This is a game of boiling frogs. Protesters and politicians are the first group of people to be snatched. The message is that “only a small number of people” are targeted. The aim is to create a deterrence effect. I won’t go into detail here as there are only so many column inches. Meanwhile, some outspoken media outlets are being sorted out. For example, leading journalists of the mainstream outlet Cable TV (1097.HK) have resigned en masse not long ago, and Bao Choy, a producer of RTHK’s “Hong Kong Connection”, was prosecuted last month.
In the latest incident, the government has frozen Jimmy Lai’s assets, including 71.26 percent of his shares in Apple Daily’s parent company Next Digital (0282.HK), of which he is the major shareholder, as well as his holdings in three other private companies held in local banks.
After sorting out members of the opposition and media outlets that monitor the government, the focus of the game will be shifted to landlords, in similar vein as the Land Reform launched by Mao Zedong in the 1950s that saw the confiscation of landlords’ land.
Having collected in April a plot of land in Kam Sheung Road from CK Asset (1113.HK) and Henderson Land (0012.HK), citing the Land Resumption Ordinance, the government brandished its sword to Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016.HK) and New World Development (0017.HK), seizing from them plots of land in Yuen Long and Fanling this month, on grounds that it needs to build subsidized housing. So Hong Kong’s four biggest property developers have all got their fair share of being targeted, and Yuen Long rural leaders who gained notoriety in 2019 are not spared either.
Offering rewards based on merits is not an approach the current regime adopts. Following the 1967 riots, the British colonial government rewarded rural villages for showing it support during the riots by launching the Small Housing Policy (also known as the “Ding House Policy”) that took effect in December 1972. But rural leaders today will not see a replay of that. In 2019, they went to great lengths to help the authorities. Alas, some ding house landlords have recently been arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and some other rural villagers have had their ancestral houses seized by the government on grounds of the Land Resumption Ordinance.
Today, the ordinance can be used to target anyone, and no one can figure out the government’s land seizure strategy. The plots collected by the government are not those that have long remained undeveloped but those with clearly laid out development plans. Apparently, what the government is doing has no logic. On the face of it, it occupies the moral high ground, when in fact it may just want to demonstrate its authority.
On the internal side of things, the Hong Kong government and its disciplinary forces are on life support as they have been deprived of their real power. Externally, politicians, the media, businessmen and the rural elite are being targeted. Who will be the next target? Taking reference from the history of certain political party, one may note that there are not only licensed thugs but also unlicensed ones who are active in the underground economy. Who will call the shot after midnight in Hong Kong tomorrow? What do you think?
In the movie “Men Suddenly in Black”, Ninth Uncle and his buddies secretly went to a nightclub, only to be busted by their wives. To help his brothers flee, Ninth Uncle sacrificed himself. In today’s Hong Kong, who is Ninth Uncle? While you guys are having fun, have you ever spared a thought for Ninth Uncle? Or will you be the next Ninth Uncle?
(11mister, columnist. fb.com/11mister)
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