“If we burn, you burn with us.” “Self-destruct together.” (Lam chao.)
The new slogans of Hong Kong’s black bloc – a mob on a rampage connected to the black shirt protestors – made their first appearance on a rainy Sunday afternoon, scrawled on walls in Kowloon.
Decoding the slogans is essential to understand the mindless street violence that was unleashed even before the anti-mask law passed by the government of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) went into effect at midnight on Friday, October 4.
By the way, the anti-mask law is the sort of measure that was authorized by the 1922 British colonial Emergency Regulations Ordnance, which granted the city government the authority to “make any regulations whatsoever which he [or she] may consider desirable in the public interest” in case of “emergency or public danger”.
Perhaps the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was unaware of this fine lineage when she commented that the law “only intensifies concern over freedom of expression.” And it is probably safe to assume that neither she nor other virulent opponents of the law know that a very similar anti-mask law was enacted in Canada on June 19, 2013.
More likely to be informed is Hong Kong garment and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, billionaire publisher of the pro-democracy Apple Daily, the city’s Chinese Communist Party critic-in-chief and highly visible interlocutor of official Washington, DC, notables such as US Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and ex-National Security Council head John Bolton.
On September 6, before the onset of the deranged vandalism and violence that have defined Hong Kong “pro-democracy protests” over the past several weeks, Lai spoke with Bloomberg TV’s Stephen Engle from his Kowloon home.
He pronounced himself convinced that – if protests turned violent China would have no choice but to send People’s Armed Police units from Shenzen into Hong Kong to put down unrest.
“That,” he said on Bloomberg TV, “will be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square massacre and that will bring in the whole world against China….. Hong Kong will be done, and … China will be done, too.”
Still, before the violence broke out, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people had gathered in peaceful protests in June, illustrating the depth of feeling that exists in Hong Kong. These are the working-class Hongkongers that Lai supports through the pages of Apple Daily.
But the situation has changed dramatically from the early summer of non-violent demonstrations. The black blocs see such intervention as the only way to accomplish their goal.
For the black blocs, the burning is all about them – not Hong Kong, the city and its hard-working people. Those are all subjected to the will of this fringe minority that, according to the understaffed and overstretched Hong Kong police force, numbers 12,000 people at the most.
Cognitive rigidity is a euphemism when applied to mob rule, which is essentially a religious cult. Even attempting the rudiments of a civilized discussion with these people is hopeless. The supremely incompetent, paralyzed Hong Kong government at least managed to define them precisely as “rioters” who have plunged one of the wealthiest and so far safest cities on the planet “into fear and chaos” and committed “atrocities” that are “far beyond the bottom line of any civilized society.”
“Revolution in Hong Kong”, the previous preferred slogan, at face value a utopian millennial cause, has been in effect drowned by the heroic vandalizing of metro stations, i.e., the public commons; throwing petrol bombs at police officers; and beating up citizens who don’t follow the script. To follow these gangs running amok, live, in Central and Kowloon, and also on RTHK, which broadcasts the rampage in real-time, is a mind-numbing experience.
I’ve sketched before the basic profile of thousands of young protestors in the streets fully supported by a silent mass of teachers, lawyers, bewigged judges, civil servants and other liberal professionals who gloss over any outrageous act – as long as they are anti-government.
But the key question has to focus on the black blocs, their mob rule on rampage tactics, and who’s financing them. Very few people in Hong Kong are willing to discuss it openly. And as I’ve noted in conversations with informed members of the Hong Kong Football Club, businessmen, art collectors, and social media groups, very few people in Hong Kong – or across Asia for that matter – even know what black blocs are all about.
The black bloc matrix
Black blocs are not exactly a global movement; they are a tactic deployed by a group of protesters – even though intellectuals springing up from different European strands of anarchism mostly in Spain, Italy, France and Germany since the mid-19th century may also raise it from the level of a tactic to a strategy that is part of a larger movement.