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Hong Kong protests: President Xi warns of 'bodies smashed' (bbc.com)
247 points by headalgorithm 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 135 comments



This feels like "we will bury you" (https://books.google.com/books?id=ETQpY-32DysC&pg=PA238&dq="...) all over again.

The original is, as pointed out elsewhere, 任何人企图在中国任何地区搞分裂,结果只能是粉身碎骨;任何支持分裂中国的外部势力只能被中国人民视为痴心妄想. http://www.xinhuanet.com/politics/2019-10/13/c_1125099224.ht...

I offer an alternative translation below since I find the BBC's translation overly literal and cherry-picked for a punchy headline, although there are certainly overtones of violence in the original idiom chosen. I've used the wheel to emphasize that the idiom ultimately is a brutal one, but not necessarily a literal one.

For anyone who tries to mess around with separatism in any part of China, the only possible outcome is that they are broken upon the wheel. Any external forces which support the fracturing of China can only be seen by the Chinese people as delusional.


I'm quite sure the phrase or idiom used by Xi is ”粉身碎骨“, which can be interpreted figuratively or literally.

Funny how it reminds me exactly of the protesters crushed by the tanks at the Tiananmian Incident.


I am really disappointed in BBC's reporting here. They chose to interpret a idiom in a literal way just to make a maximally controversial headline.

Even in wuxia novels where I see this phrase used the most, the phrase is never used literally (And in those fictional universes turning people into powder is actually possible). If you choose to translate chinese literally you can make anyone sound insane.

Focus on the intent. He is very much saying he will destroy those people. But not necessarily by crushing bones.


He’s not (directly) referring to HK though, the sentence he said was ‘Any attempt to separate a part of China will be met with $IDIOM’. Now, protester were explicitly refraining from mentioning separatism in their demands, so take that into consideration.


This is actually very helpful way to understand the utility of news organizations to maximize emotional appeals in order to garner attention by directly (or perhaps unintentionally) misinterpreting/misusing the intent of the speaker. As a general practice, the intent of the speaker isn't necessarily well known unless you have seen the evidence of its use in practice. Fascinating take on the misuse (or in this case likely purposeful misuse) of language.


Except when it’s selectively done with an agenda. Which seems to happen far too often.

There’s enough real bad stuff going on in the world. Inventing or purposefully twisting it only creates opportunities to completely dismiss the paper’s original point.

There’s a good reason trust in the media is super low and it’s not just because some influential people claim “fake news” at every chance. There’s plenty of real examples on a daily basis if you spend the time to look into what is being said.

The media is often their own worst enemy when it comes to holding bad guys accountable.


My understanding is that the remark was made in general terms, though of course it may be interpreted as aimed at HK.

The BBC chose to make it specifically about Hongkong from the very first words of their article's title.


Which is interesting because he was in a region next to Tibet when he said it which also has a long history of independence. They didn’t mention that once.


I see a lot of comments that amount to "he's not literally threatening violence, he's only using an idiom that, historically and culturally, heavily implies violence."

Which...I guess is a little better, arguably.


It's reminiscent of the "quote" from Ahmedinejad that "Israel must be wiped off the map". It's as if the journalists, or those who feed them, look for the most incendiary and provocative free translation that can be justified by a dictionary or thesaurus.


Yet they’re undergoing a shadow war. What was incorrect in reporting his sentiment?


He obviously doesn't like Israel, and expresses negative sentiments about Israel. But there's a range of free translations from "Palestinians should have sovereignty over Jerusalem" to "All Jews should be exterminated". Reporting Ahmedinejad's words as being closer to the latter is a way to paint him as a monster, stoke anti-Iran sentiment in the West, and soften up Western populations so that they will favour an eventual USA-Iran war.


According to this that isn’t correct either, but worth noting that the Iranians started putting up build boards with the English text even if incorrectly translated originally:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/did-a...


Ah, I see. That makes it so much better. I am glad he'll only destroy them without crushing their bones.


I am not a native english speaker so I don't know if you're trying to take my words literally too.

It's just conveying an intensity, not any specific action. Just like how "wiping the floor" with someone doesn't mean you're going to beat someone unconscious and use their body as a literal mop. That would warrant immediately calling the police or justifiable homicide in self-defense. That's obviously an insane way to interpret that phrase but that's what I am seeing here.

It's still a menacing threat but no chinese person is interpreting it as tanks being imminent (like how many english speakers would interpret the threat of literal crushed bones). If tanks do roll in, it is an escalation of the current situation but it's nowhere close to what is being said here.


Imaging someone translating “United we stand, divided we fall” into “If we don’t work togeter, he’s going to split you into pieces.”


Do you happen to have a source for what Xi said in Chinese?


“任何人企图在中国任何地区搞分裂,结果只能是粉身碎骨;任何支持分裂中国的外部势力只能被中国人民视为痴心妄想”

You can copy and paste in Google to find transcript from Chinese sources.

