which someone above linked to:
    ” The foreign journalists in their body armor are all up at the front of the protest, so there is a disorienting dynamic where people further back can follow a Bloomberg live stream what is happening two hundred meters to their front.”
    And they said the revolution will not be televised …

    Reply
  16. Keith McClary

    “According to the Centa-City Leading Index, a widely used indicator of the city’s residential price trends, property prices have appreciated over 300% since 2003 when they tanked due to a disease epidemic.

    But wages have largely stagnated in the same period, so ‘it’s very difficult to see how young people can feel hope. They know they’ll never be able to afford a place, so they cannot start a family. How can they get ahead in life? Desperation, and really a deep sense of unhappiness, is driving this unrest,’ said Xie.

    But private developers ‘hold the land, not building much and they just try to squeeze the market and push the prices as much as possible,’ he said.

    Xie said real estate developers benchmark their prices against the salaries and big bonuses of those who work in the financial sector, but that has priced out the vast majority of the local population.

    ‘For ordinary people, you make an income about 5% of a financial guy and they think you should get 5% of an apartment, so they create something like a ‘nano flat,’ ‘ he said, referring to tiny apartments in Hong Kong that can be the size of a parking space. ‘That is really crazy.’

    ‘They think that people will just take it lying down forever, (but) eventually, it blows up,” said Xie, who was a former chief Asia-Pacific economist at Morgan Stanley. ‘ ”

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/15/hong-kong-protests-economist-says-tycoons-are-the-problem.html?recirc=taboolainternal

    Reply
      1. Keith McClary

        I’m sceptical that the extradition issue (which affects few people personally) brought millions into the streets. There were probably other issues, but we only hear from media-selected “leaders”.

        Reply
        1. CB

          Keith McClary – I’m actually not at all skeptical. It was a huge deal when the 3 booksellers were ‘disappeared’ a few years ago. People were outraged and scared. I was going to say ‘very few people’, but honestly no one trusts the fairness of Beijing courts. The extradition treaty would definitely be used for dissidents. Hong Kongers have been on edge for years about the encroachment of Beijing/Mainland China taking over before the One Country Two Systems arrangement expires.
          Remember, The first round of protests back in 2013 led by Joshua Wong were against changing the education curriculum to Putonghua, teaching HK children a CCP & Beijing-friendly (altered) version of history and a few other changes to the public schools. Wong, then 15 years old led a small group of students with a bit more success than expected. The police fired tear gas at them, (As a side note: as everyone in the city carries umbrellas for protection against the sun or rain – thee student protesters simply turned their umbrellas forward, shielding their faces against the tear gas – hence “The Umbrella Revolution”).
          Anyway – the police fired tear gas. It was on the news and within 2 hours – the streets were filled with 10,000 people railing at the police for doing that. Businessmen in their suits, Grandmas in their flowered aprons, expats, locals, parents. That was on local TVB Pearl too. It was amazing to see. They were outraged that the police would do that to ‘their’ children, (the student protesters were mostly teens and 20-somethings).
          That small protest was successful to everyone’s surprise. The police backed off, the Govt. withdrew the education reform proposals. THEN the pro-democracy leadership got involved and kind of coat-tailed Wong’s success and created the Pro-democracy Occupy Central movement.

          Apologies if this is redundant for you. I don’t know how much of the history you know. We were living there when this happened. If you have not yet seen it – a really good documentary is “Joshua Wong, Teenager versus Superpower” I think it’s on Netflix.

          So, yeah, Hong Kongers are not like most Americans, (I can’t speak to Europeans or other Westerners). They get off their couches and into the streets. (not a criticism of Americans, but too long of an explanation here) So I can believe it.

          Besides: 2 million people in Victoria Park? Pshaw! That’s a slightly better than a good Lunar New Year fireworks crowd.

          Reply
  17. Carolinian

    In his latest post MOA has chosen to attack NC over this issue. Since I only comment here I’d just like to reply that this is regrettable. I think we all understand how much personal dedication is involved in putting out sites like this one (or indeed that one, which I’ve been reading for even longer). We of the contrarian bent know that NC does not censor comments over views that disagree but does ban attacks on the hosts or trolling or obnoxiousness. And even if that were not true such objections–IMO–fall under the category of “not my blog.” As the hosts here say, “it’s a big internet” if one objects.

    These alternative news blogs are too valuable to be attacking each other.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s unfortunate if what you say is correct. I don’t see Lamber’t post here as attacking people at MOA personally.

      In any case, I would like to add to Rev Kev’s comments on August 31, 2019.

