Full-page ads have appeared in newspapers around the world, apparently intended to reassure people — investors, mostly those outside of Hong Kong — that everything will be fine.
There are three reasons why the text is unconvincing:
First, it’s purposefully vague about “who” is doing the talking; almost every sentence states that “we” will solve the problem, possess great strengths, and can be relied upon to “bounce back…because we always do,” as if it’s some manifesto from The People. Yet the ad speaks only for the government.
Second, they support protests, though they don’t say how…and certainly not violence, making the ominous promise that they “place our trust and faith in the rule of law.” Coming from the government, that sounds like a threat to me.
Third, it’s unclear what the ad promises beyond that threat, as its archaic and flowery words seem to have left some clarity behind when they were translated, perhaps purposefully. It says things like:
“…we are determined to achieve a peaceful, rational and reasonable resolution.”
“We are resolutely committed…[to] look for common ground with no preconditions in the spirit of healing and reconciliation,”
“…our sincere and solemn wish to discuss grievances, issues, problems and solutions in a calm, respectful and meaningful way.”
Which brings me to the three scary truths the ad omits:
First, it doesn’t acknowledge any of the underlying issues, other than references to “events and protests” and “a complex social, economic, and political jigsaw puzzle.” Rendition of legal cases to mainland Chinese courts prompted the protests, which then expanded to other issues, like government surveillance. It’s hard to make your case if you avoid mention of the debate.
Second, suppression of that debate has been core to China’s response, as it has been pressuring Hong Kong businesses to suppress employee support (Cathy Pacific’s Chairman and CEO quit over the issue). Mentions of the protests are censored on the WeChat and Weibo apps get mentions of the protests censored, while Twitter deleted “over 900 accounts” last month because it believed they were created by the Chinese government to undermine “the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement…”
Third, it conflicts with the video HK’s chief executive Carrie Lam released a day prior, which announcined the withdrawal of the bill that started the whole shebang, followed by mention of an inquiry and intention “to talk to communities.” Maybe that was purposeful too, since she made no guarantee that the bill wouldn’t be revived, an inquiry would be truly independent (or its findings put into practice), or that other more draconian measures woudn’t come out of a “rule of law” that is established, defined, and enforced by her overlords in mainland China.
Irrespective of what the ad said or omitted, I think we got the message.