粉身碎骨 is an idiom used in a variety of contexts, largely not literally, some different usage:

https://www.purpleculture.net/sample-sentences/?word=粉身碎骨

It's generic language for saying "crushed", but western audiences with limited understanding of China will naturally think of tank treads.


Are you saying it might only mean figuratively crushed?

The quote from the article ("...perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder") has three separate allusions to death. Are all three of them being misinterpreted?


Native Mandarin speaker here. All three separate allusions are a single attempt to translate the four-character Chinese idiom of 粉身碎骨, which is a figurative way of saying crushed to death. In this context, the meaning is the attempts to split China will be completely defeated and offenders subject to severe punishment.


Right ... but either Xi is another Trump, or he intentionally chose that idiom knowing full well the undertones were tied to the end results of other very famous past protests.

It is hard not to interpret that as a menace of brutality, regardless of whether actual crushing of bones is in the works.


You're right in that there is an undertone of brutality, even as the Mandarin Chinese phrase is used figuratively. But keep in mind that the intended audience is Chinese people. This phrase is very commonly used when talking about Chinese army defending against Japanese invasion during WWII and crushing enemy to death. I feel it is intentional that the government would like its people to consider the protesters as enemies to the Chinese nation.


You seem to be agreeing that the implication of violence is clear and intentional.


Not really, it's important to understand that directly translating like that loses its meaning. Chinese can tend to be very dramatic.. for example if you are waiting in line at the restaurant an employee may come out and tell you that you are suffering greatly. It sounds dramatic but he is just recognizing that you have been waiting awhile. Taking artistic license over a language you do not understand isn't right.


BBC is taking translation liberties, either our of ignorance and deliberate malice. This is unsurprising to anyone familiar with western MSM reporting on Chinese issues. BBC:

>"Anyone who attempts to split any region from China will perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder," Mr Xi said, according to a foreign ministry statement issued on Sunday.

What the source (Chinese State Media) linked by BBC in the article translates [1]:

>"Those who engage in separatist activities in any part of China will be smashed into pieces, Xi said, adding that external support for separatists will be seen by the Chinese people as delusional."

[1] http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201910/14/WS5da3743da310cf...

You would have to stretch credulity to interpret this as an enthusiastic call for literal violence. Though it doesn't necessarily preclude violent intervention which is not really news. All options are on the table for HK.


> You would have to stretch credulity to interpret this as an enthusiastic call for literal violence.

Is it reasonable to assume that violent metaphors are meant to be taken 100% figuratively and not imply actual violence, given that China has been more than happy to employ actual violence against its own citizens before? It feels like nitpicking to say that it's malicious to assume violent intent at all, just because the wording doesn't literally, explicitly call for violence.


Violence is always implied when it comes to redline separatism concerns. Beijing has consistently stated that all options are on the table for HK. The question is whether the idiom should be interpreted as an alarmist "warning" for the possibility of immediate action on the ground. It shouldn't, otherwise hundreds of millions of Chinese nationalist on Weibo eager for HK to burn would be creaming their pants.

>more than happy to employ actual violence against its own citizens before

Implying China is "happy" to employ violence is the kind of absurd, sensationalist characterization seen in this BBC article. As if 6/4 didn't literally put the country on the brink of a civil war. No one was happy at what was done. Also I think it should be recognized that the imagery of Chinese violence in western audience mind is going to be tied to Tianamen, especially with the crushing idiom. This is an outdated heuristic, China spends more money on (non-lethal) domestic security than (lethal) military, no small part due to reverberations from 6/4. There are thousands of Chinese protests every week, the state is very good containing public disorder non-lethally now. There won't be tanks on the ground but sometimes it feels like many western observers perversely hope it would happen to validate their biases. Compare 1967 Detriot Riot where the National Guard was called with modern riot protocols or the Dakota Pipeline Protests. China is either going to wait this out, or contain the problem with non-lethal methods.


> Implying China is "happy" to employ violence is the kind of absurd, sensationalist characterization seen in this BBC article.

You've just been chiding me for taking figures of speech too literally. Obviously I don't think anyone was cheering and handing out champagne as they gave the order.


Yes, it is very common to use exaggerations in Chinese and when a certain exaggeration is widely accepted, its figurative meaning took over its literal character-by-character meaning. So when the idiom is used, the four characters are interpreted as one word that describes its figurative meaning.

Let me give you an example: in ancient Chinese it is a standard greeting to wish the emperor to live ten thousand years, literally. But everyone understands that it just means very long life.


> Yes, it is very common to use exaggerations in Chinese and when a certain exaggeration is widely accepted, its figurative meaning took over its literal character-by-character meaning.

All that is also true in English, of course. But one does want to take context and history into account. If an office worker says "I'm gonna kick his ass" when a coworker makes a stupid mistake, you assume he's being figurative and is just going to reprimand the coworker. If a drunk guy with a history of violence says the same thing, a reasonable person assumes they intend actual violence.

Given that China has a rich and recent history of using violence to suppress dissent, including in the specific situation we're discussing, Hong Kong, it seems pretty disingenuous to claim that their intentions here are purely peaceful.


