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By Yaxue Cao, April 17, 2016
This story has been updated.
On Thursday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced the new managing director of Twitter for the Greater China region. By Saturday the news had excited a fierce reaction among Twitter users in China.
It’s well known that Twitter, YouTube, Google and other major social media networks are banned in mainland China. While there aren’t many users of Twitter in the mainland (one estimate has it that there are roughly 10,000 active users), those who do use it are among the most ardent believers in internet freedom, and have a special love for Twitter. A large number are IT experts who migrated from Fanfou (a Chinese social media site) in 2009 and became almost religious users of Twitter; another large group are political dissidents. The former group can’t stand being stifled by the Great Firewall’s internet strictures, while the latter uses Twitter as a space where they can communicate to one another freely even as China continues to ratchet up internet controls. Twitter has thus become an enclave for a group of mainland Chinese users and a sanctuary of freedom of speech online. Over the last couple of years, Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency have also opened Twitter accounts, spreading Party propaganda to the world, apparently with no sense of shame that China’s government prevents its own citizens from using those social networks. And it should surprise no one that on Twitter they’re often the butt of jokes.
It’s only natural that Chinese Twitter users were highly curious about Twitter’s new managing director for Greater China—and they were repelled instantly. According to Baike, China’s equivalent of Wikipedia controlled by Baidu, Kathy Chen (陈葵) graduated with a degree in computer science from Beijing Jiaotong University in 1987. She immediately joined the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery—China’s strategic missile force—and became an engineer in its No. 1 Research Academy. There, according to another article, she worked “as a programmer on the top-secret missile protocol design.” After seven years in the Second Artillery, she returned to civilian life and in August of 1994 became head of sales at Digital Equipment Corporation in China. DEC is a Massachusetts-based specialty computer company founded in 1957, and one of the earliest of America’s computer firms. From June 1995 to May 1997 she was Compaq’s chief sales representative in Beijing, and from May 1997 to December 1999 was the China regional sales manager for 3Com.
For the next four years, until 2004, Chen was the CEO of a newly-founded software company called CA-Jinchen, which primarily supplies anti-virus software. The firm is a joint venture between Computer Associates International (now known as CA Technologies) and China’s Ministry of Public Security, the first US-China software joint venture. Leveraging the resources of China’s public security apparatus, CA-Jinchen’s products are used in finance, government, the military, enterprises, telecommunications, education, the energy sector, and many key network systems. Reviewing CA-Jinchen’s 10-year history in 2008, Chen’s successor said: “China Jinchen Security Technology Co., Ltd. joined with the second-largest global software firm Computer Associations in a strategic partnership, promoting anti-virus technology globally and bringing ‘Preemptible Kernel’ technology into China.” She also remarked that: “Public security, the military, and the government are the troika behind Jinchen.” In 2010, CA’s 80% holding in CA-Jinchen was bought out by two Chinese investment firms (the transaction might not be as willing on the part of CA as the Chinese media portrayed it to be), and Jinchen became a corporation solely-owned by China. “Research and development is focused on preventing information leaks, designing anti-spy and code-breaking software. The user base will remain the traditional market: large domestic enterprises, government, public security, and will include a renewed focus on our roots in the military-industrial sector.”
Are there any problems here? To begin with, Chen is without a doubt a Chinese Communist Party member, based on a common sense understanding of China. She has been through the most strict and exacting process of political examination, and has been found by the Party to be reliable—all this is certain. My sense is that Kathy Chen’s rapid shift from extremely secret and politically sensitive missile protocol design work, straight to an American software company, is very unusual: in China, even a regular member of the armed forces dealing with secret information isn’t allowed to make overseas visits as they wish, either while in the army or soon after leaving (I have some anecdotal evidence here and here). They may apply, but I understand that it’s difficult to gain approval. I think it’s a fair assertion that Kathy Chen’s transition from a programmer of top-secret missile protocol to DEC sales could only have happened with the approval of a Chinese government agency. And then there are the four years with CA-Jinchen, which raises questions about the depth of Chen’s involvement in China’s public security sector.
