Yellow economy equals free choice

May 07, 2020 06:00
Photo: Reuters

Two weeks ago, China threatened Australia with a consumer and tourism boycott for demanding an inquiry into the spread of the coronavirus from Wuhan to the world. This is what China’s ambassador in Australia Cheng Jingye said about Chinese consumers: “It is up to the people to decide. Maybe the ordinary people will say 'Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef’?”

Last Saturday, Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong slammed the opposition for promoting the yellow economy. This is what the statement said: “Opposition lawmakers ignored the rules of the free market and made an utmost effort in hyping up the so-called yellow economic circle”.

Once again, a deer has become a horse. Mainland Chinese consumers boycotting Australian products is called free choice. Hong Kong protesters boycotting pro-government businesses but supporting restaurants sympathetic to their cause is called violating free market principles.

China is, in fact, the global king in abusing free market rules. Time and again it has weaponized its economy to achieve political aims. It banned Norwegian salmon for years when Norway awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to human rights activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

Beijing restricted tourists to South Korea, and fanned a consumer boycott of South Korean products, after Seoul allowed a US missile defense system in the country. China weaponized tourism to punish Taiwan when Tsai Ing-wen won the presidency. Japan has also faced similar nationalistic wrath by Chinese consumers.

Hong Kong’s yellow economy pales in comparison to China’s use of its economy as a political weapon. There is an English idiom to describe the liaison office’s criticism of the yellow economy when China itself habitually abuses free market principles: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. I urge the liaison office to study this idiom.

Ambassador Cheng said it is up to Chinese consumers to decide if they want to buy Australian beef. By that same logic, it is also up to Hong Kong people to decide if they want to support the yellow economy. If Cheng thinks that logic is wrong, I urge him to explain. On May 1, I ordered food from a yellow restaurant. It was my free choice.

How long that free choice remains, I do not know. Hong Kong is in a political dark age. Coming months and years will see countless times when a deer suddenly becomes a horse. We saw a big deer become an even bigger horse last month when Beijing and the Hong Kong government suddenly declared Basic Law Article 22, which bans mainland entities from meddling in local affairs, doesn’t apply to the liaison office and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

This week, a deer magically became a horse when pro-government legislator Starry Lee Wai-king suddenly determined outside legal advice gave her the right to chair a Legislative Council committee to break a filibuster even though Legco’s own legal adviser said she lacks that right because her term as chairman had expired.

Beijing’s game plan has now become clear. Hong Kong’s power center has moved from Central to Western, site of the liaison office. Even the blind can see that. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is no longer a human puppet but robot puppet of Beijing. Two days ago, when the media asked about housing scandals involving three senior expatriate police officers, she replied she would not judge pending legal cases.

Let me remind Hongkongers she judged all anti-extradition bill protesters as rioters. Even Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah called them rioters when she is supposed to make impartial decisions on who to prosecute. The liaison office judged opposition legislator Dennis Kwok Wing-hang as guilty of misconduct in public office just for filibustering.

Prepare yourselves for this double-standard. I can assure you the police will play the long game in the alleged housing scandals involving assistant police commissioner Rupert Dover and two other expatriate police officers just like they are playing the long game in delaying justice for the protesters attacked by thugs in Yuen Long.

The police used sedition laws to arrest an opposition district councilor in the dead of night for allegedly doxing a policeman. Will the police do the same for Dover’s wife for allegedly exposing the identity of the reporter who exposed her husband’s alleged housing scandal?
Beijing’s game plan is clear: mass-arrest and quickly prosecute protesters, disqualify opposition legislators and candidates, force patriotism onto the people, erode freedoms, but sugar-coat all this with free facemasks, cash handouts, and promises of a brighter future for young people ahead of September’s Legco election.

But Hong Kong people are not fools. They cannot be bought. And they can tell the difference between a deer and a horse.

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A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.