As Beijing Continues To Creep Into Hong Kong, Internet Censorship Begins

from the democracy-on-decline dept

As we've written about recently, Beijing's creep into Hong Kong control has turned into nearly a dash as of late. What started with July's new "national security" law that allowed the mainland to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs led to arrests of media members in July, the expulsion and arrest of pro-democracy politicians in November, and then expanded arrests of members of the public who have said the wrong things in January.

And as that mad dash to tighten its grip before a new American administration takes office continues, Beijing appears to be starting the process of censoring the internet in Hong Kong as well. In a move likely designed to make this all look reasonable, the first reports revolve around a website used to post information about Hong Kong police.

Hong Kong’s biggest mobile telecom companies appear to have severed access to a website that listed the personal information of police officers, setting off fears that the authorities may use a new national security law to adopt censorship tactics widely used in mainland China.

Users attempting to access the site, called HKChronicles, on their mobile devices first noticed the disruption on Wednesday evening, according to the site’s owner, Naomi Chan, an 18-year-old high school student. Disruption came without any warning or explanation, she said.

Now, I can write the comments from some of you here to save you the trouble: if this is a site dedicated to doxxing police officers, how is blocking it unreasonable? Your desire to write that comment is almost certainly precisely why this site is the first to have gotten the mainland censorship treatment. But that's entirely besides the point.

Instead, frame it in your mind this way: a site that had previously been accessible by Hong Kong citizens no longer is as a result of the desires of mainland China. In other words, don't get lost in the details, just realize that this is likely the start of a trend. I don't think anyone really wants to suggest in the comments that Beijing will censor this site and stop there, do they? I hope not, because nobody thinks this is anything other than the first domino to fall on its way to internet censorship.

The disruption raised the prospect that the city, long a bastion of online freedom, could begin to fall under the shadow of the tight censorship system that separates mainland Chinese internet from the rest of the online world. On Hong Kong social media, many people worried that the authorities could eventually bring the city’s overall access to the open internet to an end.

“Their talking point has been the national security law will only target a small group of people,” said Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who specializes in online communication.  “In practice it hasn’t been limited to a small group of people,” Mr. Tsui said. “My concern is that internet censorship similarly won’t be limited to a small group of websites.”

It's worth noting that, for now, the method for censorship is different than the mainland's Great Firewall, but the end result is the same. I suppose the questions that remain are just how much more action Beijing is going to take prior to January 20th and what the Biden administration intends to do about any of this once it is in office.

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Filed Under: censorship, china, hkchronicles, hong kong, naomi chan, protests, site blocking


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  • identicon
    Jordan, 19 Jan 2021 @ 12:24pm

    Hong Kong is China

    Hong Kong was stolen by the British due to superior military force so that the Brits could force the Chinese to allow them to sell Opium to the Chinese people, and then gave back the Island with some stipulations.
    While I am not a fan of China, I support their right to do literally whatever they want with their own island in terms of governance. The USA has a history of breaking 100% of their treaties with the Native Americans, and literally stole Hawaii from the Hawaiin people.

    Nobody here has any moral authority to critique China doing whatever they want with their own territory, unless it's a general critique of China AS A WHOLE.

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    • icon
      kag (profile), 19 Jan 2021 @ 2:23pm

      Re: Hong Kong is China

      Maybe we should work on returning lands to the byzantines next

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2021 @ 2:27pm

      Re: Hong Kong is China

      Nobody here has any moral authority to critique China doing whatever they want with their own territory, ...

      What about the people who live there? Do they have any say in the matter?

      And as far as "moral authority to critique" goes, I see your whataboutism and raise you personal vs aggregate responsibility. Neither I nor Techdirt's contributors, nor Techdirt itself have any particular role in deciding how the US keeps (or doesn't) treaties. So no, we haven't lost that moral authority. We're just as happy to complain about our own nation's treaty adherence, as that of China's.

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      • identicon
        Jordan, 19 Jan 2021 @ 2:49pm

        Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

        I am not questioning your right to critique China for its lack of Democratic system, their genocide, their foreign policy, etc. And I am not holding Techdirt to a higher moral standard. I think Techdirt already is :)

        I am just saying, Hong Kong is part of China. It was briefly not because of INTERNATIONAL DRUG DEALERS supported by the British Empire. They are merely integrating their own place back into a place that never should have let it go other than via force. Hong Kong is China.