When she was the CEO of CA-Jinchen, Chen once used the term “3S” to describe the scope of the company’s work: “Security Solution” provides the user with a complete security program, including anti-virus, firewall, intrusion detection, defense, and weakness detection mechanisms, among others, for the host machine, internet traffic, and the internet peripheries; “Security Application” provides on-demand security programs for government, telecommunications, finance, energy, and enterprise firms; and “Security Service” enquires as to the needs of the client and provides a complete, customized security service, from spec to roll-out, as well as ongoing consultation.
The main products of CA-Jinchen included anti-virus, firewall, invasion test, email filtering, mainframe protection, and etc. Describing a product called “The First Fortress Under the Heaven (天下第一关) in a 2004 interview, she said it could kill virus, block spam, and “filter Falun Gong content, politically sensitive information, or other harmful information.” CA-Jinchen also provided products for university campus surveillance on online browsing activities and other “illegal information and emails (such as Falun Gong).”
In the same interview, she also acknowledged that CA-Jinchen was the host of China’s national computer virus collecting and sampling center under the aegis of the Ministry of Public Security.
In May, 2004, Chen Kui was awarded the China Information Security Special Contribution Award (中国信息安全保障突出贡献奖) by a consortium of state agencies overseeing China’s internet security.
Following CA-Jinchen, Chen served in a high-level capacity at Microsoft, Cisco and then Microsoft again. As Cisco’s general manager of the Eastern Region, her job “included market development, and building and developing relationship with government agencies, research and educational institutions, and enterprises. In particular, [she] dedicated to maintain good relationship with government departments and their direct affiliations, engaging in broad strategic cooperation on macro level.” Cisco has long been criticized for selling advanced internet surveillance and control software to China, having allegedly helped the Party build its Firewall and Golden Shield to target dissidents, according to two legal complaints (both dismissed, one still under appeal).
During the two years at Microsoft before she takes up the Twitter position, she was responsible, among other things, “for key initiatives for Microsoft Azure in China,” according to her LinkedIn page.
Tech media outside China reported the appointment briefly and matter-of-factly. Twitter said in a statement, “As a global platform, we are already engaged with advertisers, content providers and influencers across greater China to help them reach audiences around the world. Going forward, we will look to Kathy’s leadership to help us identify ways in which Twitter’s platform and technology assets can be utilized to create further value for enterprises, creators, influencers, partners and developers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.”
The appointment of Kathy Chen was also widely reported in mainland China, even though Twitter is banned. Netease Tech reported that it learned from Twitter insiders that Kathy Chen has “three clear goals” as the Managing Director of Greater China: “the first is to tell the China story, introducing to the world the best of Chinese culture, tradition, history and tourism and making China better known to the world utilizing the Twitter platform; the second is to help large and medium-sized Chinese companies tell the story of their brands, building their names and marketing overseas; the third is to communicate and exchange in the areas of technology and advertisement with rapidly growing Chinese internet companies and mobile internet companies.”
All this may sound innocuous to untrained ears, but it’s alarming to mainland Chinese Twitter users and seasoned China watchers: In February, Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping warned mouthpiece media CCTV and Xinhua that they must do a good job of “telling the China story.” CCTV responded with the notorious slogan: “The Party’s media bears the surname of the Party!” Getting Chinese companies to advertise on Twitter is obviously a revenue stream, but what does it mean to “communicate and exchange with Chinese internet companies and mobile internet companies in technology and advertisements?” It sounds unnerving to Chinese Twitter users.
While direct Twitter censorship is unlikely, the Chinese Twitter users are concerned that the hiring of Chen Kui could be the beginning of Twitter’s cooperation (it does not have to be overt) with the Public Security apparatus and mobile companies in China that will make use of Twitter more difficult for independent users, but at the same time, open up Twitter to government-owned accounts, to government-hired propaganda workers known as fifty-centers, and dubious sales accounts, thus changing – or trashing – the Chinese language environment on Twitter. After all such change has occurred already on domestic microblogs over the last couple of years.
The Chinese govt has long been weary of Twitter as a fertile ground for anti-CCP sentiments and a place where dissidents gather. The Chinese government’s fear of a color revolution and Twitter’s role in recent social changes in other countries are well known.
