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The Bookseller’s Decision

Yaxue Cao, December 31, 2016



Photo: AFP


If it wasn’t for the “Safety House” in which he was hiding as he wrote, the opening paragraph of Lam Wing Kee’s personal account would be beguilingly insouciant: there he stands at the window, painting his view of the Lei Yue Mun bay in the dazzling late afternoon light, with precise, unhurried sentences.

It is with this dissonant scene that Mr. Lam begins his narration of eight months of secret captivity in mainland China.

Doing what he had for years – hauling suitcases of tabloid-style exposés about Chinese leaders and politics to mainland China, and then mailing them to clients – he was stopped at customs in Shenzhen one day in October 2015 and pulled aside for questioning. It wasn’t his first time, but this time it was different. A Central Government Special Investigation Team (中央专案组) had been formed to target the book publishing and mailing business, newly seen as “a veiled attempt to overthrow the Chinese government.”

Handcuffed and hooded, he was taken to a two-story building in Ningbo on the coast. There were mountains on three sides, and fog shrouded the area in the morning and evenings. He discovered his whereabouts by squatting on the toilet and looking out through cracks in the window.

The room was padded to prevent suicide, a thought he briefly contemplated. Three surveillance cameras and two guards on rotation watched his every move. He was interrogated between 20 and 30 times about the Causeway Bay bookstore he worked at, the authors of the books, his clientele, and his boss, Gui Minhai (桂民海) who was abducted from Thailand and is still in custody. The interrogations must have been thin on substance given the number of sessions involved, so Mr. Lam’s account of them is at best sketchy.

On the third day of his abduction, he began to mark time by secretly pulling a thread off his orange jacket and tying a little knot each day. By the time he was removed from Ningbo there were 124 little orange knots.

He sought to communicate with his guards, but only one young man risked discovery to speak a few furtive words. A doctor who came to check his vitals took pains not to say any more than necessary, but nonetheless brought him some snow from outside — something he, a Hong Konger, had never touched before. He fancied that his main handler, Mr. Shi, might be above the others and the system he served, because he is “educated.” But humanity is a scarce commodity under terror.

They forced him to waive his right to notify relatives and hire lawyers. He signed. They presented him with a false confession, that he had committed the crime of illegally selling books. He signed. They forced him to write a statement of repentance. He did, according to their precise instructions. They made him confess on camera, several times. He was shocked to find that a “witness” at one of those sessions was played by a female cop. He did everything they made him do, because he saw that he had no choice.

In March 2016, they took him to Shaoguan, a city in northern Guangdong, and gave him a job in the local library. He reshelved books during the day and reported to his minder in the evening. From the cell phone they gave him he devoured every bit of news about the five booksellers in Hong Kong, and began to realize, from statements by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that what he was embroiled in was a big deal.

One night in April, two prostitutes knocked on his door. He saw that it was a noose to be tied around his neck and declined their company.

Having deemed him sufficiently conditioned and ready, in June the Special Investigation Team sent him back to Hong Kong to fetch the company computer that stored client information. He was given one day in which to do it, and also visit his relatives and an old teacher whose declining health was preoccupying him.

At the immigration check point he did what he had been instructed: he told Hong Kong police that he was back to close up the case. He’s safe and needs no help. Then he checked into a hotel designated by his minders.

He had planned to obey every command. “In any case,” he figured, “I’d go back [to the mainland] for a few more months, then everyone would be able to come back to Hong Kong and live peacefully like before.”  

Things began to unravel after he boarded the MTR, going to the office in North Point to fetch the computer:

“Standing in the subway car were chattering students with smiles on their faces. Some passengers stared at their phones with their heads bowed. A pregnant woman boarded, and someone offered their seat. A courier had put his bags down and was squatting in a corner to sort his deliveries. Everyone was untroubled, except me, being followed and manipulated. What’s wrong with me? I’m in Hong Kong, and yet I still have no freedom.”

