Friday, Oct 25

Carrie Lam's future, Chan Tong-kai, HKPF lawfare, and frontliners

I don’t think this coming weekend will have protests as massive as last Sunday’s. Insomuch as turnout is driven by ‘outrage cycles,’ there was not a lot that happened this week that escalates things* and a few moves that look de-escalatory. There was the leak that Beijing plans to throw Carrie Lam under the bus when things quiet down. They also didn’t disqualify any of the District Council candidates (though Joshua Wong hasn’t gotten a response yet). We’re still on a ‘soft curfew,’ but MTR now shutting down at 11 isn’t as bad as earlier this month. I’ll have more to say about HKPF using facial recognition very soon.

* the HKPF injunction discussed below happened about 30 minutes after I wrote this

For today’s Rubber Bullets & Resistance:

  • Carrie Lam’s future

  • Chan Tong-kai

  • Doxxing and Lawfare

  • Internationalization

  • Frontliners

Carrie Lam’s Future

I’ve assumed that this has been the plan since June, and they thought we knew that since they’ve done this before with Tung Chee-Hwa. One of the biggest mistakes I think [whoever is in charge] made this summer was not sacking her before universal suffrage became a demand. I think they were afraid that replacing her with yet another un-elected ‘leader’ of questionable competence and no legitimate mandate would re-open the universal suffrage debate from 2014 (something they thought had quieted down).

Yet the timing and names floated show why conceding to demands first aired in mid-June isn’t sufficient, and barely even ‘compromise.’ Draw a Venn Diagram of the people competent enough to lead this city out of a crisis, potential leaders that could be un-democratically installed but be liked or respected by a majority of Hong Kongers, and people who Beijing considers sufficiently loyal and there’s…. no one. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Beijing’s best path to de-escalate is embracing their pragmatic ‘moderate’ Liberal Party allies. How much evidence do they need to see that the team they spent decades grooming is an anchor dragging whatever’s left of their legitimacy here down to probably irrecoverable depths?

  • Michael Chugani, a pro-gov opinion writer until this summer, is spitting fire after his brother was ‘smurfed’ at the Mosque last weekend:

    “People say Hong Kong has become ungovernable. That’s not true. It is Lam who never knew how to govern. No capable leader would demand an end to violence without first providing a political path to end it. She has now lost all moral authority to govern. She remains leader only because Beijing is propping her up.”

  • Despite initially disputing the reporting, Chinese media and government are leaning heavy on non-denying the story.

Chan Tong-kai: The Man Nobody Wants

Chan is the murderous chaos monkey that set this entire revolt in motion. Where things stand now is that the HK government has released him so he can fly himself to Taiwan to turn himself in. Taiwan, for their part, is saying 'that’s not how any of this works' but is more open to compromise solutions than their counterparts here. This American Chopper meme is probably the best summary explanation of the two positions, but here’s Taiwan’s position and the PRC’s arguments to international audiences. Notably, the Extradition Bill was withdrawn the same day Chan was released to turn himself into Taiwan… and neither did anything to calm things down.

Doxxing and Lawfare

As I write this, HKPF just won a court injunction that would seem to outlaw insulting or photographing them. 2014’s Umbrella Movement was shut down with injunctions too, as were the repeated airport protests this year. Still, I see this the same way I view the mask ban - a criminalization of normal protest behaviors + “one eye open, one eye shut.” The stated reason for this and the injunction over releasing voting data is concern about doxxing. Kris Cheng summarizes the injunction in Hong Kong Free Press:

The injunction prohibits the sharing of officers’ and their family members’ names, job roles, addresses, emails, birthdays, phone numbers, social media accounts, car licence plate numbers, photos, and other personal details without their consent. It would also ban anyone from threatening or harassing police officers and their family members, along with inciting such behaviour.

Doxxing was a significant theme in a piece I just published in The Verge. I share a few stories there, but something I’ve heard from everyone I know who has been doxxed in some way is that there were details released that could only have come from Hong Kong government databases. I’m tired of the doxxing. I’m tired of writing semi-anonymously. I’m tired of people on our side getting assaulted. I know some cops and others on Team Blue are getting doxxed too, but these injunctions aren't being made in good faith.

Initial reactions are that the scope of this injunction is unprecedented and could easily be used against the press. Kris Cheng summarizes the injunction

  • HKU law student notes that common practice is for injunctions to name a defendant (i.e., as a trespasser), but here “the defendants being prohibited from the said acts are basically the public.

  • Lawyer and writer Antony Dariban notes that the injunction is prohibiting otherwise legal behavior and is functionally a “stealth” introduction to controversial legislation DAB had proposed.

  • Kris Cheng asks whether printing the name of a police Sergeant that ICAC with bribery today without ‘consent’ from the officer violates the injunction.

  • Half-sarcastically, journalists are already hiding the faces of HKPF officers. Stand News is pixelating the faces of the public relations team that give near-daily press conferences.

  • Local barrister Tom Clark thinks the injunction is either “wholly circular and uncertain” or the more draconian interpretations are wrong because the law being broken should exist outside the injunction.


The internationalization of Hong Kong’s protest continues taking weird turns.

  • The New Yorker has a new story on Joshua Wong’s new role as the movement’s informal ambassador. There are some new details, like the Thai government forcing him to take the next flight back to Hong Kong.

  • An excellent thread on how China is censoring academic conferences.

  • A former London Commissioner of Police brought up an HKPF brutality report in Parliament. Chris Patton had something to say too.

  • There was a small pro-Catalan demonstration last night in Hong Kong, and a pro-Hong Kong demonstration in Barcelona with messages of support played here. Spanish cops got in on it too.

  • Protesters in Chile learned from Hong Kong ‘firefighters’ how to neutralize tear gas.

  • Though it seems to be slowing down, Lennon Walls at universities around the world continue to be sites of contention between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese students. UC Davis CSSA is threatening to report about pro-HK students being reported to the Chinese consulate. In Australia, a University of Queensland student is taking the Chinese consul to court.

  • I’m so tired of talking about the NBA, but a Lakers vs. Nets game got flood with crowd-funded pro-HK t-shirts, a kid trolled the camera crew. CCTV didn’t air it, but Tencent live-streamed it.

Note: Republican politicians are criticizing the NBA almost daily now, with Pence even giving a short speech yesterday. Even though this has bipartisan support, it’s starting to look like a repeat of when Trump attacked the NFL of ‘taking a knee.’ I increasingly agree with this take.


There have been several new interviews with Hong Kong’s frontliners have come out in recent days. Rappler has a video, Erin Hale’s “we will burn with them," Jeffie Lam in SCMP, Stand News translated an interview with ‘magicians,’ and LIGHK Picks on the mental health toll this has taken.

  • Note: The Stand News piece addresses something I had been intuiting but only recently had confirmed: arrests have taken an enormous toll on the original frontliners we saw from June to roughly September.

    • The rise in vandalism and arson coincides with teenagers starting to take on the ‘yungmo’ role with increasingly fewer experienced older frontliners out there with them.

    • I’ve heard a few stories of people becoming ‘accidental’ firefighters because they saw a bunch of high school kids over their heads and without appropriate ‘gear,’ which is also becoming hard to acquire.

    • I was also told September 1st was the day a lot of frontliners got caught. That was the day HKPF set up dragnets across the city (including the Central Ferry Piers) during ‘Hong Kong’s Dunkirk’ escape from the airport. Specifically, I was told that too many didn’t want to ditch their ‘gear’ and so got caught with it in their bags.