Apropos of nothing: do you know that 24 sounds like
This has been a month of anniversaries -- many of them sad. June 4th, 6/9 (not entirely sad but still causing sadness when one thinks of what might have been), 6/12, 6/16 (2 million people peacefully protesting in the streets... to what avail?)... and now June 30th: one year to the day that China's national security law for Hong Kong was passed up in Beijing without any member of the Hong Kong government (including Chief Executive Carrie Lam), let alone members of the public, having actually seen actual drafts of it.
The following are the opening lines of an article in The Guardian today: "One year after Beijing imposed a national security law (NSL) on Hong Kong, the city has been drastically and fundamentally changed. Political opposition has been largely crushed, pro-democracy newspapers have been forced to close or self-censor, political and advocacy groups have disbanded. Thousands of residents have fled overseas.
"At least 128 people have been arrested under the NSL or by its dedicated police department, including three minors, dozens of politicians, and journalists... But with the first case [involving an arrest made back on July 1st, 2020] reaching trial just last week, the law – which broadly outlaws acts of secession, subversion, foreign collusion and terrorism – remains untested. Analysts say the rushed arrests and slow prosecutions are a deliberate strategy designed to stoke fear, and that interventions in due process risk the right to a fair trial" (my emphasis).
(It's worth noting that the writer of this article on Hong Kong is based out of Taipei rather than Hong Kong itself. And that if she were based in Hong Kong, The Guardian's policy in recent months would have involved her not being named, presumably to protect her from potential prosecution.)
As unlikely as it may seem though, I sometimes still do wonder whether the authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing fear the people of Hong Kong more than they have succeeded in making the people of Hong Kong fear them. For even while there's no disputing that Hong Kong has fallen deep into an abyss in the past year, many of the actions of the people in power seem to show fear and paranoia on their part as much as -- or more so than -- a mere willingness to push their weight around and oppress.
Look at the suppression of Apple Daily, as an example. Yes, the pro-democracy newspaper has been shut down and its parent company is set to fold tomorrow -- a day of great significance and celebration for a certain dominant political party of the most populous nation in the world (and not just because it got the United Kingdom to hand over Hong Kong to it on July 1st, 1997). But, as Taiwanese journalist William Yang has quoted a former Apple Daily translator as stating: "the death of Apple Daily is proof of how much the [Communist Chinese] regime fears words".
Look too at the Hong Kong police refusing to grant a letter of no objection to a planned pro-democracy march tomorrow and its stated plan to station some 10,000 police officers across the territory to make sure nothing will happen to embarass it and its masters -- as had been the case back on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1st, 2019. And if it's not already overkill to deploy one third of Hong Kong's entire police force on the day, the police have also announced that they may close off Victoria Park -- the traditional starting point for July 1st marches but also the public venue where many Indonesian domestic workers hang out with their friends on public holidays -- tomorrow.
Until this past June 4th, Victoria Park had never been locked down before. In fact, in normal times, Hong Kong Island's largest urban park is not only open daily but 24 hours of each day. And while we're on the subject of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, today saw the re-arrest of Chow Hang-tung, the head of the group behind the June 4th candlelight vigil, for allegedly publicising and calling on people to join a banned rally tomorrow -- though the police spokesperson also seemed reluctant (or was it unable?) to provide evidence of her actually having done so.
The day after the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananman Square Massacre this year, political commentator Stephen Vines had a piece published about what an empty Victoria Park the evening before said about Hong Kongers' feelings for China that contained the following damning assessment: "Instead of boosting love of the nation by acknowledging that it can be manifest in various forms, the Party and its apologists seem intent on making patriotism as unattractive as possible. They are squandering goodwill and forcing people to reconsider their relationship with the nation as a whole."
Today, we learn in the same online publication (the Hong Kong Free Press) why Stephen Vines has announced he will leave public broadcaster RTHK’s Wednesday morning radio programme Backchat. In a nutshell: a reminder was served that Apple Daily was by no means the only local news source that has been coming under attack by those who want media outlets to toe their line.
Speaking of RTHK: I know a number of people have already given up on it but I honestly respect the efforts of many of its staffers to keep on reporting in a professional manner even now. Look, as examples, at: its article yesterday on former RTHK radio presenter Allan Au accusing those now in control of the public broadcaster of purging critical voices; its report today entitled "Doctors will stay silent to avoid trouble"; and its piece on pro-democracy open source group G0v.hk having disbanded as a result of the "recent atmosphere", restrictions in freedom of expression and access to information.
Now tell me: would such articles appear in the current incarnation of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) -- and even if such subjects were reported on, would they be reported in as an objective a manner? For my part, here's turning once again to Stephen Vines, who wrote a piece published in Hong Kong Free Press back on November 13th, 2018 (my emphasis) entitled "Why I will no longer write for the South China Morning Post" which contained the following statement: "The SCMP, under its relatively new owner, China’s richest man Jack Ma, has decided to lend itself more than willingly to the propaganda efforts of the Chinese state as Beijing seeks a greater role in global affairs."
In recent days, the South China Morning Post has attracted quite a bit of derison for certain of its editorials (see examples here and here). Amazingly, though, it apparently is still looked upon as on the yellow side by "blue ribbons" (i.e., pro-Beijingers)! Getting back to the subject of who is the most fearful in contemporary Hong Kong: I wonder if it's those who decided to back those with the guns, only to now worry that the day may come -- and maybe sooner rather than later -- that the guns will get turned on them too.