He began to feel a sense of repulsion at their plans, and the role he was assuming in them:

 “What is even scarier, as the man named Shi told me, is that I have to continue working in the bookshop after they allow me to return to Hong Kong. He’ll keep in touch with me, and I’ll report what’s going on, through writing or photographs. They want to know about Hong Kong, especially those who are buying books about political affairs. I’ll be their eyes and ears. Good heavens, I’ll not only lose my own freedom, but betray others. If I yield today, I’ll be an accomplice tomorrow, forcing more people to submit. If I sell my soul today, I’ll be forcing others to sell their souls tomorrow.”

He was able to extend his stay for one more day, because he picked up the wrong computer.

He felt his love for Hong Kong acutely: the venders, the fortunetellers, the sidewalk food stands, and the crowds. He roamed Portland Street and went by Langham Place. From Shanghai Street, through Portland Street again, he walked towards Yau Ma Tei. He couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Hong Kong and going back to his captors. At dinner with his older sister, he dismissed the notion that only Christians were capable of doing good, and was stuck by an inscription on the homescreen of his brother-in-law’s phone: “When your attitude is right, happiness will come.”

At Festival Walk around noon the next day, where he was supposed to board the train and head to the border, he stopped and sat smoking in the bright sun. He was late, and the people on the other side of Luohu Bridge were waiting for him. He had stayed up all night reading news about the booksellers and the protest of six thousand Hong Kongers and pro-democracy legislators.

At the MTR entrance, he began to hesitate. He wanted another cigarette. Then a little poem that he had read when he was young came to him: “I have never seen / a knelt reading desk / though I’ve seen / men of knowledge on their knees.”

Then he made up his mind. He stubbed out the smoke and turned around. The rest of the story is now well known.


At the end of 2014, I was heartbroken that so many of the people I know or have reported on have gone to prison. I started to think that there weren’t too many left to put in jail. What did I know? Over the past two years, more people have been abducted, jailed, or secretly detained. More have been tortured. Harsher – much harsher – sentences have been handed down. The country is now on lockdown under a set of laws designed to restrict freedom in all areas. A narrative is being fostered that there is a U.S.-led conspiracy to bring down the communist regime.

At the end of 2016, however, the consensus among the people I work with is that, looking back some years later, we’ll find that 2016 is far from being the worst. The worst is yet to come.

I first read Mr. Lam’s account in August in a quiet cabin in the mountains of West Virginia, and read it once again on the eve of 2017. The power of his testimony is amplified by his considerable literary deftness. I have been wanting to capture that moment, on June 16, 2016, at the Kowloon Tong Station, when he put out his cigarette and turned around. To me, it’s one of the most important events of the year. In it is the kernel of hope I’m bringing with me into 2017, and beyond.


Yaxue Cao edits this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao




English translation of Lam Wing-kee’s account by Kong Kong Free Press



Another Chinese Propaganda Video Ties Mainland Rights Defense Activism, Protests in Hong Kong, and the Syrian War Into One Anti-U.S. Narrative

December 18, 2016

A verified account belonging to the Ministry of Public Security issued this video on December 15 with the hashtag #警惕颜色革命 (“Beware of color revolutions”) and #是谁最想扳倒中国 (“Who wants to take China down the most”).  Two similar videos issued in August can be seen here and here.  – The Editors



[Syrian swimmer] Yusra Mardini, fleeing war-ravaged Syria. The boat had a problem, she and her sister pushed it to rescue the refugees packed in it.

[Mardini’s voice]: “It’s hard to believe, but as an Olympic swimmer, I almost died in the water.”

In Rio, she was a member of the Refugee Olympic Team made up of athletes who have lost their homes because of “color revolutions.” Her presence at the Olympics was an indictment of the brutality of war.

Several years ago, she and her compatriots celebrated passionately the beautiful new world brought by the “Arab Spring.”

But behind the flowers and colorful flags are nothing but ruins, turmoil, terror, and despair.

The homes that once were are gone forever.


“Color revolutions” have successfully turned many countries to war zones and strife, and the sharp claws of the Devil have also reached China!

In 1953, former U.S. Secretary of State John Dulles said that a strategy of peaceful evolution must bet on the young people.  

In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright emphasized that, with the internet, America has ways of dealing with China.

