HK gets political prisoners

To no-one’s great surprise, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal sends Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow to prison. This follows the tougher re-sentencing of 13 other activists on Wednesday.

The Hong Kong authorities will indignantly deny that these appeals against earlier sentences were politically motivated, or that the city now has prisoners of conscience. Strictly speaking, they may well be correct in insisting that they followed due process.

But, along with the disqualification of lawmakers and other signs of Beijing’s tighter grasp, this represents the crossing of a line. Actions that were previously tolerated or dealt with leniently are now outlawed or punished severely when committed by critics of the Chinese Communist Party. This entails the application of formerly hidden or disused laws. Meanwhile, the timing of prosecutors’ decisions has been erratic.

This last sign indicates Chinese officials at work, intervening where the supposedly autonomous local administration failed to act decisively enough. The specific aim is to crush or eliminate Umbrella-movement radicals, localists and others who ‘challenge’ the one-party state. This means barring them from the Legislative Council, and intimidating protesters by imposing harsher punishments on their leading figures.

Beijing’s officials will not relax now. They will push to further gradually degrade once-independent institutions like the legislature and civil service, as well as the media and (democrat- and lawyer-infested) academia. And of course, the legal system – one judge re-sentencing Joshua et al could almost have been channeling former Chief Executive CY Leung in his comments about civil disobedience as an ‘unhealthy trend’, and ‘arrogant and self-righteous’ young people who ‘despise rule of law’ (more here).

Beijing wants Hong Kong to be like the Mainland – where the population is removed from and uninterested in the political process. But there are two problems.

First, the Mainland has long-embedded media, schooling, penal and other systems that reinforce party control and thought, while Hong Kong is already pluralistic and its people see open and accountable government as a norm. Second, while the Chinese dictatorship can buy off Mainlanders with recent gains in material prosperity after previous eras of disastrous governance, Hong Kong seems to be going backwards economically, and many residents recall colonial rule as better.

This is not about Hong Kong: it is simply our local version of what Xi Jinping is also doing to Xinjiang, Tibet, the Internet, churches, tycoons, and so on. No-one can convince Beijing to change its mind. Ideas like a Nobel Peace Prize for Joshua or US sanctions are fanciful. So is the older-pro-dems’ dream of seeking change through formal constitutional domestic channels – the whole plan is to neutralize elections, protest marches and the law.

All anyone can do is stay sane while we wait for the Communists to fail. They think jailing three kids for demanding democracy is a victory, when all they have done is earned more hatred and encouraged greater opposition to act more creatively and surreptitiously in the future. The CCP is just proving that they are scum.

I declare the weekend open with some reading: a Taiwanese-oriented angle on the above events; a great in-depth look at the whole money-for-Chinese-influence thing of which Ronnie Chan/Asia Society/Harvard are but a part; and an interesting analysis of the (not totally unrelated) expulsion of academic Huang Jing from Singapore.

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22 Responses to HK gets political prisoners

  1. You know all about prisoners. You were born in captivity. Harder to,live down tha bars and chains of real prisons are the invisible stripes which are the prejudices and assumptions of the British capitalist ruling class. You have a backwash of that.

    That aside, Joshua Womg should have his backside tanned. He is as charismatic as a cowpat and is an embarrassment to all freedom movements everywhere. At lease Bradley Manning had a sexual perspective.

    Free Julian Assange. For you however, the war is over.

  2. Stephen says:

    In some respects we should have expected that this was China’s plan for Hong Kong all along. Silly ideas about China like “once they’ve opened up economically they will open up politically” and the old folly about “if they screw up Hong Kong Taiwan will never agree to reunification” now have been proven to be utterly wrong. We have conclusively found out, in a matter of just six weeks, that Carrie Lam is nothing more than a manageable hand puppet. There is something the UK can do, refuse her entry as an undesirable, so she cannot retire to Cambridgeshire in luxury, after she played such a complicit hand in wrecking Hong Kong. We knew what sort of beast the CCP is, but it is the complicity of many in Hong Kong in doing their bidding that leaves such a nasty aftertaste.

  3. Headache says:

    What makes you think the Chinese dictatorship can’t buy off HKers? The lickspittles are lining up to take positions in pro-Beijing political parties and the civil service. Business people fall over themselves to hail meaningless central policies and denounce local civic activism in order to shore up mainland money-making opportunities.

    This week has supplied further evidence that Beijing has more than enough HKers on its side to effectively sideline and persecute the opposition and simply remove anyone who speaks out of turn, while inexorably resurrecting seemingly dead authoritarian agendas like national education (article 23 next).

    Of course, the politically correct are to be promoted with unseemly haste, however inept they may be. Rimsky Yuen is a prime example, to the serious detriment of the rule of law. And now that the rot seems to have spread to the senior levels of the Court of Appeal, the end for HK really is nigh.