This is an idiom.

It's like if a politician/government member in the UK/US said that the opposition would be crushed. Would anyone focus on whether that was meant literally?

I think sometimes Western media try a bit too hard to interpret statements by the Chinese government in the worst and most sensationalist way.


I don't remember "crushed" being used by politicians to describe "winning" against an opponent very often, at least not since Trump and Johnson (I'm sure they would have no problem with using it).

It has a menacing undertone in English. Yes, its used in sport quite often, but in that context it is also aggressive. It's just that in sport it is expected, in politics one used to expect calmer language...


In Equador pacific protesters are being repressed by the government, protesters are being shoot by snipers and nobody cares. Geopolitical interests are a very crazy thing.


I think geopplitical interests in this circumstance may be rational if a bit cold. It is like someone paralyzed by a broken spine vs by a virus essentially - both are bad of course but the later has real fear of "contagation" to spark worry. Ecuador while messed up is "contained" and would fail to take even a neighboring territory without any third party intervention. The most impact everyone else could feel is a refugee surge.

Meanwhile China is growing in power and influence while not softening in authoritarianism but even going backwards with Xi. The threat that something like that may spread elsewhere worries which may be why the NBA and Activision/Blizzard are facing a fiercer backlash than Dr. Strange and the Red Dawn remake for their caving - they effectively extended their reach. While boots on the ground domestically wouldn't be plausible without some "magic" antinuclear technology or incredibly good missle defense and detection bringing an end to Pax Atomica getting fired and blacklisted over acknowledging Tiananmen Square is potentially plausible with global markets and clout. That level of "having a blacklisted employee or contractor bars the company from selling to China" wouldn't technically violate treaties. Jurisdiction may keep one safe but barring financial transactions would be within the powers of a nation and before that level of tracking would be logistically impossible.


> Geopolitical interests are a very crazy thing.

Ecuador has been eye-opening for me from a personalized-news perspective. I spent a few months in Ecuador working on a project with an NGO so I have many friends in Quito and a handful in Guayaquil. From the moment the IMF-related austerity measures were announced it was all over my newsfeed and I've been getting "recommend" alerts about the situation from Apple News and Reddit.

I assumed it was a major international story. A few days after the protests started I mentioned them in conversation to a friend at Reuters who only had a vague idea of the situation. I couldn't believe it. He's an international news junkie. Looking at my phone, the protests are (were? hopefully) a major story but looking at his you wouldn't even really know it was happening.


welcome to the bubble. yours is different that most of everybody else in the west.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filter_bubble


I agree. Although this is indeed a sad state of affairs, there is a lot injustice going on the world right now that I feel are not getting the attention they deserve. I feel these news have been partly fueled by the Western propaganda machine, the counterpart of the troll factories employed by Russia etc. And I'm not the one who would often say that, it's just it seems a little bit out of proportion in the context of things. Like US is trying to pressure China for their own benefit. I don't know, I'm speculating of course but this is what it seems to me as a reasonably neutral observer.

And although I'm pro-democracy and think the repression of HK citizens is wrong, I can understand the Chinese government's point of view and their cultural reasoning. I see China as the spiritual successor to Soviet Union which did the right choices for its continuation. And when Soviet Union fell apart it wasn't really a triumph of democracy that followed. Sure other Soviet Union states have been more successful but Russia itself seems to be chronically vulnerable to mafia-type people who will strong-arm themselves into power. Better than Soviet Union? I guess, but Chinese government doesn't seem interested in wanting to try out if democracy would work.

I'm sure the government officials are also more concerned with their own selfish needs than just what would be the best for people. So far the only reason why I would see authoritarian government being good, is that it can act more powerfully than democratically elected government without having to fear their decisions weakening their re-election chances. Yet their privilege in being power only rests on their ability to force people to obey their orders - be it fear, bribery or mass-media brainwash. I don't think that kind of environment is sustainable and is definitely not an equilibrium state for humans to exist in. If something requires you to constantly keep distorting reality in order to keep it going, it can't be a long-term solution. And this is without taking in consideration the humanitarian problems, prevalence of corruption and the absence of critical thought.


In Ecuador, you have internal strife between two political groups and the main apparent goal of the protesters is to get the reinstatement of fuel subsidies. It's a tragic situation, but from a media point of view its understandably not nearly so compelling a story.


Agree. I have sympathy for people that are fighting for their freedom against a foreign power. I have no sympathy for people fighting to continue getting something for free that they got used to.


You have no sympathy for people fighting for the right to keep freedoms? Not sure what you mean by “for free”


Fuel subsidies are not a freedom or liberty. It's getting something for free that someone else is paying for.


Apologies I thought you were talking about Hong Kong, I don't know much about the situation in Ecuador,


A lot of stuff happens in the third world, I guess we become numb to it. But if it happens in the first world...then it stands out a bit?


China is a third world country by definition. India and China are industrialized now but they are still somewhat neutrally aligned to US/EU and Russia.