In 2011, a former U.S. ambassador to China argued during a presidential debate for the famous “Take-China-Down Theory”:

“We should be reaching out to our allies and constituencies within China. They’re called the young people, they’re called the ‘internet generation.’ There are 500 million internet users in China. And 80 million bloggers. And they are bringing about change, the likes of which is gonna take China down.”   

By sending carriers to South China Seas, and by deploying THAAD in South Korea, the U.S. is using multiple approaches to try to contain China.

[Clip of Hong Kong police and protesters.]

[Photo: citizens protesting the shooting of Xu Chunhe (徐纯合) in Heilongjiang in May 2015]

[Photo: Lawyer Wang Yu in court defending Falun Gong practitioners in April, 2015.]

[Photo: Lawyer Wang Quanzhang’s wife Li Wenzu outside a courthouse in Tianjin.]

[Clip: Hong Kong protest scene]

[Photo: citizens protesting in Weifang, Shandong, during Xu Yonghe trial in June 2015.]  

Joshua Wong, Secretary General of Demosisto in Hong Kong, “Now I’m asking all of you to come with us and we are going to charge into the Civic Square.”  



A screenshot of the video.

Are these real expression of the people, or the instigation of foreign forces? The facts and the truth are alarming!

[CCTV announcer:]  Tianjin Municipal Second People’s Intermediary Court held a trial of Zhou Shifeng for “subverting state power.” Zhou Shifeng was convicted of the crime of subverting state power, and sentenced to seven years in prison and deprivation of political rights for five years.

August, 2016. Zhou Shifeng, director of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm: “[I] plead guilty. I repent. I accept punishment, and will never appeal.”

[CCTV host]  Strengthening the so-called labor movement and publicizing sensitive cases are the hallmarks of the “topple the wall movement” that Zhou Shifeng and Hu Shigen have been implementing.


Hype up mass incidents and use social conflicts as breakthroughs, as the fuse for launching a “color revolution.”

Zhai Yanmin, trouble-making organizer of “petitioners”:  “None of the sensitive cases I participated in publicizing has anything to do with me. It’s publicity for the sake of publicity.”

Criminal suspect Gou Hongguo: “Wherever there was a high profile incident, they’d certainly organize people to protest on site.”


Utilize foreign NGOs to train “proxies” to lay the social foundation for a “color revolution”

Illegal religious activist Hu Shigen: “[They recruit young people with potential in the mainland, and train them to be future leaders.”

Fengrui Law Firm’s Wang Yu resolutely refused the first “International Human Rights Award” by the U.S.

[Wang Yu’s voice:]  The content of their training includes smears against the Chinese government. My attitude toward this award is to not acknowledge it, not recognize it, and not accept it. To me, this award is their attempt to use me to attack the Chinese government. I’m a Chinese, and I only accept the leadership of the Chinese government.”


Embassies in China are frontline directors that integrate forces to implement “street politics.”

In 2011, U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman “accidentally showed up at the Jasmine Revolution gathering site

Netizen: This is the U.S. ambassador.

Netizen: Do you know that these people are here for the Jasmine Revolution?

Netizen: You are pretending you don’t know, aren’t you?

In February 2016, foreign diplomats again appeared outside Tianjin Municipal Second People’s Intermediary Court.

And Director of Feirui Law Firm Zhou Shifeng has been “good friends” with them.

[Photo: Zhou Shifeng with Swedish ambassador Lars Fredén.]

[Photo: Zhou Shifeng with a member of the Geneva Bar Association*]

[Photo: Zhou Shifeng with an Associated Press journalist.]


Utilizing Internet and other media to negate Chinese history and culture and lay the ideological foundation for a “color revolution”

Comprehensively slandering Chinese history [screenshot of a Taiwanese website questioning the existence of the Yuan Dynasty]

Destroying role models [photo of article questioning the truth of communist martyr Lei Feng]

Defiling the image of leaders [photo of the Causeway Bay bookstore]

Questioning the trustworthiness of the government [screenshot of a 2013 article pointing out failures of the government housing information database]

Doomsaying China [screenshot of BBC article about likelihood of a Chinese economic crisis]  


Using Hong Kong as a base for a “color revolution”

In 2011, Jimmy Lai was exposed to be the biggest donor to the opposition. The Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption launched an investigation into $40 million in dark political money.