        Regardless I don't see the USA gearing up for World War 3 to save a bunch of Chinese Muslims.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2021 @ 3:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

          How do you fell about letting people leave if they so choose?

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        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Jan 2021 @ 3:30pm

          I’m sure this post will do wonders for your social score.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 19 Jan 2021 @ 8:53pm

          Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

          I notice how you dodged the question about how the people of Hong Kong feel and what their say should be.

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          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 12:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

            "I notice how you dodged the question about how the people of Hong Kong feel and what their say should be."

            Depends on whether your question comes from a moral or realistic standpoint. Standing on moral ground the answer is pretty clear, referring to the UN declaration of human rights.

            From a more practical perspective no one who seriously looked at the turns around the sino-british joint declaration believed, even for a second, that HK would become anything more or less than another chinese province fully under the fist of the mandarins in Beijing. That problem is compounded by the UK at the time lying its face off pretending they believed China would honor the "two systems, one country" rule. The people of HK had every reason to believe what is currently happening should have been expected. Yet they were told differently.

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            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 1:14am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

              "The people of HK had every reason to believe what is currently happening should have been expected. Yet they were told differently."

              I don't think that most people in HK believed what they were being told. But, the issue is what they can do about it. While affluent people in the financial sector, and the top tiers of the HK movie industry could move when they saw the writing on the wall, many didn't have that choice. Those are the voices I'm talking about.

              Also, while I've never found enough real evidence to confirm my theory, I do suspect that the Chinese put pressure on a lot of the notable people who moved away to come back on threat of harm to their families. People like Jackie Chan and John Woo seemed to be very much opposed to Chinese rule in the 90s, but after moving to the US they went back and started making suspiciously patriotic Chinese movies. It's not a far stretch to assume that they were leveraged in some way, and if Jackie Chan is able to be leveraged against his formerly stated beliefs, what chance does your average street food vendor have?

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              • icon
                Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 6:39am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

                "While affluent people in the financial sector, and the top tiers of the HK movie industry could move when they saw the writing on the wall, many didn't have that choice. Those are the voices I'm talking about."

                If you read the writing on the wall and have over 20 years worth of early warning that's quite enough time to move away from the slopes of mount Vesuvius. The people who did not have the means to start the emigration process at that point are more often than not those to whom it doesn't matter which leadership runs the nation so much as it matters how to feed themselves and their family. The average privileged HK resident was little worse off than the average western white collar worker and would have met very scant resistance in moving elsewhere.

                "I do suspect that the Chinese put pressure on a lot of the notable people who moved away to come back on threat of harm to their families."

                That would be a hell of a thing to manage to keep in secrecy. Are there any indications or reveals implying this is true? Because at the scale this would have to be pursued I'm pretty damn sure it'd be as difficult to keep a secret as a faked moon landing.

                "People like Jackie Chan and John Woo seemed to be very much opposed to Chinese rule in the 90s, but after moving to the US they went back and started making suspiciously patriotic Chinese movies."

                China has changed a lot since the 90's. To the point where it's a well-worn meme. In the '90's China was a developing nation with the international reputation of being the place where all the cheap plastic shit was made, and insofar as anything was heard or shown about how people lived it was in the form of a smog-riddled urban hellscape of vintage 1950 soviet-styled prison-chic apartment blocks or 18th century pig and duck farmland.
                Today China is a land of prosperity and opportunity for around 90-95% of the population, with a booming economy, massively expanded nationwide infrastructure, and all the bells and whistles the US wishes they still had.

                As long as you aren't an unfortunate part of the 5% of the citizenry Beijing has it in for, life is good. I don't think leverage is required, when the chinese expat comes home to visit his relatives in Tianjin and has to suffer the assumption that he's been toughing it out for years in the savage lands of the barbarian outback.
                The cage is very well gilded and provided with all the creature comforts you could ask for.

                If you are chinese today I'd argue there's more to be proud of about your nation than there would be for an american, with more or less the same caveats. Today we're outraged about Xinjiang, but a few years back we were looking at half a million Iraqi needlessly dead, a quarter of whom possibly purely civilian.

                We can argue about the demerits of a feudal bureaucracy (and there are many) elsewhere but at this stage in history, at least, China has successfully implemented the old formula which held their empire together as a nation for two and a half millennia. Too many people just look at China being a "communist" autocratic regime and immediately think of the USSR and DDR. And that's wrong. The average chinese person believes in the benevolence in the state, and for the vast majority of them, that belief will always prove correct. It's how China remains stable. By making sure the citizenry as a whole has little cause for grievance.