Until the day of her appointment, the new Managing Director of the Greater China region was not a Twitter user. In a video clip, she greeted Twitter users with the equally new @TwitterGCN account. It’s clear that she has little understanding of the Twitter ecology. Of her total 15 tweets, the 6th encouraged @CCTVNews and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to “work together to tell the great China story to the world!” The 10th thanked @XHNews with: “look forward to closer partnership in the future!”
My friend @Yaqiu was appalled. “Twitter working with CCTV to tell the story of China? I can’t believe she said this. I’ve taken a screen grab.”
Another user pointed out, “Greater China = PRC, HK, Taiwan – people in TW/HK are NOT interested in CCP’s ‘great story’.” Indeed, China story means different things to different audiences.
Chinese tweeps—though not just Chinese tweeps—sneered out of disappointment and concern. I share their disgust, but I’m also deeply saddened, because just recently these same tweeps sang the tenderest tribute to Twitter on its 10th birthday. I had been encountering these tweeps everyday on Twitter, but hadn’t until that point known that they were so smart, witty, genuine and free.
One tweep was brutal. “Twitter has between 300 and 400 million users around the world. Nobody cares about the 10,0000 or 20,000 mainland Chinese users—do whatever you want to do and go wherever you want to go.” But it turns out he was deeply troubled as well.
Yaxue Cao is the editor of this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao.
A Month or so in the House of Twitter, by Yaxue Cao, January 23, 2012.
By Alex Chow and YANG Jianli, published: August 31, 2015
Today marks the first anniversary of the August 31 decision of China’s National People’s Congress prohibiting popular selection of candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive by the people in Hong Kong. This so-called “Beijing 8.19 Hong Kong political reform” package, violated China’s prior written agreements promising full universal suffrage, when it acquired sovereignty over Hong Kong from Great Britain. This betrayal so outraged the people of Hong Kong that it triggered the 79 day “Umbrella Protest Movement,” or “Occupy Central Movement.”
Thanks to the momentum generated by the Movement, on June 18th of this year, the Pan-Democrats coalition there successfully blocked the pseudo-democratic package offered by Beijing’s puppets in the Hong Kong Legislative Council by a landslide vote of 28:8. This dramatic incident was portrayed by some as the beginning of foreseeable political deadlock for Hong Kong, and the end of democratization, leaving nobody as a winner. On the contrary, we deem it a great victory of the people of Hong Kong. Certainly, things would not have been better if the package had been passed. It would have made no real progress towards Hong Kong citizens’ electing their own leaders, and would only have encouraged Beijing to further encroach on their freedoms. It also would have strengthened dominance of vested interests in Hong Kong, namely the tycoons, and further accelerate the invasion of “Red” capital from mainland China.
The issue of universal suffrage in Hong Kong is as much about the dignity of the people of Hong Kong as it is a political or legal issue. Beijing’s promise of autonomy has been just empty talk. The Hong Kong people’s basic living space is increasingly squeezed by the political and economic interventions and influx from the mainlanders, who have a “different lifestyle.” Over the years, and especially last year, Hong Kong people have expressed their demands through, among other ways, free referendums and the Umbrella Movement. However, the “central government” in Beijing has arrogantly dismissed their demands and denied their dignity. The June 18th veto again reflected the Hong Kong people fighting for that dignity. It manifested both their bottom line demand for their dignity and their determination to preserve it. That ultimately is more significant than any direct political result.
The June 18 rejection of the so-called “reform package” is a great loss of face for the Chinese Communist rulers. Such loss of face is what we call the great devaluation of the authoritarian power. We should not dismiss it lightly. This is kind of loss is what the they most fear and are most uneasy about. It would not be an overstatement to label this veto as a historic setback of the CCP’s rulers.
