On the 31st of March 2019, the Civil Rights Human Front (CRHF), a platform for 50 Hong Kong pro-democracy groups, marched from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai to the Central Government Complex in Admiralty to protest against the Hong Kong Extradition bill.
6 months later, Hong Kong is facing a question that has never been answered since its cessation to the British in 1842, – a 177 year old question that the Rembau Times will answer today, and that question is will this end be a typhoon that blows away, a Tiananmen style crackdown or with the Independence of Hong Kong.
In order to understand the Hong Kong situation, we have to choose the right lens in order to see what the total sum of all actions points to. There are two possible lenses to use
Option A This is a protest for greater democracy that will die out as the Umbrella Movement in 2014. It will end when the economic cost becomes unbearable for ordinary Hong Kongers and the country slips into a deep recession.
Option B This is the initial stage before a revolutionary movement for Independence of Hong Kong which will end either like the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 or the French Revolution of 1789 or the American Revolution of 1776.
To answer this question, we need to consider the 2019 protest against the 2014 Umbrella protest which lasted 80 days and has been largely forgotten. From The Rembau Times point of view, there are several big differences between the 2019 Movement and the 2014 Movement, which makes the situation at least much more severe than it was in 2014
The biggest difference are
- There is an unofficial Anthem for the movement which legitimises it as a struggle for independence
- An active militia has been formed and is gaining training experience
- Violence is employed and a stated objective to disrupt Hong Kong’s normal activities
- Objective of the movement is to escalate the situation to take it to its logical conclusion
Adoption of an unofficial anthem
The movement has created the unofficial anthem – “Glory to Hong Kong”, which is quickly gaining widespread adoption among the segment of Hong Kong population who see this movement as something bigger than just a protest. This anthem unifies the movement and propels it further, giving them the identity which is Hong Kong is not a part of China, but Hong Kong is a country on its own. At the same time, this also causes the supporters of this movement to reject all symbols of China’s current sovereignty over Hong Kong.
A militia is a military force raised from the population. Over the last 6 months we have seen protesters transform from wearing ordinary clothes to wearing protective gear, much like a “ragtag” army. The trigger for this was no doubt the incident in Yuen Long on the 21 July 2019, where group of thugs attacked unarmed protesters in the Yuen Long MTR station.
Those who don the protest gear are mostly youths, probably in the 18 to 23 category, a similar age category for those who signed onto the American militia under George Washington Esquire, as he was referred to by the British, but General George Washington as he was referred to by the colonies.
Why are the protestors violent? Why do they smash down buildings and vandalise ATMs?
The answer: the need for chaos. This idea was actually explored by researchers who tried to explain why people share hostile political rumors. However, in the case of transforming a protest to a resistance movement, violence seeks to achieve several objectives, namely to increase the cost of staying neutral, undermine the status quo and create anarchy.
Redefining the Existing Power Structure
To people who are disenfranchised, or non-stakeholders , violence expresses the underlying latent emotion of being pushed down in an unequal economic system. Another effect of violence is that it increases the media coverage, which then draws more people into the question. By a simple law of probability and mathematics, the more people are drawn to choose between two sides, the greater the number of latent supporters the movement will engender. The question is not whether 5 million Hong Kongers are against the movement and 2 million Hong Kongers are for the movement – the question really is whether the movement can draw a critical mass of hardcore loyalists to take the movement to its intended conclusion.
The question what the Hong Kong Government should ask is what is this number and whether the movement has achieved this number? Does the movement have 5,000 hardcore loyalists or 50,000 hardcore loyalists? A hardcore loyalist is defined as one who has been involved in more than 3 protests and who dons the uniform. The Rembau Times estimates that the current at risk population of becoming hardcore loyalist is at least 15% of Hong Kong’s population, or about a 1 million people (those 18 to 29 years). To achieve the critical mass of 50,000 requires 5% or 1 in 20 to sign on to the cause. The violence against the police also trains those in the movement to transform from being civilians to a militia, with improvements in logistics and organisation capability. My estimate is that if 10% of the target group become hardcore loyalists, then the movement will continue to its intended conclusion
The worst outcome for the protesters is that if people stay un-bothered. Violence makes people come to a decision, either to support or to oppose. Remember at the time of the American revolution, most New Yorkers were very happy to be living comfortably as a British colony. But George Washington managed to gain critical mass of volunteers, who were derided by the British Military command under the Howe brothers as a ragtag army, but 200 years later is the most powerful military power in the world.
With all the following questions answered, we can now answer this question – what are the objectives of the movement? If one thinks about the question hard enough, the question itself becomes an absurd question. For one, in the 21st century hyper-connected world, a movement may have diverse groups with a differing scale of objectives. Some in the movement want greater democracy, some are anarchists, some want to fight for independence. Each sub-group coordinates through technology to achieve its objective, but the Government, Beijing and the United States Congress will see things from the most visually compelling pictures. Media swarm at the more violent protests because it sells, and this creates a self reinforcing chain of events.
Let us consider this a bit more critically. The question is not a financial economic question, whether Hong Kong will enter a recession, see massive flight of capital and a sell-off in the property and capital markets. That is a given because the movement has attained critical mass.
The question now is what is next.
We give two answers – the status quo and if the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party agrees to follow the Rembau Times advice.
Under the status quo, Mrs Carrie Lam continues to function as the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. As the movement has already reached critical mass, animosity towards Beijing increases and Hong Kongers start to yearn for independence. Rational cost benefit questions are thrown out of the window, the protests becomes more violent and the attacks become more pointed towards humiliating visible symbols of China’s claim over Hong Kong. Public anger in China over these actions leads the Chinese leadership to intervene and the Peoples Liberation Army is sent into the streets of Wan Chai. The skirmish turns more violent, Hong Kong is destroyed as an international financial centre and up to 100 people are killed.
This would probably happen at around January 2020, about the same time Elizabeth Warren takes a commanding lead in the Democratic nomination and openly declares that if elected President of the United States, she will support Hong Kong’s independence. There is exactly 115 days from today to the Iowa Democratic Caucus. China is now facing the threat of a military conflict with the United States and an unprecedented economic disaster.
Rembau Times Proposal
Usually decision making within Chinese communist structure is that those who have the right answer but are not in power will keep quiet until the one in power is completely exposed as being incompetent and removed. Hence, there is little consideration for unorthodox out of the box thinking. By relying on orthodoxy, China may be making the same mistake Japan did in establishing the Manchuko government in 1932.
If China does not want the Hong Kong issue to escalate to the level we have described, which is very probable given our view of the situation, China needs to act now.
Number one, ask Carrie Lam to resign and hire somebody like Michael Tien as the Chief Executive. One of the first things that new Chief Executive, should do is to declare a weekend of mourning over the 8 suicides that have happened so far. During that event he should speak carefully about what has happened so far and outline the human cost that has taken place so far. The thugs responsible for the Yuen Long protest also needs to be arrested and tried. The new CEO must hit the ground running with a lot of intensity, essentially creating a mini explosion.
(Note: Of course, he should have the right advisers who can make him appear more appealing to the people of Hong Kong)
There are many moving parts to this but the idea is a similar idea in how you combat a well oil fire – you light an explosion at the base and the resulting draft sucks out all the oxygen and kills the fire.