    Aside from idealistic students, an intellectual elite and the anarchically-inclined, I don’t think HKers care too much about governance. Pragmatism over principle in this city, always. And don’t forget the number of mainlanders coming here on one-way visas, something like 50 a day? Forget rioting, it’s Putonghua in the streets.

    I’m yet to hear any convincing argument for the frankly arrogant conventional wisdom that the northern authoritarian regime will fail in the foreseeable future. “These regimes have always failed in the past” isn’t good enough. It’s never been done quite like this before.

    After well over a decade here, I have absolutely no remaining optimism about the future of this place and have booked my one-way ticket out for the end of the year. I’ll watch from a distance with interest. Keep fighting the good fight, Hemmers, and thanks for all the fish.

    Sorry about the lengthy rant.

  4. Cassowary says:

    I still think you’re looking at this backwards. Authoritarianism is the default state of human societies. Most countries lurch from one vaguely repressive regime to another for decades or centuries. It’s building a robust, pluralistic, liberal rule-based democratic system that is the difficult trick to pull off. You can’t expect things to get better just because they’re so bad that people won’t tolerate them anymore.

  5. Property Developer says:

    Thanks for the — as usual — impeccably argued summary of this tragic situation. However… when you say “Meanwhile, the timing of prosecutors’ decisions has been erratic./This last sign indicates Chinese officials at work”, you may well be right, but the link has not really been proven, so caution is necessary before impugning the integrity of the three judges.

    I’m glad that you have moved slightly away from the position that “worse may be better”, that the more HK’s way of life is destroyed, the more right-thinking people will react. As you so astutely say, only regime change in China holds out any hope.

  6. Revolution says:

    Anyone who has encountered Wally Yeung will not be in the least surprised by the comments in his judgment.

    They should appeal to the CFA. I’m not convinced those sentences will stand.

    I’d love to know who ordered Rimsky to overrule the DoJ people who recommended no appeal.

  7. Colonial Dinosaur says:

    I am sorry they were jailed for inciting others to commit $420,000 worth of damage to a public building and putting 10 security guards in hospital.
    They are not above the law and due process has taken place, their community service completed led to a lesser sentence, frankly they should have been looking at 18 months.
    Imagine if you did this in another western jurisdiction, say Washington, Paris or London. The likelihood is that they would have been shot as terrorists.
    The Courts have no choice as the video’s on the night showed, they wound the crowd up to such an extent that real damage and injury resulted.

  8. ChoppedOnions says:

    “A revolution is not a trail of roses.… A revolution is a fight to the death between the future and the past.”

  9. Chris Maden says:

    @Colonial Dinosaur: First, I don’t agree with your comments regarding “another western jurisdiction.” Most western jurisdictions are very clear about the difference between political protests that get out of hand and criminal damage, and are much more lenient in sentencing the former. Second, the courts _did_ have a choice – and exercised it in the form of community service rather than custodial sentences. While you yourself may regard those initial sentences as overly lenient, the public didn’t and, until a few months ago, neither did the DoJ.

    Which is why you’re missing the point. It is not the severity or otherwise of the sentences, but the timing of the DoJ’s appeal, two years after the initial sentences were handed down _and_ served, that points to a deeply political motive.

    Also, let’s be clear: the 8-month+ sentences could almost have been calculated to leave the CFA with an impossible choice if these sentences are appealed. If the CFA reduces the sentences to more than 3 months, then the real punishment – Hong Kong people are punished by not being permitted to vote for the people for whom they would choose to vote – remains. If the CFA reduces the sentences on appeal to less than three months, the CCP will go batshit.

    This whole thing has been very thoughtfully orchestrated and cleverly executed. The real shame is that the government and CCP refuse to similarly apply themselves to Hong Kong’s real problems – plutocracy and consequent institutional gouging by cartel monopolies.

    After thirty years in the city I call home, my one-way ticket too is booked. The trouble is, I’ve nowhere to go.

    @Hemlock & Others: Sorry for the long rant.

  10. pie-chucker says:

    @ Colonial D

    “The likelihood is that they would have been shot as terrorists.”

    Interesting to hear your take on this, but the last thing this discussion needs is absurd exaggerations.

  11. FOARP says:

    “I am sorry they were jailed for inciting others to commit $420,000 worth of damage to a public building and putting 10 security guards in hospital.”

    Are we talking about the “storming” of the LegCo here?

    “Inciting” requires actually inciting someone to do something, rather than just calling on people to gather at a particular place. None of them did this. This is just political.

  12. stan says:

    @ Headache and Chris Madden

    Understand your pessimism (agree – plughole eventually) but do you really carry this gloom around with you every day? Still the same bars, restaurants, weather, low tax regime, travel opportunities etc., surely? What’s better US? UK?