                I found your assertion about Jackie Chan surprising...if you have a link or decent google query about Jackie Chan's anti-chinese sentiments I'd appreciate it, because at least his wiki page and most other source I could find indicate he's been very much pro-China for a long time, and at least in public has always been an avid supporter of the chinese government.

                I found nothing at all about John Woo's political beliefs, so again, if you have any information, please share.

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                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 8:27am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

                  "If you read the writing on the wall and have over 20 years worth of early warning that's quite enough time to move away from the slopes of mount Vesuvius"

                  Or, it's enough time to try and fight to change the future. Whether the writing is on the wall or not, the tendency for caring human beings is to fight for their families until such a time as that is not possible, not to abandon them. Now, that might be a mistake and they're biting off more than they can chew by making a stand, but that's a very different thing from not understanding what was coming.

                  "The average privileged HK resident was little worse off than the average western white collar worker"

                  Sure. What percentage of population was that?

                  "I found nothing at all about John Woo's political beliefs, so again, if you have any information, please share."

                  I don't have any handy links available, and they might take some time to dig up since the Chinese probably don't like them being found easily. I'm largely going off my memory of being a fan of both men since the late 80s, so this may be faulty but I'm sure I can find some documentation somewhere if I'm inclined to look through my old magazines and DVDs, and maybe use that to locate an online source.

                  My recollection is that part of the reason why both men (and, indeed, a great many notable names in the HK movie industry) pursued Hollywood careers in the early 90s was due to fears over post-97 Chinese rule. The entire film industry was petrified of it. Both men have since returned and have been making very pro-Chinese movies, sometimes obnoxiously propaganda tinged.

                  Now, it's certainly possible that they returned to HK of their own volition and the naked propaganda is due to rules around financing. But, I don't recall many of their films being openly political or faux-patriotic before they returned to HK, and I do suspect something else behind the scenes motivating such things.

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                  • icon
                    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 21 Jan 2021 @ 2:13am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

                    "Or, it's enough time to try and fight to change the future. Whether the writing is on the wall or not, the tendency for caring human beings is to fight for their families until such a time as that is not possible, not to abandon them. Now, that might be a mistake and they're biting off more than they can chew by making a stand, but that's a very different thing from not understanding what was coming."

                    It's an unfortunate fact that the time to loudly object to being pitched to the lions in circus Maximus is before you've been thrown to the arena. Once there your best chance of survival - for both you and your loved ones still in the stands - will be to not look delicious.

                    In order to "fight for the future" you need there to be some window of opportunity. In Hong Kong the future is nailed down. Barring world war 3 there is no chance this generation that China will be slowed down or hindered by anything the populace can do. The choices now are to leave, to bend their head, or to be quietly shipped off for "re-education".
                    China isn't in danger of an uprising. The vast majority of the citizenry openly support the government. A revolution or chance to make the body politic blink, does not exist.

                    "Sure. What percentage of population was that?"

                    Irrelevant in this context, since to the percentage of the population not well enough off to go higher in the maslow hierarchy of needs than food and security, Hong Kong or Chinese rule doesn't matter. They'd be treated the same by either type of leadership. "Freedom" is an intangible if your job is as an MTR "sanitation engineer" or professional street stall vendor.

                    Exceptions exist, as we've seen in the US where extreme fears and doubt mobilized a great many of the normally politically inactive poor, but that's an exception rather than the rule.

                    "I'm largely going off my memory of being a fan of both men since the late 80s, so this may be faulty but I'm sure I can find some documentation somewhere if I'm inclined to look through my old magazines and DVDs, and maybe use that to locate an online source."

                    I'm a fan of both as well. By any accounts Jackie Chan is a pretty decent guy - except for that blind spot where he truly believes in the benevolence of the PRC which, apparently, he has held for a very long time. John Woo I have never even seen come out with a single political comment. Although, to be fair, I don't read celebrity interviews that much. For all I know he may have lead all his interviews with the Gettysburg Address.

                    "But, I don't recall many of their films being openly political or faux-patriotic before they returned to HK, and I do suspect something else behind the scenes motivating such things."