I never really thought of Hong Kong as being a part of Mainland China. Ya, China has political ownership (which is why we are having riots at all), but HK feels like a first-world modern city...they don't even block Facebook.


Apparently China was a second world country - even with Soviet-Chinese conflict. Granted the USSR was around then and their communism was standard "authoritarian's figleaf archetype" instead of "laughably obvious lie like democratic in the name of a dictatorship".

Of course the definition of 1st world = NATO aligned, rarely used numerically 2nd = Soviet aligned, and 3rd = Unalligned has been effectively replaced by connotation of advancement with 1st as post industrial, the once again rarely used as number 2nd as developing or industrial, and 3rd as undeveloped or unindustrialized.


Hong Kong is very first world, though.


The terms "first world" and "third world" are often taken to mean a level of socioeconomic development, but that wasn't the intended meaning.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World


HK was part of the UK when it the terms were coined, so it was "first world". And now that the term's meaning has shifted it's probably fair to say it's still "first world", despite being part of China, which was originally "second world".


> China is a third world country by definition.

China is a second world country by the original definition of that phrase, which was: 1st world — Western bloc; 2nd world — red and non-aligned; and 3rd — everybody else "not worth talking about"


> 2nd world — red and non-aligned

where have you seen "second world" used to refer to unaligned countries? this how almost everyone used "third world" before it became a non-pc synonym for "poor". in the original categorization, the "third world" was absolutely worth talking about. these countries were the proxy battlegrounds of the cold war.


The "non-alligned" movement was pretty much a Soviet making, an effort made exactly to render Western system in bad light, and reduce Western bloc's freedom of action.

Pretty much like this — "Hey look, Americans lambasting us for boycotting Guatemala. We are not Soviets, but they still criticise us!"

On one side, they will be staunchly opposing America, on other side, they have that "not Soviets" defence — greatly reducing Western political resolve


Yes, by definition they are. But Hong Kong has been first world by that same definition.


A couple things, I didn't really see a huge uptick about HK until China started "censoring" western companies with employees having to publicly backpedal. Second, money talks and there is a lot more at stake with western companies in China and HK then in Ecuador.


Almost like context matters.

Because it's not just about Hong Kong protestors but about how China deals with thoughts and opinions that aren't of the ruling government.


Here's a sobering fact: HK's GDP was about 14% of China's GDP in 2000. Now it's about 2.4%. This is mainly due to growth in mainland China.

HK is no longer China's golden goose, which is probably why China started this mess to begin with. From their viewpoint, HK's British hybrid law system is no longer worth putting up with. There's a very realistic possibility that China is going to crush resistance in HK by any means necessary. Keeping HK's economy and productivity intact probably aren't viewed to be important, but avoiding sanctions that would impact the entire country likely is.

This really is a conflict in which the threat of economic sanctions might actually save lives, provided they're believable.


GDP != Value. HK continues to be the jurisdiction of choice for mainland companies wishing to do business with the west and vice versa because the rule of law increases people's confidence in the validity of any contracts signed.

The HK property and stock market is also where a huge amount of of Chinese money is parked.

Neither of these contribute to GDP but provide a lot of value to the mainland.


Can't stress this enough. The number one priority for the political and business classes is to tunnel their wealth overseas and the first port of call is usually Hong Kong.

In the last decade, much of the HK stock market (and economy) is propped up by Chinese money and these outflows. Shell companies are sold in Hong Kong just because they are listed on the stock exchange - the underlying businesses are often spun-off as a part of the transaction and the resulting operation just a way to funnel money and business outside of Chinese capital controls.

The property market is also full to the brim with money from the mainland. Hong Kong has a much stronger hand than most people realise, because of the fact that the Chinese elite themselves lack confidence in their own system on the mainland.


> The HK property and stock market is also where a huge amount of of Chinese money is parked.

I wonder if this is the reason China wants to get rid of Hong Kong. Their capital restrictions are useless if Chinese can move a ton of value through Hong Kong. The world still needs China, though. So it'll make a new way to China.

Maybe China has figured out: Value from Hong Kong < Value going to Hong Kong.


Moving capital to HK from mainland is largely subject to the same rules and regulations as moving capital to a foreign country. The reason Chinese money is parked here is because HK offers a convenient way for mainland assets to be listed. Without HK, these assets can be listed elsewhere e.g. US or UK.

In this sense, the existence of HK as an international finance center brings money closer to mainland rather than further away.


If you were to be moving capital illegally, my bet is that Hong Kong is the way you go if you are Chinese. It's close, people speak the language, lots of established chinese companies there; and if the gov. find out you just hide there since they can't extradite you?


The world might not need China as much as Xi Jinpeng thinks. A lot of production is already moving, and China is less and less valuable as you move up the value chain. Most high-end engineering and other high value stuff is not in China.


China is trying to replace those companies anyway. That's the shtick of their Made in China 2025 plan.


You're not entirely wrong, but I do think it's a gigantic oversimplification to only look at the value of Hong Kong in terms of percentage of GDP. While I do agree that a crackdown is likely, I also think the consequences to China's economy, both from direct factors but also from indirect factors that are hard to predict, may be significant in doing so.

