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Posts published in September 2019

Extradition Bill Withdrawn. What’s Next?

So, as we reported last night, the extradition bill that was the initial impetus for the protests in Hong Kong has been withdrawn by Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam.

That’s excellent news, but where does that leave the protest movement? Let’s take a look.

Of the Five Demands that the protesters have made, one has been met. What about the others? Here is what we know right now about any progress in meeting them.

  • An independent investigation into the actions of the police. In a press conference, Lam did address this, saying that the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Council) will investigate. Protesters have criticized the IPCC as being dominated by pro-government members, doubting that the investigation will be independent. It is unlikely that an IPPC investigation will be acceptable to pro-democracy protesters.
  • Stop characterizing the protests as “riots.” This demand is important because if the protests are called “riots” and the protesters are called “rioters” then those that were arrested during the protests face more serious charges and harsher punishment. We have not seen or heard anything from the HK government regarding this demand.
  • Release of all protesters that have been arrested and dropping of all charges against them. Again, we have not seen or heard anything regarding this demand. [UPDATE: Lam said in her press conference, “we cannot accept letting criminals go under the existing legal system.” So, the HK government will not accept this demand.
  • Resignation of Carrie Lam and universal suffrage for the Hong Kong people for chief executive and other legislative and government positions. Nothing has been formally said about this, either, but it would not be at all surprising if Carrie Lam steps down soon. [UPDATE: however, in her press conference, Lam said, “My personal stance has made known for months, my team and I will remain and will tackle the problems, with the priority on stopping violence.”] As for the demand for universal suffrage, we regard this as the most important of the protesters’ demands for Hong Kong’s future, and the one least likely to be acceptable to Beijing.

Withdrawal of the extradition bill is an important first step toward a free and prosperous Hong Kong, but it is by no means the end of the road. Many pro-Beijing, business, and establishment leaders will say that the reason for the protests has been removed, so the pro-democracy movement should stop the protests, and Hong Kong should return to “normal.” The CCP state-run media will portray any continuing protests as unreasonable (well, they’ve portrayed the protests as violent and unreasonable all along). The pro-democracy movement should continue to protests for all of their demands to be met, but they must do so carefully, being mindful of public opinion. Right now, the protesters have broad support, both within Hong Kong and internationally. Loss of that support will hand Beijing the final victory, even if the protesters won the initial fight over the extradition bill.

Hong Kong Extradition Bill to be Formally Withdrawn

This is incredibly important, if it is true. The Hong Kong Free Press is reporting that Carrie Lam will formally withdraw the extradition bill. This bill is the initial cause of the protests that have convulsed Hong Kong for over three months.

If the bill is formally withdrawn, the Hong Kong government will meet one of the five primary demands of the protesters, and it could pave the way for negotiations on the other four of the protesters’ five demands.

That said, if the bill is withdrawn, look for Beijing and the HK government to pressure the protesters to relent. If the protests continue anyway, many people, both in Hong Kong and internationally, will tend to view the protesters as unreasonable. The protest movement must play this very carefully, or they will lose the public support that they currently enjoy. Beijing may be counting on more radical elements in the protest movement to overplay their hand, alienating their base of support. That must not happen if the protest movement wants to effect lasting change in Hong Kong.

In any case, if the bill is withdrawn, it does appear to be a victory for the protest movement – but let’s not celebrate too early. This is an early report, and it is likely that Beijing has other plans in effect to disperse and blunt the effect of the protest movement.

Must-Watch CBC Interview of Anson Chan

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has posted a fascinating interview with Anson Chan, former head of the civil service in the Hong Kong government, on YouTube.

CBC YouTube video

As the headline on the video says, Mrs. Chan believes that Carrie Lam has “lost all will to govern.” The government of Hong Kong certainly has done little-to-nothing to address the protests constructively, so it seems that Mrs. Chan’s observation is spot on.

You may have seen this video of Mrs. Chan being accosted by two pro-Beijing people on the streets of Hong Kong.

Her class in the face of these rude confrontations is incredible. She is very admirable.

Austin Bay on StrategyPage: “On Point: Hong Kong Moves From Protests to Civil Unrest As China Threatens Intervention”

Austin Bay has posted an article on the Hong Kong protests with observations from Michael Yon, who has been present at many of the protests, observing and reporting.

Police overreaction and treating protestors as criminals enraged Hong Kongers (the name many prefer). The escalation process began as protests “drifted into general civil unrest where the obvious majority of people were just sick of the police and government in totality. The general population seems to view the government as illegitimate.” Yon cited the July 1 incident as an early indicator of this sentiment. On that date, protestors broke into Hong Kong’s legislative council offices. He witnessed the event firsthand.

Austin Bay at StrategyPage

“I’ve been in more than 40 protests so far and can say with certainty that the mood becomes more violent week by week.”

Michael Yon, quoted in StrategyPage article

Austin Bay’s article and Michael Yon’s first-hand observations are in line with our observations of Chinese and Hong Kong media reports. The recent police brutality and complete intransigence by the Chinese and Hong Kong governments does not bode well. Rather than being cowed into submission, the protesters are becoming more and more angry and willing to physically confront the police in situations where they have an advantage of numbers. The police are likewise becoming more violent and out-of-control, with several instances of obvious police brutality documented in video recordings.