                    Not to be all Chomsky or Ockham about it but there's a razor to be swung there, and it has to do with the likelihood of funding which you imply; on Chinese soil both Chan and Woo will be swamped with scripts written by Hengdian World Studios and funding courtesy of the People's Cultural Arts Committee, or whatever it's called.
                    After that, for the film to pass the chinese censors it either has to toe a VERY fine line of neutrality visavi the government or come out in favor of it.

                    "I don't recall many of their films being openly political or faux-patriotic before they returned to HK"

                    If they had been, how well would that have flown with a largely western audience? Yes, your hypothesis isn't implausible but there is a case to be made that ANY good director or actor would fit their movie to the market they pitched it in. And that's already far more reasonable an assumption.

                    "I do suspect something else behind the scenes motivating such things."

                    Money and the likely market not being enough? In China movies which laud the government sell, because most of the chinese audience like and trust their government.

                    My current hypothesis is that both Jackie and John have always been sympathetic to their government and that this hasn't surfaced as clearly simply because their movies up until lately haven't been pitched at a market receptive to chinese politics.

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                    • icon
                      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 21 Jan 2021 @ 2:22am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

                      [Addendum]

                      "Money and the likely market not being enough? In China movies which laud the government sell, because most of the chinese audience like and trust their government."

                      To expand on this I refer to you here every last american production where the US army, CIA, Police, FBI or NSA are painted as the "Good guys" protecting the American Way of truth, liberty and apple pie, usually by smiting a large number of faceless ethnic stereotypes with Snidely Whiplash level plots because evil.

                      Even, or especially, today. Studios don't need the government to breathe down their necks and a commissar with a big book of do's and don'ts standing around threatening their families. They just need to know their audience and what will sell. Both americans and chinese want to know their government is benevolent and powerful so that's the pitch they go for in most cases.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2021 @ 12:25am

        Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

        "What about the people who live there? Do they have any say in the matter?"

        To be fair they had advance warning. China was never going to honor the sino-british joint declaration - the very second someone tried to make use of personal liberty or free speech China would drop the hammer on the "two systems, one country" bullshit. Everyone knew this, already back then.

        The UK does, however, deserve an extra helping of abuse, because they, at least claimed they were the chaps in the white hat. Yet they went blithely along with Chinas demand for a face-saving exercise and completely failed to alert the Hong Kong citizenry that it was likely that whatever was written on that treaty was going to be subject to unilateral and sudden alterations. Instead they cheered and raised it to the skies as some Big Win for the people of HK who instead of running for the hills or planning emigration, were left in the tacit belief they'd get to keep their democracy.

        No, the people living in HK never had any say in the matter. That they were left in the belief they had and that belief reinforced by the people they thought trustworthy is, however, betrayal of the rankest kind, and as good a demonstration as can be shown of the ugliness of realpolitik.

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        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 12:26am

          Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

          ...and that was me, by the way. Got signed out for some reason.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 12:48am

          Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

          "To be fair they had advance warning. China was never going to honor the sino-british joint declaration"

          Theoretically, they had warning that things would change 26 years from now. A lot of people also did chose to leave or do something about their situation before or just after 1997. However, what people have to realise is that most people don't have the real choice to make a change. until things get so bad that they have no choice. Even if you're personally affluent enough to ditch the place where you were born and raised, family is important enough to most people that they would choose to stay and hope they can resist from within rather than flee and watch others suffer from afar.

          I hope that nobody's fooled into thinking that everyone living in Hong Kong was in a position to uproot their lives and those of everyone around them, and would do so when the negative effects were just a theory rather than a visible fact. Life doesn't work that way for a sadly large proportion of the world population.

          "Yet they went blithely along with Chinas demand for a face-saving exercise and completely failed to alert the Hong Kong citizenry that it was likely that whatever was written on that treaty was going to be subject to unilateral and sudden alterations"

          It's complicated. My recollection of 1997 is that a lot of people were warning of the negative effects of the actions, but also naiveté about the Chinese actually waiting until 2047 before they took explicit action to violate the spirit of the agreement.

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          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 1:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

            "Theoretically, they had warning that things would change 26 years from now. A lot of people also did chose to leave or do something about their situation before or just after 1997."

            I think my point is that they were told things would change 26 years from now while no one in the position to actually know believed that. I'm neither shocked nor surprised that the face-eating leopard ate the faces of people who'd been informed, by sources they had every expectation of being reliable, that "it's just a big softie, really. Push it off if it's a bother".
            I am fucking furious about those sources in question. The sino-british joint declaration is the ugly conclusion of a british exercise in face-saving meant to rid themselves of the final living memory of the 18th century drug wars.