At the end of the day, it's my opinion that this struggle is from the CCP side of things not a rational one. They are willing to sacrifice "rational" values for the sake of things like honor and saving face, and I think (and to some extent, hope) that there is a risk that type of decision making will cause a downward spiral for the regime.

I can't remember who made this point, but there's a historical anecdote about how "totalitarian regimes are suicidal". Sooner or later the fascist cocktail that has fueled economic growth explodes into unbearable oppression, unsustainable expansion, economically questionable decisions, or all of the above. I've heard the point many times that just like the Roman Empire was always just "one missed grain shipment away from a revolution", the only thing really standing between the CCP and a popular revolt is the downturn of the economy. The only reason people are tolerating the suffocating oppression of the state is because of tangible rewards.


> Suffocating oppression

If you’ve been to China, this is certainly not what the general population are feeling. There are enough entertainment and economic pressure to keep most everyone busy. And social injustice are _voiced_ and _acted upon_. As very few of those involve the legitimacy of whole CCP anyways, the lower level officials are mostly threading on thin ice.

I think there’s a huge gap between the perceived conditions in China vs the actual sentiment in China, and western media have only been widening it.


> this is certainly not what the general population are feeling

Rosa Luxemburg said that "those who do not move, do not notice their chains". Of course most people in mainland China do not feel anything close to a "suffocating oppression" because the mere thought of disobedience may never have occurred to them. To insinuate that the reason for this is the fact that "social injustice" is "voiced and acted upon" is nothing short of insulting. Most people in China would want more freedom, because they are human and humans do: but most of them are also raised in a system that equates the communist party with stability, and most people believe the (of course, to some extent correct) propaganda that disobedience would cause chaos. That is not to say that the CCP is in power due to wide popular support, they are in power due to wide popular apathy.


> Most people in China would want more freedom

Right there after:

1. Getting a stable job

2. Starting a family.

3. Worry about children's education

4. Worrying about rent raising and loathing about crowded subways.

5. Pork price.

6. Popular pop star getting divorced.

I think you're right with your conclusion though, there _is_ widespread apathy for political activism. In no small part due to seeing how UK and US are being ran, the whole Brexit saga has been a laughingstock in China and good stuff just keep coming. Now, does anyone like getting an emperor? No, but at least the alternatives are not as good (as once thought).


There's a very realistic possibility that China is going to crush resistance in HK by any means necessary.

I keep waiting for the shoe to drop.

China, by her own standards, has been very soft on the protests so far. China is much more concerned with its global image than back during the Tiananmen Square protests.

But if anyone should think this won’t end similarly, they’d be fooling themselves.

I’d put lower odds on a sudden violent crack down than on a slow, methodical process of arresting leaders and slowly ratcheting up the pressure on protestors.

As sad as it might seem, the CCP will come out on top in the end.


> China, by her own standards, has been very soft on the protests so far. China is much more concerned with its global image than back during the Tiananmen Square protests.

Surprisingly, things in this digital age are different and you can thank social media for that. If we didn't hav the Internet and live-broadcasting, the Hong Konguese are nothing but history now.


I think it’s also China’s awareness (more so than in the 1980’s) of the cost of being ostracized internationally.

Being seen as a bloody dictatorship makes doing business much harder.


Being seen as a bloody dictatorship makes doing business much harder

But you can watch as much basketball as you want, and wear fashionable sneakers, and of course call your buddies in the Party over for a party on your smartphones “proudly designed in California”.

Everyone already knows about Tibet, the Uighurs and so on. Everyone. And yet they still do business there unashamedly.


It’s a matter of grade.

If China murdered thousands of protestors in Hong Kong, I would imagine there would be a lot of shaming of companies doing business with them.

They’ll still be companies who skirt public opinion, but I can imagine many would be affected.

The other impact could be government sanctions against China. Companies wouldn’t have much of an option then.


> Everyone already knows about Tibet, the Uighurs and so on. Everyone. And yet they still do business there unashamedly.

Hong Kong is different because people in the West relate to Hong Kong people more. They see them as being close; thus attacking them is similar to an attack on the "west" people.


I mean, sort of. Many large companies seem happy enough to do whatever they think the CCP wants.


Prince Bonesaw doesnt seem to have suffered any consequences.


Prince Bonesaw had a journalist murdered. Most of the outrage was from fellow journalists. Otherwise there are very few people in the west who know/relate to people from Saudi Arabia.

If Xi ordered a massacre in Hong Kong, it would alienate tons of people in the west who have relatives there. It would alienate countless others who see Hong Kong as a westernized place. It might even reignite a McCarthy-esque red scare.


I think that’s why we don’t hear much about the protests in Kashmir, Ecuador, or Iraq.


> China, by her own standards, has been very soft on the protests so far.

Not just by China's standard, the handling seems very soft by Western standards also. G8 meetings in Western cities regularly look similar, and those are 3-5 days, not weeks or months.