For now, the city might have returned to normal. Traffic is flowing again, business as usual. However, if the government thought that all it took to return everything to normal was a clearing of the streets, history will prove them wrong. But we are no longer satisfied with just a march. The changed situation in Hong Kong is now requiring more creative, flexible, and deeper approaches. We once again remind readers of four important facts concerning the Umbrella Movement and its future. First. the movement, although relatively youthful, is all inclusive, participated in by people from all ages and walks of life and not only students from local campuses. Thus it has great potential to expand. We need to make efforts to reach out to regional civil societies and bring people together by building a consensus, through a deep-rooted democracy movement, about what is fundamentally needed to make Hong Kong a better city for its inhabitants regardless of social strata. A number of new civic and professional organizations have sprung up since the Umbrella Movement, focusing on civic education and community development. They even have the potential to get the established Hong Kong interests to realize that democratic reform is necessary and does not need to threaten their vital interests. There will be reelections of district and city legislative councils. The June 18 Legislative Council’s veto of Beijing’s imposed fake “political reform” proposal shows that the power for real political reform will ultimately be in the hands of the voters. So helping democracy-minded candidates with their campaigns will pose other important battles.
Second. Many observers of the Umbrella Movement have attributed the movement to widespread discontent among young people over a lack of upward mobility. What had gong wrong, they said, was not the political system, but the economy. They are wrong. Rising housing prices and a growing wealth gap have indeed exacerbated discontent among many Hong Kongers. But a survey conducted during the movement last October revealed that 96 % of respondents ranked fighting for “genuine universal suffrage” as their number one motivation. In other words, the priority of the movement is for democracy. “If there is no genuine democracy, the government will basically ignore us,” said one respondent. “Consultation is just a waste of time. There is no way ordinary citizens can influence the government.” To achieve democracy in Hong Kong, in addition to social movements or local and city legislative elections, people need to rethink what fulfilling the Basic Law should include; How it can reflect their will; and how they should engage in policy making to protect their civil rights. What should be the true nature of Hong Kong as a city with genuine autonomy and self-determination. Otherwise, the praised concept of “One Country Two System” is dead.The way to save Hong Kong is not simply about changing the electoral system but also the mentality of people about the role of their city and their identity.
Third. Like it or not, the democratization in Hong Kong and that in mainland China are mutually supportive. Despite Beijing’s desperate efforts to curtail it, the valiant pursuit of civil liberty and democratic values in Hong Kong is well known by Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians, peaceful dissidents and human rights defenders in China, as well as in Taiwan and Macau. It encourages them and gives them hope. At the same time, Hong Kong draws inspiration from the courageous determination and resilience of their brothers and sisters on the mainland. Each of these crusades must unreservedly support, encourage and assist the other. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King: “Injustice and repression anywhere in China, is injustice everywhere in China.”
Fourth. We note the role of the international community, especially the United States, Great Britain, and the U.N. Great Britain turned the citizens of Hong Kong over to the “tender mercies” of the dictators in Beijing on the explicit conditions of the “One Country Two Systems” principles laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and the “Basic Law,” Hong Kong’s constitution. It’s silence now in the face of China’s reneging on those solemn commitments and guarantees of autonomy and justice dishonors the country that gave birth to the Common Law and the Magna Carta. Since China sits on the U.N. Human Rights Council, China’s repression of Hong Kong citizens, like its repression of mainland Chinese, is a gross embarrassment that U.N. leaders should publicly address. The Obama Administration’s officials first said the struggle in Hong Kong was an internal matter that they simply hoped could be peacefully settled. But a worldwide outcry over China’s heavy-handed repression, and a huge public petition to the White House, caused the Administration to at least mildly take sides with Hong Kong’s thirst for democracy. The White House claims that President Obama will strongly raise human rights issues with President Xi at their impending Washington summit. Obama should add this latest outrage to the long list of glaring human rights abuses — detailed in the State Department’s own report on those practices — that he must raised with Xi, if America’s claimed fidelity to human rights is to retain credibility. He can ask Xi whether Xi’s latest effort at a “show trial” that would make Putin proud is really Xi’s idea of his “rule of law” reform.
Alex Chow (周永康), former Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Student, Major Student Leader of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, being indicted by the HONG Kong government for his role in the movement.
YANG Jianli (楊建利), president of Initiatives for China, Tiananmen Veteran, and Former Political Prisoner.
By China Change, published: April 24, 2015
Xiong Yan (熊焱) was a law student in 1989 and a leader in the student democracy movement that ended tragically when the Chinese government cracked it down with machine guns and tanks. Xiong Yan left China in 1992 and is now a U. S. Army chaplain stationed in Texas. His applications for Chinese visa have been turned down repeatedly over the years, and he has not been able to visit his loved ones in China, and, this time, his dying mother.
