Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Chilly and chilling musings on a wintry evening in Hong Kong

I think I know how this little bird buffeted by the wind feels...
On cold winter days, misery loves company!
That year saw the Hong Kong Free Press put up a piece entitled "Why does Hong Kong feel colder than it actually is?"  This week, it had sadder cold weather coverage: reporting that Hong Kong recorded at least 11 deaths this past weekend where the cold weather is suspected to have played a factor.  And while none of the deceased have been specifically identified as homeless individuals, I can't help but wonder if they were; this not least since Hong Kong is experiencing a growth in its street sleeper population, who suffer so much when the temperatures hit extremes; due in part to establishments like branches of McDonald's -- which usually are open 24 -- hours shutting their doors, in line with anti-Wuhan coronavirus restrictions currently in effect
Another group of individuals I think and worry about at this time are those currently in prison, particularly those who are new to the experience (like Agnes Chow).  I hope that the men and women of Hong Kong's correctional services will act professionally, even humanely, towards the prison inmates they have been charged with looking after at this trying time.  At the very least, I hope they are aware of how terrible it would look, and be, if a political prisoner -- particularly one who's behind bars even while not found guilty of a crime (like, say, security law arrestees Jimmy Lai, Tam Tak-chi or Tong Ying-kit) -- ends up getting ill or worse, due to a combination of the cold weather and maltreatment (or, for that matter, the Wuhan coronavirus and maltreatment).
Also in my thoughts these past few days have been a number of Hong Kong judges and magistrates.  More specifically: I've been moved to wonder again about not just the genuine impartiality of certain members of the local judiciary but their actual intelligence and sanity after learning about a number of rather strange decisions and comments on their part. 
Take, as an example, Jacky Ip, the magistrate who today sentenced a university student to six months in prison for resisting arrest during an anti-government protest in Tsim Sha Tsui on Christmas Eve, 2019; this despite there apparently being no other charges made against the convicted individual.  Put another way: there appeared to be no real reason for the police to arrest him.  Also, how many people would willingly submit to being manhandled, even assaulted, the way we have seen the Hong Kong police deal with pro-democracy protestors?     

On the very first day of his assuming office as chief justice of Hong Kong (in the wake of Geoffrey Ma stepping down after 10 years on the job last Friday), Andrew Cheung found himself having to clarify that people attending court should be entitled to choose what they wear and arguing that "Hong Kong is a free society".  While I'm happy to see that former statement from him, I wonder aboutt the accuracy of the latter claim: this particularly after reading a Reuters report today that China plans further arrests of Hong Kong pro-democracy figures to stifle any return of a populist challenge to the current regime in Hong Kong (and, by extension, Beijing).    
Also chilling is a Washington Post report that in addition to last week's mass round up of pro-democracy activists being intended to intimidate those who value freedom and want democracy for Hong Kong, other aims of those arrests included the seizure of the passports of those perceived to be protest leaders and the collection of their communication devices -- the last of which the Hong Kong police have started sending to the Mainland China for data extraction.  
And lest it not be clear: hacking into these people's phones to try to lure folks into traps is just the tip of the iceberg of what they are seeking to do.  At the same time though, I wonder when the authorities can and will ever rest since it really may well be nigh impossible to find the leaders of a famously leaderless revolution?!

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