G8 meetings in western cities regularly draw hundreds of thousands of protestors that are dispersed with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets?

Not that G8 summits don't draw protests, but I'd hardly say they look similar.


Actually yes that's precisely what happens[1]. Governments are very careful not to repeat the case of shooting of carlo giuliani in 2001[2]

I'm not even sure why you ask about the tear gas and water canons though. Water cannons are frequently used as crowd control in German protests precisely to avoid live ammunition. Here's one example of an old guy getting blinded during the Stuttgart 21 demonstrations in Germany [3]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27th_G8_summit#Protests

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Carlo_Giuliani

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Wagner


> G8 meetings in western cities regularly draw hundreds of thousands of protestors that are dispersed with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets?

No, they draw smaller protests and violent police oppression with mass arrests and the occasional dead protestor.


So just like Hong Kong, only smaller and with less tear gas? Would seem to undermine your point that the Chinese are "soft by western standards".

There's also a key difference in that crackdowns on G8 protestors are police protecting/facilitating an international summit, and arguably the right of the summit participants to peacefully assemble. By contrast in Hong Kong an authoritarian regime is attempting to suppress human rights through semi-soft force (for the moment), with military forces conspicuously conducting exercises nearby and threats of "Anyone who attempts to split any region from China will perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder."

You're comparing a foothill to a mountain and calling the mountain smaller.


> So just like Hong Kong, only smaller and with less tear gas? Would seem to undermine your point that the Chinese are "soft by western standards".

If you have 3 people instead of 30, yeah, you're going to use less tear gas.

I get, China bad, West good and all that, but still "if it happens in Genua, the police are just upholding the right of the politicians to assemble" vs "if it happens in HK, it's just an authoritarian regime".


I thought it was going to happen during the 2014 Hong Kong protests too, and was surprised when China didn’t do anything.


I think they also know from their Uyghur experiment there is a never-ending unpredictable cost to using force.

Things don't just return to normal the next day morning.


It's not like this is a recent change in policy as Hong Kong has become more insignificant in the scheme of things. China has been systemically fiddling with HK since 1997, despite lodged international agreement and "one country, two systems". The extradition was merely the last of many straws.

One of the earliest protests I remember was around 2,000 (Edit: it was actually 2003) and tied in with the universal suffrage electing the Chief Executive that was in the handover agreement, written into Basic Law, and remains an issue for today's protests. It's one of the protest's "five points".

Edit: There was an earlier demo in 2,002 over civil rights stemming from the subversion law, which spawned the yearly marches.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_1_July_marches


It now seems like a symbolic nationalist issue. But isn't your argument that HK is a smaller fraction of China's economy an argument to NOT crush the dissent in HK?

If China decides to "crush" resistance in HK by any means necessary, it would be the Chinese economy that took the blow of international sanctions and boycotts?


Hong Kong does not pay taxes to mainland China, and it’s GDP isn’t included in China’s GDP calculation.

What I find interesting is that Macau is in the same position as Hong Kong, former colony, 1 country 2 systems, but it’s GDP per capita is double that of HK, and there have been no protests in Macau.


Macau has been a lot more strict with mainland Chinese residents. It’s not easy to funnel money into Macau and mainland residents are treated like foreigners. This has led to Macau not being a thorn in China’s side in anyway, as it is not a political or economic haven for mainlanders.


It's probably worth more to Xi to bring HK in line with the mainland to serve as a sobering example for other areas under Chinese rule.


What does the endgame look like here? Does anyone have a realistic prediction?

I root for these people because I can just begin to imagine my city being taken over by a country that would just disappear me if I become inconvenient. But does it really have to come to a Braveheart style conclusion?


The Chinese government effectively has infinite resources and unlimited time. They will proceed with slow divide and conquer, jailing people one by one until either the protestors give up or turn violent. If the protestors can be provoked to violence then the mainland government can respond in kind. China either wins slowly or quickly. There's no scenario where they don't win.


I once heard that, when Vietnam and China were at war, the Chinese went to the Vietnamese and said, "When you grind a pebble against a boulder which one disappears first?"

The end result here depends on a lot of factors, but as it stands the CCP has the long-term advantage. The "super camera"[1] along with the ban on face masks is just one obvious vector for the techno-authoritarians to win by attrition. They can analyze the data, find the key nodes (people!) in the graph, and make them disappear.

AFAICT, there is no long-term defense against ubiquitous surveillance. Technology makes it possible and politics and economics drive it to the limit (e.g. Vernor Vinge's "locator dust".[2])

From this POV, the crucial question is whether the administrators of the system are themselves subjected to it. It's a global problem. Authoritarianism anywhere threatens you, today, wherever you are. The inexorable logic of it means there can be no stable equilibrium. Notice how the CCP is already working to control people outside the bounds of China? That's not going to stop. The people of HK are the "tip of the spear" in the war between free humans and dictators.

If Xi really was Papa Smurf [3] the people of Hong Kong wouldn't be so scared to be a part of his village, eh?

