Benny Tai forces Beijing to ban free speech in HK

The South China Morning Post does a full-page feature on why the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front in Hong Kong orchestrated a full-blown contrived mass-mouth-froth outrage-frenzy against academic Benny Tai. But it doesn’t really answer the question.

The article assumes that the problem lies within Hong Kong. It mentions the standard pro-Beijing line that independence talk (especially when visiting Taiwan) is unacceptable, and the reasonable opposition view that Beijing wants a reason to pass local national-security laws. The SCMP manages to find both a pro-establishment politician and a pro-democrat to suggest that Benny Tai and others like him should moderate themselves to spare Hong Kong from harsher measures (‘the victim asked for it’).

The feature ignores the wider context of Xi Jinping’s increasingly repressive rule throughout China – from re-education camps in Xinjiang, to leadership purges, to the tormenting of abducted lawyers’ families, to tightened Internet censorship, to the creeping personality cult surrounding the Emperor for Life.

So, why have the big guns all turned on Benny? China’s Leninist-minded rulers fear and cannot tolerate anything they do not control; Hong Kong’s pluralist system is therefore incompatible with the one-party state, and it must be constrained and ultimately subjugated. Benny is an easy, high-visibility target. There are many more. Barring the downfall of the CCP (a subject at the conference he attended), there is nothing much anyone can do about this.

Benny says he checks his car and phone for bugs and suspects he is being followed – and he is no doubt right. Should we all be getting more paranoid?

I have recently been inundated with hundreds of fake ‘followers’ on Twitter, many but not all with Chinese names or profiles. I am not alone: they generally follow Neil deGrasse Tyson, Denise Ho, the Pope, at least one Obama, Jerome Cohen, and (more to the point) many familiar esteemed China/HK/Taiwan journos and commentators (an example). The bots, or whatever they are, don’t seem to do any harm – but you wonder what’s going on. (Maybe they’ll be sold on to spammers?)

And then… (cue sinister violins). A few days ago I received my renewed (though I never use it) Hong Kong driver’s licence through the mail, all purely routine. When I opened the envelope from the Transport Department, there was: the new licence, a covering letter, a receipt for the fee, some blather about updating addresses – and an HSBC letter addressed to me personally at my home address offering the usual dumb special exclusive loan.

(Background for those who have led sheltered lives: putting the wrong items back into envelopes when intercepting mail is a classic dumb police-state screw-up.)

After freaking mildly, I assured myself the bank promo must have been on the table already, folded, and I picked it up with the envelope so it just appeared to come out with the licence. Even though I don’t remember having seen it before…

(Reading too much of this, maybe.)

I declare the weekend open with some slightly-cosmic extra detail: my driving instructor many, many years ago was a wizened KMT Army veteran who prophesied constantly that the Communists would doom Hong Kong to totalitarian tyranny.

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9 Responses to Benny Tai forces Beijing to ban free speech in HK

  1. Chinese Netizen says:

    Assume you’re on the shit list. The HSBC ad may have even been placed into the envelope on PURPOSE…as a not-so-subtle wink from a bored mail reader/interceptor.

  2. property devloper says:

    To be frank, these sound like relatively benign actions, if indeed they are anything unusual at all.

    As a basis for comparison, in our hamlet we’ve had: many slashed tyres, many cracked windscreens, damaged car paintwork, drone invasions, hundreds of mysterious power failures, plagues of snakes (dead and alive), low water pressure, noise projection devices, pinhole infrared cameras on toilets, Chinese characters, holes, scratches and cracks on windows, heavy objects dropped on people from roofs, airguns fired at people’s faces, plants poisoned, dogs’s legs broken, and boat engines drenched, not to mention mutterers, lurkers, shadowers and trespassers.

  3. Old Newcomer says:

    Totalitarians understand how to deal with violent opposition – bash them hard and (these days) accuse them of terrorism. They have a little more trouble working out how to handle opponents who renounce force, because non-violence is so alien to their mindset. While I wouldn’t yet class Benny Tai with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama, it is clear that China fears what it does not understand.

  4. Old Fishmarket Close says:

    Check the HSBC letter for Hartlepudlian fingerprints…

  5. Old Newcomer says:

    @property developer – so, just a normal NT village then?

  6. pd says:

    ON, yes, except no dog-poisoners — yet.

  7. Knownot says:

    A letter from the Government
    Seemed to contain
    Another one,
    Which I can’t explain.
    It was from my bank
    Who often send me
    Letters, about how much
    They’d love to lend me.
    Had it been lying on my desk,
    Still folded, not important enough;
    Or was it together
    With the Government stuff?
    If so, what does it mean?
    Are my letters being seen?
    No, no, nothing to be feared;
    But it’s weird.

    On my Twitter account
    There are suddenly lots
    Of new followers,
    Human, or bots?
    But as I write now
    They surround me,
    A haze of shadows
    All around me.
    No, no, they do no harm.
    Keep calm.

    I have an old diary
    From 2004
    In which, slightly disguised,
    I store
    Passwords and secret numbers.
    This diary is kept
    With my passport, et cetera,
    In the second drawer left.
    But I have just found it
    In the bottom drawer
    Where I have never, ever
    Put it before.
    Oh, for heavens’ sake,
    It was my mistake!
    There’s nothing to fear.
    But it’s queer.

    I turned on my computer
    And for a split-second
    A frightful, grinning
    Face beckoned,
    Like Alfred E. Neuman
    Of Mad Magazine,
    Jollily calling
    With a gesture obscene,
    “Don’t try nothing,
    Silly old codger,
    Don’t go nowhere,
    We gotcha!”
    My ears are ringing –
    There’s a bug in my brain –
    My hands are – no! –
    I am – not – insane!

  8. Knownot says:

    But, seriously.

    In a hotel room, James Bond stuck a hair on a wardobe door, so that he would know if it had been opened while he was out.

    Arrange for someone to send you a letter with a tiny piece of hair folded into it – preferably white, grey, or blond hair so that it does not contrast with the white paper. When you receive the letter, open it carefully and see . . .

  9. Joe Blow says:

    Imagine someone sends you a letter with a blonde scalp hair and when you open it you find a black pubic hair.

    Spooky.

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