[Voice of Alex Tsui,** former deputy director of operations of ICAC] “It’s obvious that Jimmy Lai plays a very important role in the ‘black money whirlpool.’

[Voice of Benny Tai] “Occupy Central now begins”

It turns out that Occupy Central did not start from the “Trio” and the students, but from Jimmy Lai who, as early as 2012, already secretly sought advice from Shih Ming-teh [Taiwan early opposition leader].

[Recording, voice of Jimmy Lai] “As long as we are willing to go to jail.”

[Voice of Shih Ming-teh] “Right, you will succeed the moment you are jailed.”

[Voice of Jimmy Lai] “Together we go to prison.”

[Voice of Shih] “This flower, when it blossoms, will be Hong Kong’s flower of freedom, and it could very well also be China’s flower of freedom.”

Jimmy Lai’s “friendship circle” was exposed by the media, and the behind-the-scenes black hand is the U.S.

His “assistant” Mark Simon is the chairman of the Hong Kong branch of the Republican Party. He used to be an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, and his father was a senior agent in the CIA.

[Photo of Raymond Burghardt, Chairman of American Institute in Taiwan, at the Occupy Central site]

[Multiple photos Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy Secretary of Defense]

Towards the end of Occupy Central, the localists gained support, and once peaceful Hong Kong is no more.

Man wearing a black T-shirt with text on his back: “Hong Kong has always been a base for subversion.”

[Clips of Hong Konger clashing with police] “I’m a Hong Konger!” “I’m not a Chinese!”

[Voice of Hong Kong resident Mr. Lee:] “We want to live in peace. We want to have peaceful and happy life. When you don’t have food and have no job, you’ll know, because we have experienced that.”


We once experienced the chaos of war and the torment of poverty

The happiness of today is due to the ceaseless efforts and sacrifices of generations

A stable society with good public safety

A sense of security is like water and the air — we’ve long been accustomed to it

Indeed, happiness is not inevitable, because the shadow of war has never been far away

Social progress is never a smooth road

Peace and stability are the most important guarantees to fulfilling our dream of revitalization

Thoroughly expelling from China all “color revolutions” will be a long and arduous battle

It requires the vigilance and resistance of every one of us

Don’t believe lies. Don’t be gullible. Understand history, be resolute in your belief.

The new Great Wall will be forged through the thoughts and actions of all of us

‘If there’s a war, the veterans will answer the call and re-enlist’ is not merely the promise of every veteran soldier

It is the pledge made to the fatherland by every Chinese person

If there’s a war, the veterans will answer the call and re-enlist

In resisting “color revolutions,” everyone must do their part


*A delegation of Geneva Bar Association visits Beijing Bar Association in November, 2014. It’s striking how such a photo can be used against a Chinese lawyer.

**Alex Tsui was sacked in 1994 for questionable associations with a man under ICAC investigation.



After Four Detainees of the ‘709 Incident’ Are Indicted, Chinese State Media Name Foreign News Organizations, a US Congressman, & Three Embassies in Beijing as ‘Foreign Anti-China Forces’, China Change, July 15, 2016.

To American Bar Association With Regard to ABA Human Rights Award to Wang Yu, August 2016

The Vilification of Lawyer Wang Yu and Violence By Other Means, July 2015



Hong Kong: One Year after 8.19

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.”

FullSizeRender (2)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.


Why Do They Fear Occupy Central?

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.


梁文道_Leung_Mantao_20091010Leung Man-tao (梁文道) is a writer, critic and host in Hong Kong.


(Translated by Ai Ru and Yaxue Cao)

Chinese original

Chinese Communist Party as the Mafia Boss

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.

Chang Ping.

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.


Related reading:

Violence Erupts in Hong Kong as Protesters Are Assaulted, the New York Times.


(Translated by Louisa Chiang)

Chinese original

Speech during the June 4th Vigil in Victoria Park in Hong Kong

By Teng Biao, published: June 5, 2014


June 4th Vigil in Victoria Park, Hong Kong.

June 4th Vigil in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. 180,000 attended. 