According the New York Times:
Now an American citizen and a United States Army chaplain, Major Xiong said in a telephone interview on Friday that he had asked to return to his homeland. His mother, who is in her 70s, is dying, he said, and he has asked the Chinese authorities to allow him to travel back to say goodbye.
But Chinese consular officials have so far ignored his request, he said, reflecting how the country has yet to come to terms with the protests 26 years ago.
On April 23, Major Xiong Yan flew to Hong Kong from Seattle, and at the airport in Hong Kong, he was taken to a room and questioned by Customs officers, his friend Wang Min in Seattle told Radio Free Asia. A few hours later, Major Xiong was told by the airport officials that he may not enter Hong Kong and must return to the U. S. immediately.
It must be noted that, as a U. S. citizen, Major Xiong Yan is eligible to enter Hong Kong without a visa, and six years ago he was able to travel to Hong Kong to attend the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Tiananmen Movement but no more, an example how fast the promise of “One Country, Two Systems” is falling apart.
While in Hong Kong, Major Xiong Yan wrote the poem below:
Arriving at the Border of the Free World
by Xiong Yan
Written in Hong Kong, April 23, 2015
Dedicated to my dying mother
I arrive at the border of the free world,
gentle of heart
and eager to move forward.
Gazing over there, at that leaden sky,
I cry out to my dying mother,
tears of sorrow mingling with grief.
lying on your sickbed
as your strength ebbs,
forgive your unfilial son
for not being there to bid you farewell.
Here in Hong Kong,
I envision your pallid face,
I stretch out my hand
that I may be nearer to you.
stretch out your hand
that we may meet again
in a more loving world.
Unable to meet here on Earth,
we will be reunited in Heaven.
The scene, so vivid,
is but a lingering hope.
As the pain of this mortal world
drives me ever forward,
I will remember what the Lord taught:
that Love is everlasting.
I stand at the border of Hong Kong,
gazing at my mainland—
a mainland I can but see
as a swath of gray.
I stand atop a Hong Kong skyscraper,
reminiscing of motherly love—
a love I may not meet again,
though I may but hope.
Hope is a truth
that each of us has,
a promise from God
to never be forgotten.
(Poem translated by Cindy Carter)
The Road Home Is 22 Years Long, by Yaxue Cao, January 15, 2013. How another Tiananmen exile returned home to visit aging mother.
Exiled Tiananmen Protester Blocked From Entering Hong Kong, the New York Times, April 24, 2015.
By Leung Man-tao, published: October 26, 2014
While riding a minibus in Taipo to the MTR station the other day, I overheard a man sitting in front of me talking loudly about the current events in Hong Kong. It seems he had already seen through the situation as he confidently declared: “These are all the conspiracies of the pan-democratic camp and their intentions are too sinister. . . ” Because his traveling companion gave him a dubious look, the man more stridently and forcefully emphasized: “What, you haven’t heard yet? Actually, there is a good deal of evidence pointing to the fact that behind the scenes the Americans are supporting Occupy Central. Even the students are incited by the Americans and the British.”
After I got off the minibus, I walked into the MTR station lobby where I was met by girls wearing black who were passing out leaflets. By their looks, I guessed they were college students. I took a leaflet and, moving to the side, read it carefully. At the top of the leaflet were printed the reasons that the students were striking and their appeals for support from the city’s inhabitants. After I read it, I walked over to the girl who had handed me the leaflet and addressed her saying “Miss,” but by so doing I startled her. I then remembered that this generation of college students are more accustomed to being addressed as “fellow student.” I then spoke to her in a reassuring tone telling her that, even though the contents of the leaflet were clear and powerful, the leaflet did not have the names of the printers and publishers, and that it seemed inappropriate to leave the origins of the leaflet unclear. This small, skinny “fellow student” laughed embarrassingly and, gentle and polite to a fault, replied: “You are quite right. I’m so sorry. I will report this to my classmates. Thank you, Sir.”
After I walked away, I couldn’t resist turning around for another look. I saw her and two other girls with their heads buried in the leaflet, the stuffed animal doll ‘Soft Bear’ on her backpack swaying left and right. Just then, the emotions that I had been holding in for several days burst forth, and the usually imperturbable me wound up weeping at that most ordinary moment. So these are students instigated and mobilized by the “hidden American and British forces”?
