At dinner last night, a friend said: "I still can't believe that Apple Daily's gone". But not only was it really gone but its demise was already yesterday's news -- with the talk of the town being more about the government reshuffles that saw security secretary John Lee replacing Matthew Cheung as chief secretary, police chief Chris "P.K." Tang replace Lee as security secretary and Deputy Police Commissioner Raymond Siu taking over from Tang as Police Comissioner, with Chinese state government media announcing these moves ahead of official announcements out of Hong Kong itself.
John Lee, who had a hand in trying to pass the 2019 extradition bill, is the first chief secretary (i.e., the Hong Kong government's number two official) in Hong Kong history with an armed background. (The last colonial secretary -- the equivalent colonial position -- to have a similar background was Francis Henry May, who went on to serve as Governor of Hong Kong from 1912 to 1918.)
His appointment expectedly raises the spectre of Hong Kong having become a police state -- a state of affairs that many people find appalling. Not the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions' Alice Mak, however, who's on the record as stating the following in the wake of the announced appointments: "If it’s a police state, why not? I don’t think there’s any problem with a police state"!
Here's something else to chew on: "Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University's Department of Government and Public Administration, said he thinks it will become a trend for disciplinary services officers to take up cabinet-level positions, rather than administrative officers (AOs)". I guess this is to be expected considering how disastrous the most recent former AO (i.e., present Chief Executive Carrie Lam) has been. Even so, this the security emphasis surely is not a good "look" for Hong Kong to have; as is the fact that both the newly promoted John Lee and Chris Tang are on the US government's sanctions list (along with Carrie Lam).
In a further sign of Hong Kong having become a police state, a Taiwanese documentary film has been pulled from an LGBT film festival after the Hong Kong authorities refused to approve the film in its entirety, screening venue Broadway Cinematheque announced. And should it not have been clear: we now have proof that foreign films, not just local cinematic works, are now subject to censorship in ways that weren't the case prior to the amendment of the Film Censorship Ordinance earlier this month.
For yet another chilling story, check out this report from earlier in the week of an American lawyer found guilty of assaulting a plainclothes police officer after in a confrontation between the officer and members of the public who the lawyer had had adjudged that the officer was employing excessive force on.
The Washington Post's account of this (which is behind a paywall) has more disturbing details. But Hong Kong bureau chief Shibani Mahtani Tweeted some highlights (or should it be low points?) including the following: "When [the American lawyer in question] was arrested, he was held in a cold room with the temperature set below 5 degrees and denied the right to contact his lawyers or the US consulate"; and "The key prosecution witness testifying for the off duty officer was given a "good citizen award" -- with a cash prize -- a week after evidence was submitted. Most crucially, the off duty officer was asked in several languages if he was police, and said no."
Mahtani also Tweeted the following earlier this week: "Checking in for a flight to London (first time leaving the city in 17 months) and the line is full with HK families, many with young kids, and piles and piles of luggage. Something tells me very few of them are returning or going on holiday"; and "Check in lady says it’s like this every day, “everyone wants to leave Hong Kong,” she offered up unprompted".
I know there are many people loath to leave this place, especially if it has been the only home they've ever known. But I personally know three people who are scheduled to leave Hong Kong for good in the next three weeks as well as know a larger number who have told already told me they will probably leave by this year's end -- and pretty much all of them have security law-prompted police state fears as their primary reason for doing so.