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          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 1:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

            "Even if you're personally affluent enough to ditch the place where you were born and raised, family is important enough to most people that they would choose to stay and hope they can resist from within rather than flee and watch others suffer from afar."

            Well, if your first priority is the two bottom tiers of the Maslow scale of needs, then under China, life will be good - or at least not worse. For the bottom layer of the largely politically inactive lower class the question of whether they have free speech or not was answered in the negative a long time ago, even in Hong Kong.

            If you're in the middle class shit gets more tricky, because you've got a choice. Uproot yourself or live with the fact that the face-eating leopards now running your country will eat your face if you start looking tasty.

            "I hope that nobody's fooled into thinking that everyone living in Hong Kong was in a position to uproot their lives and those of everyone around them..."

            With the time from 1997 to plan the move and execute then yes; everyone with an education, any sort of actual affluence, and a politically active life more or less had the option to do just that. The people who would be unable to do that are also those for whom it doesn't matter much if the government clamps down on free speech, because that's not on their first, second or last priority.

            "...but also naiveté about the Chinese actually waiting until 2047 before they took explicit action to violate the spirit of the agreement."

            The only naívety was among the UK and Hong Kong citizens. It was pretty clear among the UK government and its representatives that the declaration would be violated on China's timetable only. A number of UK diplomats in Hong Kong were pretty clear and outspoken over it but were, needless to say, not held up as credible. It was in the interest of the UK to present the declaration as the best thing since sliced bread and so it was hyped until no one heard a single bad word about it.

            The UK's exhortations about the sino-british joint declaration in the 80's was the british version of the pro-Iraq-war propaganda later pushed by the US, only without quite as many internet sceptics trumpeting the actual facts from one side of the world to the other.

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            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 2:13am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

              "With the time from 1997 to plan the move and execute then yes; everyone with an education, any sort of actual affluence, and a politically active life more or less had the option to do just that"

              OK. What percentage of the HK population is that and why should the voices of those who didn't have the choice be ignored?

              "The only naívety was among the UK and Hong Kong citizens"

              With UK citizens, maybe. There were enough people fooled by the Brexit propaganda that I wouldn't be surprised if they were taken in by similar on the part of a colony they'd never visited. On the HK side, I'm not so sure. I only have vague ties there due to family having been stationed there and some of what I gathered was due to a general interest in HK cinema rather than actual experience there. But, my understanding is that it was an extremely important issue that a lot of the locals didn't buy.

              I'll happily defer to first hand accounts to the contrary, but I do believe that the HK population weren't so much hoodwinked as they were powerless to do anything.

              "The UK's exhortations about the sino-british joint declaration in the 80's was the british version of the pro-Iraq-war propaganda later pushed by the US"

              I grew up in Thatcher's reign and I can think of better parallels, but it is a shame that things couldn't be changed once saner heads prevailed.

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              • icon
                Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 7:17am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

                "OK. What percentage of the HK population is that and why should the voices of those who didn't have the choice be ignored?"

                Are you seriously interested in an answer or just being facetious?

                The well educated middle and upper classes certainly had the option to leave - the same way most western europeans or americans will find little issues emigrating to another nation in the G20.
                And since many of them did not their children are now the ones who were raised according to western ideals in a nation which, as a whole, do not believe in or accept those ideals and principles.

                Most of those who did not have the same choice will be facing the exact same situation under Chinese rule that they would under Hong Kong's previous government.
                That's less a question of "which politics are the best" and more an assertion that the poor have never had either a voice nor much of an inclination to make use of higher principles of individual liberty when they barely have food and shelter covered. Maslow's hierarchy of needs in action.

                "On the HK side, I'm not so sure. I only have vague ties there due to family having been stationed there and some of what I gathered was due to a general interest in HK cinema rather than actual experience there. But, my understanding is that it was an extremely important issue that a lot of the locals didn't buy. "

                Your understanding would be correct. A lot of locals didn't buy it and as you yourself noted, a lot of them left. The ones who didn't made a choice, then and there, to remain on board the train when the conductor hollered "Next Stop; Imperial China!".
                A choice I might note that their children are now paying for, because I doubt it's the senior citizens in HK in the streets today.