Bay’s article concludes:

Beijing must de-escalate the Hong Kong crisis. If the regime resorts to force and kills hundreds, if not thousands, of Hong Kong citizens, President Donald Trump will use that heinous act to unite the world against communist China.

Auston Bay on StrategyPage

The question is how to de-escalate. The protesters do not trust Beijing nor the HK government, so concrete, verifiable steps need to be taken that will satisfy the protesters. As we said in our post from yesterday, Beijing and the HK government must carry out the measures spelled out in the protesters’ Five Demands.

Forbes Article: Hong Kong Protesters Using Mesh Network Messaging App

A Forbes article reports on Hong Kong protester’s use of a mesh messaging app called Bridgefy that allows users to communicate through Bluetooth, so that no internet access (or presumably, no phone service) is needed.

The title of the Forbes article claims, incorrectly we think, that messaging using the Bridgefy app cannot be blocked. While it may be true that blocking or shutting down cellular communication would not block the Bridgefy messaging, Bluetooth is still radio frequency communication, and so RF jamming would work, if designed for that purpose, and in fact, a quick search returned multiple hits for Bluetooth jamming products (most manufactured in China, of course). Depending on the design of the jammer, Bluetooth signals could potentially be blocked over a wide area. So, while this technology may thwart the authorities from shutting down communications for some time, it can’t be seen as a total solution.

What Bridgefy can do is to prevent authorities from monitoring/eavesdropping on what is being sent over a “mesh network” that self-assembles as users move into and out of Bluetooth range (about 10 meters). So, as long as the authorities don’t completely jam the Bluetooth frequencies, it serves a very useful purpose.

Koetsier [Forbes]: I hear it’s being used in Hong Kong by the protesters. Tell me why what purposes they’re using it for and how big a spike you’ve seen in downloads/registrations/usage.
Rios [Bridgefy CEO]: People are downloading it for two reasons:
1) Because Internet access is starting to be limited by the authorities.
2) Because it’s a safe way for people to communicate with there being very little risk of messages being read by unwanted eyes.
We’ve seen more than 60,000 app installations in just the past seven days, most of them from Hong Kong. People are using it to organize themselves and to stay safe, without having to depend on an Internet connection.

Forbes Magazine

This article provides a very interesting insight into the adaptability and creativity of the protesters as they deal with organizing and managing protests.

Carrie Lam Would Quit “If She Could.” What is the Path Forward?

Multiple news sources are posting on a Reuters report on Carrie Lam’s talk with a group of business leaders. Reuters obtained a leaked audio recording of Lam’s remarks.

During her talk, Lam said she had caused “unforgivable havoc” by introducing the extradition bill, and that she now has very limited room to maneuver politically to resolve the crisis, as it has become a national security issue for the Beijing government.

If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.

Carrie Lam in Reuters report on her remarks to Hong Kong business leaders

It’s nice that Lam recognizes her enormous blunder, but at this point it is really too late for regrets. Since Beijing has elevated the crisis to a national level, and is not willing to back down lest it “lose face,” Lam must do everything that she can to convince Beijing to completely withdraw the bill. She must also try to restore the Hong Kong government’s relationship with the people to the state it was in before she introduced the bill. This is a next-to-impossible task, given that she has already (no doubt at Beijing’s orders) flatly rejected all of the protesters’ demands, and given the police brutality experienced by the people of Hong Kong. Restoring trust in the government and in the police will be a long-term, arduous, and challenging process, and that process cannot begin at all as long as Beijing and the HK government will not negotiate with the protesters in good faith.

Why Beijing would want Lam to remain in office at this point is very difficult to understand. She has proven herself incapable of handling the crisis and incompetent as a chief executive. Her personal regrets and misgivings are signs that she perhaps has learned something from her mistakes, but if Beijing will not allow her to act on what she has learned, her new understanding of the situation is meaningless for Hong Kong.

What would a reasonable path forward look like? In our opinion, the Hong Kong government, with the support of Beijing, can start by doing these things:

  1. Remove Carrie Lam from office (accept her resignation) and elect/appoint a chief executive respected by the protesters and acceptable to Beijing.
  2. Release an announcement by the new chief executive that the extradition bill has been completely withdrawn and will not be resurrected under any circumstances. Re-affirm the “one country, two systems” principles and the Basic Law. Reject any pressure by Beijing to erode the rights of the Hong Kong people.
  3. Announce a general recognition of the Hong Kong people’s right to assemble and have their grievances addressed in stated in the Basic Law; stop the “white terror” at Hong Kong businesses (e.g. Cathay Pacific Airlines). Reject pressure from Beijing to make HK businesses comply with their demands that are not in accordance with Hong Kong law.
  4. Announce a general amnesty for all protesters and release any still held, with some exceptions (maybe) for those involved in extreme assaults against police.
  5. Remove riot police and other special tactics units from the streets, unless extreme elements within the protest groups continue attacks against police, civilians, infrastructure, or government buildings and property. Strictly instruct and train riot police and special tactics units that they cannot violate the rights of the people, and that they cannot under any circumstances use violent tactics, unless they encounter resistance, and even then, limited force may only be used in order to secure an arrest. Violations of people’s rights or excessive force by police must be met by dismissal from the police force and potential prosecution.
  6. Remove any and all CCP-controlled personnel (People’s Armed Police or other infiltrators) from the HK police force.
  7. Independently investigate and remove any police officers identified as having used excessive force from their duties, and prosecute those that used extreme violence without any justifiable cause. The HK police leadership must not be seen as protecting officers violating the law and the rights of the people.
  8. Re-affirm the rule of law and allow the people of Hong Kong to freely elect their own representatives to the government, per the agreements between China and the U.K in the handover treaties and as set down in the Basic Law, reversing the CCP Standing Committee’s ruling on universal suffrage.

In short, the Hong Kong government should meet the protesters Five Demands.

Finally, if Beijing wants to truly restore Hong Kong, it should announce that the Basic Law will be the governing law in Hong Kong in perpetuity, not just until 2047. Although the Hong Kong people, with good reason, do not trust Beijing, only that step will truly have a chance of giving the people of Hong Kong confidence that their freedom in the future is ensured.

We understand that the CCP will not take our recommendations on this matter; nevertheless, this is what we believe to be reasonable and necessary steps for Hong Kong to be truly restored.

More Scenes of Police Brutality in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong police appear to have lost control of themselves, and are no longer even pretending to follow the law or respect the rights of the Hong Kong people.

We ran across this tweet today. Like the video of the HK police in the subway, it shows the HK police violently confronting a bystander, not dressed in any way like a protester (he’s wearing a t-shirt and shorts), not threatening anyone, and not committing any sort of crime. The video is disturbing. Note how the police use their shields to try to block anyone from recording what they are doing. It is clear they know their actions are illegal.

This YouTube video from the Hong Kong Free Press shows a Hong Kong police chasing down and beating an unarmed, unresisting protester in the HK airport, and then later screaming in the faces of three young female protesters, obviously scaring them half to death. He is finally calmed down and removed from the scene by a higher-ranking officer.

The HK police are inciting more anger and violence by the Hong Kong people. The HK government and leadership of the police must get control of their officers, rather than making excuses for them.

Hong Kong: How Should the West Respond?

In a post on PJ Media about the recent brutality by Hong Kong police, Michael van der Galien says

Beijing is willing to go much further than beating up some protesters — and there is nothing the West can do about it.

Michael van der Galen in PJ Media

We emphatically disagree.

So, what can the West do about the Hong Kong and Beijing governments’ continual erosion of the rights of the people of Hong Kong, police brutality by the Hong Kong police and/or CCP infiltrators, arrest and jailing of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists and lawmakers, expulsion and disappearing of anti-CCP commenters, authors, and journalists, and all of the other trouble being stirred up by the CCP recently?

Let’s say right up front that war is not a solution anyone with a brain or functioning conscience wants. What else can be done?

Here are some things:

  • No longer issue any student visas for Chinese students to study in the universities of Western countries, and send those currently studying here back to China. The children of many of the Chinese elite study in the U.S. and Europe. In fact, Chinese president Xi Jinping’s daughter, Xi Mingze, graduated from Harvard.
  • Pressure/incentivize companies to no longer do their manufacturing in China and not to sell to China or in China. The rising standard of living in China is what the CCP has been using to sell their rule to the people. If the economy suffers and China’s standard of living suffers with it, the CCP may face internal unrest and dissension. [Update: In fact, doing this is likely to be the most difficult step to achieve. Business people will resist any effort to reduce their access to Chinese markets and cheap manufacturing.]
  • Cut academic, cultural, and business ties and exchanges, and reduce or even eliminate tourist, business, and other visas granted to Chinese citizens.
  • Freeze assets of Chinese government officials held in Western banks.
  • Increase tariffs on Chinese goods even more.
  • Increase military and economic ties with Taiwan, and continue to sell military hardware to Taiwan. At this point, doing this is just prudent. It is not a secret that China wants to “integrate” Taiwan, and has threatened to do so militarily. The U.S. has already taken several steps to improve ties with Taiwan and to strengthen Taiwan’s military.
  • Increase “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
  • Recognize Taiwan diplomatically and cut ties with mainland China.

There are undoubtedly many, many more things that can be done to pressure China short of any kind of military confrontation. Granted, all of these things come with some cost to Western countries, and none of them may force China to back down, but they will make China pay dearly for oppressing Hong Kong.

The leadership in Beijing is dogmatic and totalitarian, but it isn’t stupid. They will do the calculus and decide which is more costly – some freedom for Hong Kong versus loss of face internationally, internal dissension, and loss of business with the West. If Western countries can unite in support for HK, they can exert enormous pressure on Beijing. Hopefully, Beijing will see that freedom for Hong Kong is the better path forward.

This post was adapted from the author’s comment on the PJ Media article.

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