  13. Headache says:

    @ Stan

    Fair question. HK was fun but my enthusiasm has sadly waned. There’s a big world outside the US and the UK and it includes quite a few cities ranking above HK on the liveability index mentioned here the other day. I’m heading for one of those.

  14. pie-chucker says:

    Sorry to weigh in again, and go back to the Colonial D comment.

    “Imagine if you did this in another western jurisdiction, say Washington, Paris or London. The likelihood is that they would have been shot as terrorists.”

    Charlotteville (referencing last weekend) is 3 hours south of Washington. At the Unite the Right march were characters like Richard Spencer (who coined the term ‘Alt-Right’) and David Duke, ex KKK leader. Many of that crowd had holstered pistols and slung automatics. Others staves. In my view, and probably yours Colonial D, an unsavoury lot.

    Forget who was ‘shot as a terrorist’, but how many of those will do time behind bars? And do you really think Joshua Wong and his cohorts – armed with spectacles and an umbrella at most – are a menace to society such that the Bench has to pass down a sentence to scare the rest, to paraphrase the written judgement.

    It’s unsettling.

  15. Jeff says:

    Is the CFA really going to care if the CCP go batshit? Let those cretins go batshit.

    Those prison sentences should be completely overturned because 1) the original sentences have been served 2) the appeal took 2 years and is a total abuse of judicial procedure and reeks of ccp interference and 3) Joshua and co are effectively punished twice for the same crime which may violate article 39 of the basic law by virtue of ICCPR article 14 (7).

    “7. No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.”

    Some people might nitpick “finally convicted” however the government waited 2 years before filing an appeal which is highly irregular (normally you have less than 30 days) and a complete abuse of judicial procedures. If a private entity did that, they would have had their appeal thrown out. These 3 judges clearly have a statist bias.

    I hope the CFA with its fine judges will over turn this complete miscarriage of justice.

  16. Chris Maden says:

    @stan: I’m currently in Thailand checking it out (and no, not for the nightlife). Yes, I go to the same bars, surf the same web sites and the like. But as Headache says, my enthusiasm has waned.

  17. Jeff says:

    Chris but Thailand has even more rule by law than HK

  18. LRE says:

    @Colonial Dinosaur
    In a western jurisdiction, say Washington or London they would have some sort of political recourse to change the government or make them listen, and wouldn’t need to resort to mildly violent protest as their only method of redress and accountability.

    I’ve left out Paris, because you’ve obviously got a very shaky grasp of French protest, where setting fire to cars and policemen, damaging public buildings, and indeed covering government buildings in shit is to some degree all part of the rough and tumble of politics: google “Paris riot 2017” and “Paris riot 2016” and “Paris riot 2015” … you’ll start to get the idea.

    The rest of where you’re wrong is ably covered by Chris Maden & pie-chucker.

    @headache
    People in pro-Beijing political parties and the civil service are hardly Hongkongers: the upper echelons of the civil service are practically as alien to Hong Kong as the CPC. Combined with the couple of dozen tycoons and other monopolistic vested interests, they are at best a gossamer-thin veneer of United Front nonsense.

    The CPC has already lost the middle & upper classes for at least 2 generations. I expect this will result in a migration that will begin in earnest soon. I’m sure the majority of the working class will get there eventually, once they realise that the CPC are not only not going to leave them alone even if they are very, very quiet, but also will destroy the economy* and make them give up the internet and social networking.

    *Rule of law was, I suspect, a rather more important part of Hong Kong’s role as financial entrepôt / go-between than the CPC think and the CPC have just very publicly ditched it by making the first set of obvious political prisoners. This will I think have huge, wide-reaching long-term impact that the CPC have not thought through properly in their paranoid pettiness.

    But in these dark times, let us take comfort in the fact that Joshua Wong et al now enjoy the same social status as at least one Chief Executive.

  19. Red Dragon says:

    An interesting, well-reasoned, and (pace Colonial Dinosaur) convincing review of the recent unpleasantness regarding J. Wong et al.

    This exchange, for me, summed up what the comments section is all about, despite its having been soiled and cheapened, yet again, by the fatuous contribution of the Twat of Stanley.

    My God! I’d like to haul that bugger up before Wally Yeung.

  20. Stanley Lieber says:

    The evidence is in. The Court of Appeal has been infected with the CCP bug.

    There is no evidence that the Court of Final Appeal has been similarly infected.

    I’d bet my bottom dollar on Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma’s integrity.

    They should appeal.

  21. old git says:

    In the World, from Time started and thereafter, in the name of the Law, the older generation has always declared the younger generation degenerate, depraved, to be spat upon, ridiculed and derided.

  22. pd says:

    Fine article from Ph. Bowring on back of yesterday’s PIMP main section, made even finer by a copy editor summary in large bold type missing the underpinning heavy sarcasm.

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