In 1989, I was a high school student in a small county in Northeastern China. Two years later, I was admitted into Peking University. If I had been born two years earlier, I could have been the one overrun by tanks and my mother could have been one of the mothers who have shed all her tears but have been forbidden to speak the truth or to simply commemorate.

Those who died on June 4th died for me, and died for each one of us the survivors. In other words, their death lives on in our life. Without realizing this, we will not be able to understand ourselves and the China we are living in today. Therefore we are obliged to remember that massacre, we are obliged to demand truth and justice, and we are obliged to carry the torches of those who have succumbed too soon.

This is why I am standing here tonight. For the first time, I have come to Victoria Park on the night of June 4th. Before I came, I was warned by the security police and my employer China University of Political Science and Law: You shall not participate in any Tiananmen movement commemoration events. But I must come, and I must tell friends in Hong Kong how much we thank you for keeping the memory of the Tian’anmen movement alive.

I must tell the whole world: Twenty-five years have passed, but the massacre did not stop at 1989. The killing, in the name of a political “campaign,” in the name of law, in the name of stability maintenance, in the name of state unification, has never stopped. The tank man Wang Weilin evaporated from the earth; more “Wang Weilins” have been put to death. From the execution of the so-called June 4th “hoodlums,” to petitioners and prisoners who died in prisons and in all manner of black jails, from Tibetans who braved snow-capped mountains to flee to Uighur women who protested peacefully; from Falungong practitioners to citizens rejecting forced demolitions; from street vendors to pregnant women rejecting forced abortions; from Sun Zhigang, Li Hong, Li Wangyang to Xia Junfeng, Cao Shunli and Goshul Lobsang. The list goes on.

The suppression has never stopped for the last 25 years. Miao Deshun is a June 4th-related political prisoner. He has been imprisoned for 25 years now, and is still serving time in Beijing’s Yanqing Prison where he was often subjected to beatings and solitary confinement. Our lives have the suffering of 1989 in them. Every day there are people who lose freedom for seeking freedom, from Wang Dan, Chen Ziming to Gao Zhisheng and Liu Xiaobo, from Qin Yongmin, Liu Xianbin, to Ilham Tohti and Xu Zhiyong. Since last March, over 300 human rights defenders have been arrested. The Chinese communist government has escalated its suppression of civil society from the stability-control model to the eradication model. They arrested journalists, then the journalists who spoke out for the arrested journalists, then the lawyers who defended the journalists, and then the defense lawyers who defended the lawyers who defended the journalists. But as the Hong Kongers have avowed: “You can’t kill us all!”

For 25 years, resistance against suppression has never stopped either. The citizens’ rights defense movement has developed in China despite ruthless crackdowns. Rights lawyers, citizen journalists, independent writers, and street activists, more and more people have stood up to fight, just as many of you tonight come from mainland China for the vigil and will go back afterward. I salute you!

For my efforts to promote the human rights movement in China, I have been in turn suspended from teaching, disbarred, placed under house arrest, kidnapped, disappeared, and detained over the last ten years. During my detention, secret police tortured me and humiliated me out of anger and frustration. But I do not regret what I have done, and I do not back down from it.

Because there is no place to back down.

Hong Kong has no place to back down either. Without democracy in mainland China, Hong Kongers will not have true universal suffrage, and its press freedom, freedom of association and demonstration and other freedoms will also be taken away eventually, inch by inch.

We must Occupy Central with Love and Peace!

We also look forward to occupying Tian’anmen Square with love and peace one day.

Just as we did in 1989!

That year two things happened – the peaceful democracy movement of ‘89 and the bloody massacre of June 4th.

Let’s have another 89, but not another June 4th!

That day will come, because we have been, and will be, fighting for it!


Watch Teng Biao’s speech here.


The Confessions of a Reactionary, by Teng Biao

Testimony at CECC Hearing on China’s Crackdown on Rights Advocates on April 8, 2014, by Teng Biao

China’s growing human rights movement can claim many accomplishments, (originally titled “From Gongmeng to the New Citizens Movement) by Teng Biao, Washington Post, April 18, 2014.


Chinese original. Translation based on an edited version from Dr. Teng Biao.