[1] "China's super camera can pinpoint specific targets among of thousands of people" (abc.net.au) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21100048

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartdust

[3] The Smurfs are Communist Propaganda!? https://www.buzzfeed.com/richmonahan/13-reasons-why-the-smur...


Noting [1], imagine when this kind of resolution will be possible from simply deploying a range of satellites. http://thescienceexplorer.com/technology/new-satellites-will...


Unlikely, as such an ending would probably have catastrophic consequences for Chinese trade and international relations.

Tiananmen Square set Chinese diplomatic relations back well over a decade, and with their economy showing signs of a possible slowdown, they’re particularly conscious of the consequences that any militaristic response would have.


> for Chinese trade and international relations.

It's a full blown military state guilty of several crimes against humanity, we have proof of muslim detention camps, sterilisation campaigns, destruction of churches, &c... doesn't look like anyone care as long as they build iphones and cpus. I doubt HK would be the last straw.


So he's most likely talking tough with a statement like this? Just seems worrisome to hear him talking about grinding up bones.


On the other side, while trying to force their way into the South China Sea, and still pretending that they own Taiwan, not being able to hold or control territory that everyone agrees is their's dramatically weakens their position on the global stage, and they can't really let the HKers win this one.


I predict that more likely the protests will subside over time without military intervention from the mainland.

In Macau, another Chinese city under One Country Two Systems, people are generally very happy with the present political arrangement. Macau has an advanced economy with one of the highest GDP per capita in the world today. It is also a free and democratic society.

Both economically and politically, China prefers HK to be like Macau at a larger scale (HK has over 10x population). The current situation seems to be necessary pains of growing up.


I suspect one key difference is that the educational systems (HK vs. Macau) impart different intellectual values. I would expect that those raised in the HK education system have internalized the values of the English enlightenment. Once received, those values are not voluntarily given back.


This is untrue in my experince, why dod you create a throwaway to play shill for china?


> This is widely seen as an unlikely scenario because of the serious consequences.

Which are what exactly?


The token 12-18 month international boycott and sanctions that came after Tiananmen. America was most reluctant and one of the first to cave back to business as usual.

Now that we're seeing some of the downsides of globalisation, perhaps the world community could hold its nerve longer. Or perhaps not as that's not a profit making stance.


> Now that we're seeing some of the downsides of globalisation, perhaps the world community could hold its nerve longer.

The problem is that decades of globalization have all but wrecked domestic manufacture of many goods that China provides - not just cheap plastic toys but basically anything that requires lots of human assembly. A part of electronics manufacture could probably be picked up by Vietnam, Japan and South Korea but that's it, the world has shifted to China too much.

In the long term it might be a sane option for the Western world to see Africa as more than just a dumping ground for excess food/clothing "donations" or a source for stealing fish, but that would require politicians with more long term vision than "how do I get reelected"...


It could provide the motive to begin a(an even more?) massive automation push within the U.S. That could have long-term negative consequences for China.


I don’t know how it is in the US. But Kuka is at least owned by China, iirc.


These robots are commodities. The value in automation is not in the robotic systems themselves but the tooling, processes and fixtures of the factory. These are usually locally (or nationally) sourced. With a bit of work you could pretty much take out any Kuka robot, install a comparable ABB robot or Fanuc and go on with production.

(source - I designed a robotic manufacturing plant for consumer electronics and bought dozens of Kuka robots)


I still hate the german government for allowing that to happen


It's no fun seeing your country's best companies being snatched up by Chinese companies, which your country's companies can't even consider buying. Same with Supercell although it went with Softbank as intermediary buyer. Oh well. At least they don't funnel their profits with tax schemes. But I guess it's hard to resist temptation of selling when they come with truckloads of money. We are all humans after all.


Kuka is owned by the Chinese company Midea Group according to wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KUKA


A total trade war between the US/Europe and China could mean China being dropped out of the WTO and then some of its Western-owned entities to be nationalized by the countries involved. I know that pretty much nothing like this has happened on such a great scale, but there’s always a first.


Even if limited to a 1 to 1.5 year(s) sanctions that would be far more damaging now than it was in 1989 due to fixed costs and dependencies.

The most damaging aspect of the sanctions would be giving time for a competition to establish itself again while the outsourcing destination was unavailable - even if it takes the form of going to India instead of China.


Maybe Xi had Taiwan in mind, not Hong Kong. Taiwan is very important to China.


Because TSMC Taiwan is very important to the whole world.


Can anybody recommend good reading to catch up on the protests or history of Hong Kong vs. the mainland?


ABC News: Inside the city caught between a British past and a Chinese future (with pretty pictures, videos & maps)

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-13/hong-kong-protests-br...

Vox: 9 questions about the Hong Kong protests you were too embarrassed to ask

https://www.vox.com/world/2019/8/22/20804294/hong-kong-prote...

These two articles were written in late Aug/mid Sep and do not contain the most recent developments.


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Dont read mainland propaganda.


I don't see how these protests will be successful. I expect they will eventually lose and either fall in line or be replaced.