      First, the five demands, per one of his comments:

      1-The complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill
      2-The government to withdraw the use of the word “riot” in relation to protests
      3-The unconditional release of arrested protesters and charges against them dropped
      4-An independent inquiry into police behaviour
      5-Implementation of genuine universal suffrage

      And also this:

      Demands 2, 3 and 4 sound like they are trying to ‘prepare the battlefield’ for the next series of protests by undermining the ability of the Hong Kong Police to do their work

      We have to remember that many in Southern China are descendants of early migrants from the north, in several waves. In Guangdong, they went back to soldiers and prisoners of the Qin dynasty (the first dynasty, over 2,000 years ago). In Fujian, the Han Chinese settlers came mainly at the end of the Western Jin dyansty (about 1,400 years ago), and then another wave during the Tang dynasty. If the dialects there have preserved anciend Archaic Chinese sounds, it’s because the people there tend to be more conversative. (Of course, in the last one or two hundreds years, being in contact with Westerners, and with many having migrated overseas, new ideas have been introduced by overseas Chinese who came from those southern regions).

      Now, traditionally, one of the four great novels in China is called Water Margins (Shuihu Zhuan).

      Imperial China, being Confucian, had always been very conservative. One key Confucianism feature is the hiearchy of the society. It emphasizes one’s place in a harmonious world. Rebellions are frowned upon.

      And yet, the book Water Margins celebrates 108 rebel-heroes, and, as mentioned above, it is one of the great (and popular) novels, to come down Chinese history.

      One central message of the novel is the idea that it was ‘the government that forced the people to rebel.
      At one point of the novel, the rebel-heroes were pardoned and brought in to fight for the government (only to be betrayed by some evil official…but not the emperor…i.e the supreme authority in a Confucian society…today’s Beijing).

      We can see the necessary reason for including that in the novel, given the Confucian society its readers resided in.

      Seen in this light, demands 2, 3 and 4 seem very natural…very Chinese. (And probably only a very insightful CIA officer would have known that to add those 3 demands…#2, #3, and #4). And that explains the sign or signs “You (meaning the government) taught us peaceful protests did not work.’ Here, the government was thought to be in a teaching role, thought the wrong lesson was taught.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I don’t see Lambert’s post here as attacking people at MOA personally.

        I’ve been blogging on a daily basis since 2003. If I want to insult somebody, I know how to do it. I used to enjoy doing it, and if I wanted to do it, I wouldn’t crap around. Needless to say, posting a thesis isn’t the same as a personal assault.

        Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > In his latest post MOA has chosen to attack NC over this issue.

      Well, if that’s how he’s spending his valuable time, good for him. My blood pressure being what it is, I think it makes more sense for me to continue trying to understand the situation by researching original, trustworthy sources, rather than getting into a blog war.

      > These alternative news blogs are too valuable to be attacking each other.

      Consider taking that up at MoA. Presenting a thesis is not an attack.

      In any case, this thread has now devolved into a discussion about MoA, lol. Thanks to readers for the other valuable comments.

      Reply
  18. Michael

    Agreed, particularly given how useful MOA’s perspective can be. Even if b’s comments on either site strayed into attack territory, I’m hoping that NC and MOA can remain on linking (if not speaking) terms.

    Reply
  19. Lambert Strether Post author

    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to announce formal withdrawal of the extradition bill and set up a commission to look into key causes of protest crisis South China Morning Post:

    Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is set to formally withdraw on Wednesday afternoon the much-despised extradition bill that sparked the nearly three-month long protest crisis now roiling the city, sources have told the Post. A source also revealed that she will set up an investigative commission to look into the fundamental causes of the social unrest and suggest solutions for the way forward, stopping short of turning it into a full-fledged commission of inquiry, as demanded by protesters. Whether the committee will be independent is yet to be determined. The decision to withdraw the bill will mean that the government is finally acceding to at least one of the five demands of the protesters, who have taken to the streets over the past 13 weeks to voice not just their opposition to the legislation, but the overall governance of the city in demonstrations that have become increasingly violent.
    Apart from the formal withdrawal of the legislation, the protesters have asked for the government to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate police conduct in tackling the protests, grant amnesty to those who have been arrested, stop characterising the protests as riots, and restart the city’s stalled political reform process. Whether they will view the investigative committee as adequate in meeting the call for a commission remains to be seen. On the bill withdrawal, a government source said that Lam will emphasise that the move was a technical procedure to streamline the legislative agenda, with the Legislative Council set to reopen in October after its summer break.

    That’s a start. Nothing at Xinhua as yet.

    Reply
  20. Jason

    Please don’t attach any special significance to the term “add oil.” It is an often used exhortation of encouragement. You’ll hear the same from folks cheering on the runners in a marathon. The phrase is very much like “Gambatte” for the Japanese.

    Reply

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