                Hong Kong was - in an all too appropriate fit for this saying, sold down the river. For anyone to whom freedom of speech and freedom of information is at all important, that city is now lost. That's the reality. China will have no qualms, as last resort, to simply round up every dissident and send them for a five year "reeducation" stint. While making a very public demonstration how well those who make no fuss and know how to kowtow to Beijing are treated.

                Protests and demonstrations are, in the end, exhortations to the body politic. How they are received depends entirely on whether those exhortations could move enough of the population to put pressure on the government, or awaken enough foreign interest for other nations to pressure the government.
                In the case of China neither is happening, because the vast majority of the chinese citizenry are happy with things the way they are, and the only foreign actors big enough to exert pressure have lost every semblance of moral authority and can't even bring themselves to complain about the Xinjiang concentration camps without sounding hypocritical.

                The moral principle has no chance of winning in HK. No matter what happens. Realpolitik will carry the day.
                And by now it's a bit late in the game to advise running for the hills or uproot and leave, for the vast majority of people in HK. Yet the options are grim; Bend your head, go to jail, or leave. That's what's on offer, in reality.

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                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 8:30am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

                  "The well educated middle and upper classes certainly had the option to leave"

                  Indeed. Why do you keep focussing on them when I've made it clear that's not who I'm talking about?

                  "Hong Kong was - in an all too appropriate fit for this saying, sold down the river"

                  Yes, which is why I care about the rights of the people who have either been unable to leave or have chosen to try and fight for their homes.

                  You might think they made the wrong decision, but that doesn't make their lives and opinions worthless.

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                  • icon
                    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 21 Jan 2021 @ 2:44am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

                    "Indeed. Why do you keep focussing on them when I've made it clear that's not who I'm talking about?"

                    Because the other people aren't, as a group, that politically invested? "Freedom" is an intangible is your primary goal for the day is to ensure you're fed and housed. Which extends to everyone busting their chops at a 9-5 just to meet the mortgage and send their kids to college.
                    Incidentally, for a vast majority of those chinese law will at least afford greater access to higher education which, to many of the lower and middle class, will be worth the tradeoff.

                    If you are talking about the people who have much less of a vested interest in whether the government is autocratic or democratic - or who on the balance stand to gain more than they lose - then I think you need to clarify why the people with less skin in the game are the ones you want to discuss.

                    "Yes, which is why I care about the rights of the people who have either been unable to leave or have chosen to try and fight for their homes."

                    And my perception is that those who did not have the option to leave aren't, by and large, those who are out in force protesting. Bluntly put the fight isn't about their homes; Under China there will be a tradeoff - greater focus on cheap homes, better availability of higher education, more focus on core infrastructure and access to health care. The winning concept which has let China remain China for millennia. Catering to the lower class and making sure the up and coming next generation of bureaucrats have the state to thank for everything.

                    The loss is about individual freedoms; mainly in the form of self-censorship and a more or less total loss of personal privacy and integrity.

                    The tradeoff may be worth it for almost every HK resident who realistically had none of the above to start with (and the protests are featuring very few of those, the primary force and driver being, as always, angry university students)...but less so for the middle class and up who already had their primary needs covered and are upset that the freedoms they were free to pursue are now disappearing.

                    What is truly tragic here is that the people currently protesting had their parents make the decision of staying behind for them.

                    "You might think they made the wrong decision, but that doesn't make their lives and opinions worthless."

                    That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that picking a fight you can not win only means that when the time comes when that fight might be winnable, there will be none left to fight.
                    Until that time comes the options on the table is to leave, bend their head, or be quietly disappeared. This isn't ideal. It's actually pretty damn horrifying. But like we keep telling the alt-right, we live in the world which exists, not the one we'd want. We don't get to change it by swinging our fist and screaming, no matter how carthartic that is.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Tanner Andrews (profile), 26 Jan 2021 @ 11:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

          they cheered and raised it to the skies as some Big Win for the people of HK who instead of running for the hills or planning emigration, were left in the tacit belief they'd get to keep their democracy

          Sort of an odd view, really, since HK only just got to have elections shortly before the hand-over. Prior to that, it was run by remote control from England. Go back an hundred years prior to that, and I suppose such control as was to be found would have come from Peking.

          HK had no real tradition of democracy. What they had was a tradition of less inhibited trade founded on a legacy of opium commerce.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2021 @ 5:37pm

      Re: Hong Kong is China

      Fine. Let's release all the lands which were forcibly incorporated into China for the last... 200 years? 2000 years? They've done their own colonialism as well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 12:16am

      Re: Hong Kong is China

      "Nobody here has any moral authority to critique China doing whatever they want with their own territory, unless it's a general critique of China AS A WHOLE."