How have we come to this today? Society is so polarized that we can find no way to sit together and discuss matters. When did this start? We have lost the capacity to discuss the facts and reason for right and wrong. Everything is seen as “intentions,” “ulterior motives,” and “forces behind the scenes.” In this hot weather, we have so many juveniles wearing black and marching in the streets doing all they can to fulfill the dream that people have had for more than thirty years. Is this not my fault, my generation’s dereliction of duty? In order to account for things I should have done but did not do, and in order to understand the ins and outs of the current situation, I must put in order my observations and thinking over the more than two years past, and say a few things that are perhaps inopportune (and are being said too late).
I don’t have a crystal ball, and at the very moment that I am writing this, I have no way of knowing how this massive Occupation Movement will end. As with so many historical events of great significance, however, it is easier to infer the movement’s long term effects than its specific short term direction. Let’s discuss the destructive aspects of Occupy Central. A great many commentators, when they discuss Occupy Central, only pay attention to the movement’s ability to inconvenience daily life. They fear the movement will disrupt traffic, and strike a blow to the economy. If, however, we compare it with the forces it will gradually exert after the movement ends, then the effects that the movement produces at its inception are really insignificant.
Based on the original estimates of the three initiators of Occupy Central, there would only be about 5,000 people participating in the whole operation, and if 10,000 participated, that would exceed expectations. These 10,000 were expected to sit obediently on the ground, not charging at anything, and not destroying anything, just sitting there waiting for the police to take them away one at a time when the police came to clear the area. Based on how well Hong Kong police cleared demonstrators in previous protests, it wouldn’t take too long to clear away the “occupiers” – at most two or three weeks. The real problems would start after these 5,000 to 10,000 demonstrators were brought back to the police stations.
Authorities Wanted to Stop Occupy Central from Happening as Planned
On the surface, the operations of the Hong Kong police on the evening of September 28 were incredibly stupid. We should not, however, when explaining these events, think that the police were so stupid. Just using “mental deficiency” and other such explanations to muddle by when in fact they do not clarify the rational for the operations. On the contrary, we should, as much as possible, think of the situation from the ‘rationale’ of the decision makers. There were rumors that the protest site had to be cleared before the 1 October National Day; there is the so-called “hawks syndrome” that I will elaborate later. But the explanation I can think of for the police’s action was that the authorities did not want to see Occupy Central start at all. Strictly speaking, they did not want Occupy Central to unfold according to the movement’s original plans. Including the decision makers in the security agencies and the attorney general’s office, all the authorities certainly knew the plans of Occupy Central’s chief promoter, Mr. Benny Tai (because he had written in detail about them), so they were willing to use tear gas and brute force to drive out quickly the majority of the people, or as Mr. Chow Yung (Robert Chow) has said, even let those among the people who oppose Occupy Central to take it upon themselves to clear the area. (Did Mr. Chow mean the violence perpetrated by thugs over the past two days?) As much as possible, the authorities did not want to allow the movement to continue too long and, as much as possible, they wanted to avoid arresting too many people.
Why? First of all, the police force does not have the capability to fight a protracted war of attrition. More than 10,000 police officers worked overtime every day, and leave was cancelled for several months. This was not just a simple matter of diverting normal distribution of the police force, but rather real problems of police morale and resources. We should not forget that canceling leave and adding overtime means expending a large amount of money, and perhaps the Pan-Democratic City Council members might want in the future to grab a copy of the government’s budget that shows security expenditures and cry foul. A rational decision maker would not overlook that possibility.
