Hong Kong protests level up in countermeasures, tactics, art and deadly seriousness

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/03/postmodern-revolution.html


The cover graphic, Oliver Chang’s The Goddess of Democracy, is beautiful and inspiring. And I hope this ends better than I expect.


The most depressing aspect of a being a fan of cyberpunk fiction is seeing cyberpunk realities play out. When reality supplants fiction as the worst of the two, the genre loses appeal.


Much like being a fan of political satire when those realities start playing out, and reality is supplanting satire as the more absurd (and much less funny) of the two.


Non-violence isn’t a tactic, it’s a way to be.

I can’t judge what these protesters need to do, but it’s only a tactic if they decide they need to do things differently. Of ciurse there is incredible oppression involved when a force doesn’t have limits like in North America, but segregation in the US was pretty vicious, and death in the night was always a possibility for those who wanted segregation to end. Yet Bernice King still promotes non-violence despite losing her father decades ago, and John Lewis still tweets about “making good trouble” despite being a Congressman. He knew that violence, beaten on the Freedom Ride, beaten at Selma, and aware of those who actually were killed away from protest.


The way of being is called “pacifism”. “Non-violence” is certainly a tactic, and to understand how it works is to understand why it won’t work in Hong Kong. Non-violence is a form of confrontation designed to provoke shameful acts which causes those in power to second-guess their behavior. This is effective against western governments (like the US and England) because ultimate power resides in the voters who can be swayed by this form of emotional presentation.

China has no shame. The Chinese government answers to nobody. It has nothing to fear internally from using whatever form of brutality it wishes.


Fuelling protesters’ solidarity is their strong feeling of desperation. Our survey results show the majority of respondents do not expect any concessions from the government. This has remained steady from early on in the protests, and explains the emergence of slogans like “I want to perish together”.

Paradoxically, I think this pessimistic realism is something that will be necessary for any sort of uprising to be taken seriously in a world of hyper-concentrated global capital, rising temperatures, pervasive surveillance, etc. I often hear aging politicos decrying the pessimism of millennials and zoomers, but it might be that the only way out is through.



I admire the courage of the HK protesters. The Chinese government is nothing less than a pack of rabid jackals. Reason or shame will never sway them. It’s sad that much blood will be shed yet remembering the massacres in Tiananmen Square makes that bloodshed almost a promise. It would be a sweet thing if somehow that government could meet it’s demise from within. That sort of thinking is likely only a sad dream. It really is frightening to realize that of all the major state players there isn’t a single decent soul in the lot. I wish you young souls the best and hope that our own people can see what we are so close to facing ourselves.


I’m very anxious anticipating that this will not end well. China will secretly bulldoze hundreds of bodies into a mass grave somewhere, and will impose their status quo on Hong Kong.

1 Like

^-------This. Two kiddos, 7 & 11. I keep trying to leave them with a better world, but man, it’s tough.

1 Like

I don’t know enough about Chinese politics, but I do know that when demanding something of someone who can destroy you on a whim, there are severe upper limits on your demands.

I fear that the current demands of the protesters have exceeded those limits, which means that either the protesters or the government won’t survive this encounter.

Although this may be manufactured by the government, it appears that the Chinese majority see the HK protesters more akin to a wealthy, coddled elite who are granted more rights by the government by historical accident.

If this is truly the case, then the government has very little incentive to risk their self-destruction by granting even more freedoms to this minority.

I can’t see how this ends well.


The UV powder thing doesn’t seem like a well-thought-out tactic to me. Protesters could start surreptitiously spreading UV powder in business districts. Next thing you know you are arresting people who aren’t protesting, and that’s a pretty good way to increase the intensity of the opposition.

I’m not sure that’s something the Chinese government would think about, though, anymore than witch hunters thought about what would happen if they killed half the women in town.


The problem the Chinese government has is that H-K’s value lies in its commercial markets and financial infrastructure.

Both are dependent on rule of law and a regulatory system/judiciary which can be trusted internationally. Neither of which can be kept up under a politically repressive environment.

In good news, China withdrew the law and stocks surged in response



Indeed, but H-K is now down to 3% of the Chinese economy, so it’s a massive hit, but not an existential threat if H-K ceases to exist as a commercial center.

Indeed, when I heard that they withdrew the law, I was surprised (so my prediction skills are not high), and elated.

And then I found that the protesters demands went way beyond the withdrawal of the law to the extent that I think giving in to the current demands could risk the government itself (every authoritarian government sees Russia as a cautionary tale of giving too much freedom too quickly).

And let me make it clear, the protesters demands are perfectly reasonable. But practically, I worry they’ll result in their destruction. Let’s hope my predictive capabilities are equally weak about this.


Destroying 3% of your economy is a major hit. Not an existential one, but a significant one. Especially since the political/economic structures which made Hong Kong so successful can’t be rebuilt on command or quickly. It isn’t manufacturing, where one can simply throw money and cheap manpower at a situation.

Except unlike Russia, H-K already had a democratic government prior to Chinese control. For nearly 20 years the mainland Chinese government left it untouched in most respects. The protesters demands are not wide eyed dream of a first taste of freedom, its a demand for their old status quo.


I hope you’re not leaving out a zero or two in the estimate of the magnitude of the casualties :sob:

1 Like
  • Hong Kong is the largest source of overseas direct investment in the Chinese Mainland. By the end of 2018, among all the overseas-funded projects approved in the Chinese Mainland, 46.3% were tied to Hong Kong interests. Cumulative utilised capital inflow from Hong Kong amounted to US$1,098.1 billion, accounting for 54.1% of the national total.

  • Hong Kong is also the leading destination for China’s FDI outflow. According to Chinese statistics, by 2017, the stock of FDI going to Hong Kong accumulated to US$981.3billion, or 54.2% of the total outflow of FDI.

  • Chinese Mainland is one of the leading sources of inward investment in Hong Kong. According to Hong Kong statistics, the stock of Hong Kong’s inward investment from the Chinese mainland amounted to US$496.5 billion at market value or 25.5% of the total at the end of 2017.

  • As of December 2018, 1,146 mainland companies were listed in Hong Kong, comprising H-share, red-chip and private companies with total market capitalisation of around US$2.6 trillion, or 68% of the market total.
    Can China survive losing this?



Then how about don’t?

And civil rights didn’t just make it due to the non-violent tactics. There were also plenty of acts of self-defense and riots happening during this entire period.