      I think that's what it is. The only reason people are focusing on Hong Kong in particular would be because the information blackout in Hong Kong is not yet at the mainland level.

      However, the fact that 18th century Great Britain was a nation of plundering imperialist drug lords forcing themselves into leaseholds on other people's property at gunpoint (and had the gall to call that laudable because White Man's Burden) is one thing...
      ...that China's government is acting like an utter douche is another. That the UK of the past and contemporary US is similarly bereft of moral ground in no way exculpates China.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 12:40am

        Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

        "The only reason people are focusing on Hong Kong in particular would be because the information blackout in Hong Kong is not yet at the mainland level."

        Well, also because the people of Hong Kong built a massive cultural and financial centre during the time that it was under British rule, and the general distaste they have for the Chinese system makes them concerned about the future of the people there.

        "That the UK of the past and contemporary US is similarly bereft of moral ground in no way exculpates China."

        I've seen some similar arguments about Gibraltar. That the British immorally seized the colony and that they should just hand it back to the Spanish and they have no right to complain, and so on. The thing that always seems to get missed is that during the time where the land was disputed, generations - entire cultures - have grown up in the other situation. What's notable is that in both places, the actual people who live there have at the time of being asked where they would rather stay, they generally indicated (overwhelmingly in the case of Gibraltar) they chose the UK.

        That's not to say that the UK is superior in any natural way, and god knows the UK has many problems of its own creation recently, but I think it is very interesting that the political machinations in these cases are happening against the express wishes of the people who actually live on the disputed land.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 7:35am

          Re: Re: Re: Hong Kong is China

          "What's notable is that in both places, the actual people who live there have at the time of being asked where they would rather stay, they generally indicated (overwhelmingly in the case of Gibraltar) they chose the UK."

          This is an old, old topic hashed out many times. The palestinian mandate. The native american tribes. Former yugoslavia. Sudetenland. Hell, we can go back to ancient rome and dig up multiple accounts set down by Plutarch or Cicero about similar conflicts about who owns the land "stolen" at some point in times long past.

          The only real difference I see here is that Hong Kong was leased - at gunpoint, admittedly, but leased - from China and so never in actuality belonged to the UK in the first place.
          It's an utterly ridiculous scale-up of the well known story of the landlord evicting a long-term tenant on short notice with the added twist that there's no court able to make a ruling on any aspects of that eviction.

          "I think it is very interesting that the political machinations in these cases are happening against the express wishes of the people who actually live on the disputed land."

          To portmanteau good old Otto von Bismarck and Yes, Prime minister; interesting, in the same way as it is to observe the making of emulsified, high-fat offal tubes. A process guaranteed to put you off your lunch.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan, 19 Jan 2021 @ 1:16pm

    UK and Hong Kong

    https://news.yahoo.com/hong-kong-migrants-fleeing-start-001552616.html

    That's rich that after conquering and ruling the Island for 100 years they're now allowing people to come live in the UK after they ruined it with Brexit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2021 @ 2:18pm

      Re: UK and Hong Kong

      they're now allowing people to come live in the UK after they ruined it with Brexit.

      I'll admit that Brexit is something of an "own goal", but hardly a "nation ruining event".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Jordan, 19 Jan 2021 @ 2:50pm

        Re: Re: UK and Hong Kong

        Perhaps Hyperbole on my part but they ignore ~50% of their owns populations wishes while now focusing on saving people not from their own population?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 19 Jan 2021 @ 8:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: UK and Hong Kong

          "they ignore ~50% of their owns populations wishes"

          That's an interesting criticism coming from someone who seems to have been saying that 100% the people of Hong Kong should have no say over what China does to them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 1:45am

          Re: Re: Re: UK and Hong Kong

          "Perhaps Hyperbole on my part but they ignore ~50% of their owns populations wishes while now focusing on saving people not from their own population?"

          You mean the people who had grown up as part of the British commonwealth until the UK sold them to China while lying to those people about how China would be treating them?

          Sounds less hyperbolic and more like an assertion that the UK really shouldn't open their doors to british people fleeing invaders because those british people happen to be coming from Asia.