Secondly, while the occupation of Central is formidable, an even bigger problem is the scene after those several thousands of defendants enter judicial prosecution procedures. According to the analysis of legal scholar Mr. Max Wong (王慧麟), based on Hong Kong law, the ten thousand cannot be interrogated via collective representation, but rather, they must be interrogated in batches based on the specific crimes or they even have to make individual appearances in court. Just imagine, a single defendant, when giving an oral statement for the record to the police, can play all kinds of tricks (just as many lawyers have said, a college student of history, when recounting the way he remembers the events, could talk about the books he was reading at the time and relate historical events from the Goddess Nu Wa patching the sky to the establishment of the Communist government in 1949, and the police officer must wearily record every word without error). Afterwards, the Department of Justice must review every single case before it goes to trial in the court. With ten thousands of defendants, for the entire judicial process to be completed (not counting the time required for appeals), several years probably are not time enough. When that time comes, it will not be traffic on the Hong Kong inland that will be paralyzed but Hong Kong’s entire judicial system. (Unless of course the Chief Executive decrees a state of emergency and allows a simpler procedure to take effect, but that would raise even bigger issues).
Anyone with some knowledge of the history of civil disobedience knows that its main stage is not the [protest] site but the court, especially where there is an independent judiciary system. Each and every trial of the 10,000 people will be an opportunity for making eloquent speeches and appealing to the public. How many times will these trials rouse feelings and inspire? For example, when a certain 70-year-old “Uncle Fung” is on trial today, wouldn’t supporters flock outside the court to “support Uncle Fung,” thus mobilizing a small-scale occupation? The authorities can’t detain thousands of people for a long time without releasing them on bail; while waiting for trial, they will go back into the fray like many activists do now as a contingent of combatants, repeatedly committing civil disobedience and repeatedly being charged. The entire process, under close attention of the media and popular opinion, could ferment larger civil disobedience movements as a result of moral inspiration. Take tax resistance for another example. It is also an unlawful act that will be tried, but because the judicial system is slowed down by the sheer number of cases, throngs of defendants will be on streets, not in prison, and they will surely turn it into another low-cost but highly attractive act of conscience. When various acts of civil disobedience, such as tax resistance, erupt one after another, it will be an endless cycle with a possible ripple effect. By comparison, a few weeks of traffic inconvenience and stock market fluctuation that we are currently experiencing is nothing. When last month Mr. Benny Tai proposed not to launch Occupy Central on a workday so as not to affect the financial market, many people criticized him for being diffident, but these folks, for the moment at least, probably forgot what Occupy Central is all about.
A Moral Movement Regardless of Costs
It is true that the occupation movement has already exceeded everyone’s expectations. It’s unlikely that thousands sitting on the streets will be cleared out. But unless all occupiers disperse peacefully and of their own accord (we all know this is unlikely either), there will be a clear-out operation sooner or later. Can the police simply drag protesters away without arresting and charging them? Even if this absurd development would turn out to be the case, or if the police only detain a few hundred, how can they stop those determined protesters from surrendering themselves? How can they stop small civil disobedience actions from “blossoming everywhere”? (Don’t forget that, if over 100,000 or even 200,000 Hong Kongers who are taking part in the occupation movement suffer no consequences, then it would encourage more civil disobedience acts in the future.) Therefore, the aforementioned scenario will arrive eventually. The police’s actions on September 28th perhaps were meant to prevent such a scenario but, instead, they ended up bringing it about sooner and to wider international attention. (International attention should have been in the script of the Occupy Central anyway, but it might not have come so soon and so overwhelmingly.)
Over the last few days, friends who are supporters of the occupation movement have been discussing how the whole thing will end, especially what its short-term goals and appeals are, and what to do if none of these goals and appeals materialize. The answer is very simple: do nothing; just sit. As Mr. Benny Tai said before, this movement was heading to a “defeat” even before the NPCSC decision was issued, given that its purpose is to force the Central Government to make concessions and allow universal suffrage in the election of chief executive without constraining the nomination process. Since that point, it has become a moral movement regardless of costs. But on the other hand, it is also creating a crisis for the government in Hong Kong and Beijing that will not be resolved for years to come.
(Translated by Ai Ru and Yaxue Cao)
By Chang Ping, published: October 7, 2014
Our very first take on Occupy Central, the movement for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, is a radical protest in a society governed by law. Fully aware of the law and its consequences, participants willingly incur punishment for the sake of their ideals. We imagine the police making arrests with all due courtesy, the courts conducting trials ceremoniously, and those who break the law walking into their jail cells with graceful aplomb. Society as a whole, spurred by what they do, will rethink and debate the issues at hand in a rational manner, and all will end in a step forward for democracy.
