Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production

Vol.100.1: CultRev 2.0? 4.29.2016

Xi Zedong

© UrbisMedia. Wow! He looks good in the old Great Helmsman’s hair-do.   Or I’m getting damn good at Photoshop.

I have been reading with mixed emotions about the recent disappearances of ”booksellers” from Hong Kong. My books are for sale in some bookstores there. Could there be a connection? Hardly, I don’t think my books contain anything that could piss off the “powers that be” up in Beijing (although I wouldn’t be unhappy about some sales up there). No, regrettably it looks like I’m not going to get a “banned in Boston” boost in royalties. The books at issue are by other writers; they are political and it appears the Beijing boys don’t want them sold, so they are nabbing a few booksellers for a scary vacation in the motherland. The tactic has an old Chinese proverb (what doesn’t in China?) called “killing a few chickens to frighten the monkeys” (xiaji jinghou).

Well, books and booksellers are one thing. I don’t mean to trivialize them, but I think they are part of a more widespread crackdown, something that has that “gimme that old time Cultural Revolution” feeling.

‘I’ll never publish banned books again’: Hong Kong bookseller Lee Po quits book trade upon return to city (SCMP Apr 06, 2016). Po, who disappeared from Hong Kong last December (to be followed by other sellers of mainland “banned books” and whose testicles might not have returned with him) clearly has case of PBBAS (Post Banned Book Apology Syndrome) that comes from having the shit scared out of him.

Now comes [SCMP International Online Edition 4.08.2016]:

“If you talk about independence for Hong Kong at the dinner table, it shouldn’t be a problem, but if you do it in a big public forum as a call to action you’ll be breaking the law.

That was the interpretation of the new legal chief of Beijing’s liaison office on Friday as he accused independence advocates of breaching local criminal laws and set limits on freedom of expression that has so far protected the fledgling political discourse.

Wang Zhenmin, also a member of the Basic Law Committee, said those floating the idea of independence were not only in breach of the city’s mini-constitution, but also the Crimes Ordinance and Societies Ordinance.”

Wow. That’s like “shadduppa-you-mouth about that independence stuff, or else we get out the cleavers.”

We all know that the motherland has had a tense relationship with the Fragrant Harbour for several years now. By the time 1997 rolled around memories of that nasty business that went down in Tiananmen Square in June ’89 had faded somewhat (although there were the stalwarts who maintained the “secret” reference and commemorative greeting of “64” for “June 4th”) and maybe that “one country/two systems—for 50 years” thing just might not be too bad.

But maybe Hongkongers were getting a little too “uppity” for the Beijing boys. The Tiananmen commemorative marches didn’t get any smaller, then there was that rejection of that “loyalty oath” business, and that Occupy business with all t hose disrespectful students. And now all this talk of independence, and calling visiting mainlanders “locusts” must really piss them off.

So crunch time is coming early. Big Mamma-land is a one-party state, and that one and only party has been feeling some pressure of late from a couple of quarters. First, the Party does have a corruption problem, since party members are not well-paid but are in positions where, for example in overseeing lucrative real estate transactions, there are opportunities to take a piece of the action. Sinologist Orville Schell recently wrote:

“At the center of this retrograde trend is [Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s] enormously ambitious initiative to purge the Chinese Communist Party of what he calls “tigers and flies,” namely corrupt officials and businessmen both high and low. Since it began in 2012, the campaign has already netted more than 160 “tigers” whose rank is above or equivalent to that of the deputy provincial or deputy ministerial level, and more than 1,400 “flies,” all lower-level officials. But it has also morphed from an anticorruption drive into a broader neo-Maoist-style mass purge aimed at political rivals and others with differing ideological or political views. . . .

To carry out this mass movement, the Party has mobilized its unique and extensive network of surveillance, security, and secret police in ways that have affected many areas of Chinese life. Media organizations dealing with news and information have been hit particularly hard.”[1]

It’s an old Mao-ist trick: promulgate a policy with one purpose (remember that “let 100 flowers bloom”?) and then use a massive network of surveillance, secret police, and security apparatus to sweep up some other problems and sew a climate of fear to tamp down dissidents, troublesome foreign media, and even religious organizations. Schell adds that: “Hundreds of crosses have been ripped from the steeples of Christian churches, entire churches have been demolished, pastors arrested, and their defense lawyers detained and forced to make public confessions.” Foreign journalists regarded as “unfriendly” (buyouhao) are being denied visas, foreign websites blocked, and other sources considered critical of the Party pushed out of the news stream. A sort of python approach of gradually tightening and squeezing out criticism and dissent and generating a “climate of fear” (kongbude qifen).

This puts Hong Kong in a dicey spot.

But this isn’t the politically and economically closed up Mao’s China of the 1950s where whatever methods employed to maintain party discipline received far less public notice as in a contemporary eighty-nine million party membership in a country with an expanding middle class and assembling for a globalized world economy. China is involved international travel, has tens of thousands of students studying abroad and integrated in electronically transmitted information systems through which all sorts of critical ideas flow.

On NPR’s Sunday Weekend Edition 4.23.2016, it was reported that Xi has warned churches in China that the must “get in line” with the principles of the Communist Party.

There are other indicators of things going in a CultRev direction. Some of them just pesky crap, like “Hong Kong’s ‘first family’ [that’s the Chief Executive C.Y. Leung ,et fam] and other VIPs such as the British foreign secretary deserve special treatment to have their luggage delivered to them in restricted airport areas if the items are accidentally left outside, according to a former security minister.” (SCMP) does this smack a little of the privileged class of the Beijing residents of Zhongnanhai?

But then there is the more serious return of the Orwellian speech amd thought control aptly mouthed by the Beijing’s Commies’ favorite concubine, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People’s Party, during an RTHK program on April 17,2016.

“Freedom of expression is not an absolute right under the laws of Hong Kong. In fact, it is expressly provided under Article 16(3) of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, which incorporated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights into Hong Kong local laws, that states that the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities. Consequently, it may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, provided by law and which are necessary for the protection of national security, public order (ordre public), or public health and morals.”

Good old “public order; mustn’t have any more of those democracy marches or “occupy” demonstrations that keep those bankers and traders from getting to work.

And most recently there is this: Beijing denied the US aircraft carrier John C. Stennis permission to make a port call in Hong Kong.* Although the rejection likely comes amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea, it is not likely that it owes to the fact that the carrier is named after a notoriously racist late U.S. Senator, but perhaps on the chance that seditious elements in Hong Kong might seek assistance from a foreign power. That is admittedly highly speculative on my part, but there is far less to doubt that Beijing is tightening the Party screws on both the mainland and Hong Kong. Cue the Red Guards.

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©2005, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 4.29.2016)

*I used to pass the USS Stennis on the Tuen Mun ferry and wonder how African-American sailors felt about serving on this floating racial insult.

[1] “Crackdown in China: Worse and Worse,” New York Review of Books, April 21, 2016

 

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