          The 18th century drug wars and the colonialism leading to the british commonwealth may be an embarrassing moment of UK history but it's still something the british will have to own.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 19 Jan 2021 @ 8:57pm

        Re: Re: UK and Hong Kong

        "hardly a "nation ruining event""

        Depends on what you mean by "ruining". Long term we should be fine as a lot of the gullible people who voted for it have died off since, and the people who were too young to have a voice are seeing first hand what they're losing, or have already lost, as a result. A couple of generations down the line I think we can recover.

        But, in the short to medium term, the UK have already lost more money than decades of EU membership would have cost, there's fundamental changes to many industries that are leaving them in a far weaker position than they used to enjoy, and the pain is just starting.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 1:49am

          Re: Re: Re: UK and Hong Kong

          "But, in the short to medium term, the UK have already lost more money than decades of EU membership would have cost, there's fundamental changes to many industries that are leaving them in a far weaker position than they used to enjoy, and the pain is just starting."

          And yet I have this nagging suspicion that twenty years down the road a lot more member states may be asking themselves "Why oh why didn't we get out along with the UK?".

          So far the EU has delivered very little in the form of actually good things. And most of those well before Maastricht.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 2:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: UK and Hong Kong

            "And yet I have this nagging suspicion that twenty years down the road a lot more member states may be asking themselves "Why oh why didn't we get out along with the UK?"."

            I doubt that. The problem is that the UK had been granted many concessions and special privileges, it's just that a certain part of the population had been convinced they didn't exist.

            "So far the EU has delivered very little in the form of actually good things"

            I very much disagree with that, not least because a huge amount of my current life either would not have existed without it, or would have been far more difficult. The problem has always been bureaucracy and an eagerness to expand that let some members in before they could really benefit the union, but there have most certainly been benefits, and I despair at the fact that the next generation of my family won't access them.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 20 Jan 2021 @ 7:45am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: UK and Hong Kong

              "I very much disagree with that, not least because a huge amount of my current life either would not have existed without it, or would have been far more difficult."

              Probably not, really. Up until the Maastricht treaty the EU was doing all right. The four freedoms, international cooperation, a joint court of arbitration.

              But when a joint currency had to be launched, at any cost, things started turning murky in hurry and the EU was left with only incredibly shitty options on the table. Of which they picked the one guaranteeing hyperinflation and collapses in the economy down the road by effectively floating toxic debts by printing money. Because what worked so damn well for Germany in 1930 probably works even better now...
              It's just that the economy is far more complex now so we won't see the fallout for decades. It's like the US banking mortgage bubble which burst in 2009, magnified by a few orders of magnitude.

              It doesn't help that the EU is pushing for every control freak option in the box, at a rate which makes Bill Barr look like a bleeding-heart liberal.

              We'll see, but if this attempt to unify europe turns out much different than any of the other many, many attempts through history then I'll be very pleasantly surprised.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2021 @ 3:37pm

    I think anyone in a free country can offer support to people in China or Hong Kong who wish to fight for press freedom and human rights and the freedom to acess the open Internet is vital and its under threat
    In Hong Kong.
    The Chinese have decided to clamp down
    On protestors and the next step is to extend
    the Chinese control of the Web to Hong Kong.
    It will be open to the new US government to protest this attack on democracy.
    Or else Hong Kong will simply be another part of China
    The reason why so many western business and banks
    had offices in Hong Kong was because of its
    respect for the independent rule of law and it was a
    commercial gateway for trade between East and west

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TheForumTroll (profile), 19 Jan 2021 @ 6:50pm

      Re:

      It will be open to the new US government to protest this attack on democracy.

      What democracy is under attack? The US's? Because Hong Kong isn't and wasn't a democracy so you can't protest attacks on "its democracy". It is "a devolved executive-led system within a socialist republic". So while you can protest what is happening please don't pretend that PRC is clamping down on a democracy. It is their own territory and they have the exact same amount of right to do what they do as the US has to do what it does against its protesters.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 19 Jan 2021 @ 9:03pm

        Re: Re:

        "Because Hong Kong isn't and wasn't a democracy"

        It was moving toward a full democracy until the 1997 handover, and despite the promises that things would be largely unchanged until 2047 under the original treaty, China have clearly reneged on many of its promises.

        "It is their own territory and they have the exact same amount of right to do what they do as the US has to do what it does against its protesters"

        They deserve the same level of criticism they get for that as well.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2021 @ 2:14am

    What now happens to the preferential trade arrangement(s) that China enjoyed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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