The next thing that popped up in everyone’s mind was the blood of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, still so very much with us today. We cannot help worrying that the People’s Liberation Army stationed in Hong Kong would clear the demonstrators out by force. When police then used tear gas and pepper spray on the crowd, we saw civilized Hong Kong, whose political right to demonstrate is protected by police and has long been the envy of those in the mainland, fallen overnight to the same Red Terror ruling over the rest of China.
The next surprise for the protesters came as assaults from members of the mafia, posing as ordinary citizens. We now have enough evidence that the Anti-Occupy Central crowd, emblazoned with blue ribbons, can count on the government’s support, if not direct organization and command. Even if the thugs are not in the government’s pay, the way they rammed into protesters, beating up and sexually harassing them, is deplorable enough. One commentator remarked that even the mafia looks down on their behavior as a discredit to all thugs in Hong Kong.
In the history curriculum imposed by the Chinese Communist Party, its former political rival, the Nationalist Party, played the role of colluding with gangs of thugs to undermine the student movement. The climax came during its military defeat and the eve of its retreat to Taiwan, when kidnapping and assassinations became commonplace. Chinese people derived much gratitude from these accounts; it appeared that the Communists saved China. For the reason that human beings formed nations and governments, especially those of the modern variety, must be to authorize legitimate force through democracy in order to protect everyone’s rights and put an end to the state of nature, rife with gang rivalry and vigilante justice.
However, it turns out that no one is as adept at making use of the mafia and its tactics as the Communist Party itself. From the moment it took power, the Party aimed to erase all culture and refinement from China’s political life and laws. No longer did they appeal to the minds of intellectuals through fair debate; “soul engineering” was undertaken through slurs, insults, beating, public struggle sessions and coerced self-criticism. They discarded due process, including publicized arrests and trials. Dissidents who tried to exercise their freedom of speech one last time, like their predecessors who cried “Long Live the Communist Party” on the execution grounds of the Nationalists, may find their windpipes cut as a precaution. Down to the present day, print and broadcast media style dissidents “traitors to China,” “black hands,” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Illegal demolition of private property is made possible by hiring thugs to harass, threaten and attack the owners. Those who petition against travesties in the legal system find themselves thrown into illegal jails and even psychiatric hospitals.
The people in Hong Kong are shocked by the ongoing mafia attack. I am sorry to say that this is almost negligible violence compared to what happens to mainland Chinese in their everyday lives. This is an inevitable step in the absorption of Hong Kong into Communist China. If the people of Hong Kong don’t put a stop to it, eventually they will become inured to everything that we currently are. They will be perfectly used to being too afraid to protest in the streets, or to utter words the government has decided to censor, indeed to make any sort of demand for freedom and democracy. Like many brainwashed mainlanders, they would accept that there is no right or wrong in politics, that morality can be dispensed with altogether, and that thuggery is a global and human condition without exception. They will be disgusted by the courage of protesters, pronouncing that they have no “privilege” to fight for freedom, and have even less justification to disturb their own ordered and comfortable lives of servitude. As the Chinese writer Lu Xun once wrote, when a slave who refuses to put up with abuse any longer and sets out to smash their prison, it is the other slaves who will denounce and pounce on him first.
Today the protesters can, with an effort, detect mainland thugs from their accent. As time goes on, the Communist Party will save you the trouble. It is perfectly possible that they can reshape and cultivate homegrown Hong Kong residents to do the job. It is my sincere hope that such detection would, rather than making you detest people from certain regions more, encourage you to work harder not to become like them.
When the police stands by watching the thugs inflict violence and does nothing to protect innocent victims, it is of course very important for citizens to form their own patrols. However, we must also understand that division of labor is essential to modern life and citizen patrols cannot hope to replace the police. I believe it is more important, therefore, to insist on demanding the police commander be held responsible and replaced.
Chang Ping (长平) was former chief commentator and news director of Southern Weekend (《南方周末》), and his writings have been banned and obliterated by the Chinese authorities. He writes columns for the South China Morning Post, Deutsche Welle, and a number of Chinese language websites. Forced to leave China and then Hong Kong, he currently lives in Germany.
Violence Erupts in Hong Kong as Protesters Are Assaulted, the New York Times.
(Translated by Louisa Chiang)