I can't help but wonder how things would be different if the Hong Kong population was armed like Americans.


Because of facial identification and other kinds of vigilance implemented these protesters probably can’t afford to go back to their daily lives therefore I think they will just keep fighting.


Light arms vs a modern arms(tanks,planes,helicopters) is just suicide.


> Light arms vs a modern arms(tanks,planes,helicopters) is just suicide.

No, that's wrong. Conflicts like the one in Afghanistan show they can be effective against a well-equipped modern army, you just need to deploy them with the right (asymmetric) tactics.


Meh, it's like saying New York could fight off the entire US army by using asymmetrical tactics. US invading Vietnam or Afghanistan isn't exactly the same: China is literally surrounding HK and has one of strongest army in the world. They could obliterate HK in a few hours.

The only way I see it ending well is if somehow the military/police side with HK and China decide that it isn't worth the trouble. Even if China goes full berserk on HK I don't see the EU or US doing more than economic sanctions, and we all know this is as bad for US as it is for them.


> They could obliterate HK in a few hours.

If the population of HK was sufficiently armed and motivated, the only way the PLA could do that "in a few hours" is with nukes.

But you make a good point: asymmetric tactics can be countered with indiscriminate extermination. However the diplomatic fallout of such tactics is likely unacceptable, even to the PRC.


the only way the PLA could do that "in a few hours" is with nukes

No, they could obliterate HK with conventional artillery. But that would be a huge mistake, to say the least.


Armed resistance escalates the conflict. This can be a win for the resistance because the opponent may not be willing to bring artillery, or to deny the opponent unsullied spoils.


Afghan guerillas are using a number of modern arms (RPGs, Stingers) as well, plus IEDs. Helicopters don't get downed by rifles.


It changes the equation enough to make it not worth attacking.

Also allows you to hold out long enough to import more weaponry from sympathetic regimes.

Plus drone based weapons are cheap and effective.


I recommend watching Arthur Kent's documentary (2019) of Tiananmen Square. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA4iKSeijZI


At the end of the day China “owns” HK according to the rest of the world, so I see little hope of anything positive happening, especially since Nationalism is on the rise in the West. People like Trump are all to happy to engage in meaningless trade wars, but have little political ideology to espouse. What serious ally does HK have?


This is the regime that the NBA is bending over backwards (if not forwards) to satisfy.


Along with a bunch of other large american corporations.


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1989 Tienanmen protests were ignited by the death of pro-reform general secretary Hu Yaobang and the perceived notion that the party had mistreated him.

They were the end of the movement that started with 1986 Chinese student demonstrations demanding academic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press that he associated with the West. General secretary Hu Yaobang was removed because he did not try to crush these demonstrations and demands.

The 1989 demonstrations demanded continued economic reform and liberalization, but he demands escalated. Students wanted guaranteed constitutional freedoms, fight corruption, adopt a press law, and allow the establishment of privately run newspapers (as in liberal democracy)


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1989_Tiananmen_Square_protests

Inspired by Fang and other 'people-power' movements around the world, in December 1986, student demonstrators staged protests against the slow pace of reform. The issues were wide-ranging, and included demands for economic liberalization, democracy, and rule of law.

[..]

As its size grew, the gathering gradually evolved into a protest, as students began to draft a list of pleas and suggestions (Seven Demands) for the government:

1. Affirm Hu Yaobang's views on democracy and freedom as correct.

2. Admit that the campaigns against spiritual pollution and bourgeois liberalization had been wrong.

3. Publish information on the income of state leaders and their family members.

4. Allow privately run newspapers and stop press censorship.

5. Increase funding for education and raise intellectuals' pay.

6. End restrictions on demonstrations in Beijing.

7. Provide objective coverage of students in official media.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goddess_of_Democracy

> At this grim moment, what we need most is to remain calm and united in a single purpose. We need a powerful cementing force to strengthen our resolve: That is the Goddess of Democracy. Democracy...You are the symbol of every student in the Square, of the hearts of millions of people. ...Today, here in the People’s Square, the people’s Goddess stands tall and announces to the whole world: A consciousness of democracy has awakened among the Chinese people! The new era has begun! ...The statue of the Goddess of Democracy is made of plaster, and of course cannot stand here forever. But as the symbol of the people’s hearts, she is divine and inviolate. Let those who would sully her beware: the people will not permit this! ...On the day when real democracy and freedom come to China, we must erect another Goddess of Democracy here in the Square, monumental, towering, and permanent. We have strong faith that that day will come at last. We have still another hope: Chinese people, arise! Erect the statue of the Goddess of Democracy in your millions of hearts! Long live the people! Long live freedom! Long live democracy!


democracy noun a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. "capitalism and democracy are ascendant in the third world" Similar: representative government elective government constitutional government popular government self-government government by the people autonomy republic commonwealth Opposite: tyranny dictatorship a state governed by a democracy. plural noun: democracies "a multiparty democracy" control of an organization or group by the majority of its members. "the intended extension of industrial democracy"

Not opposed to the ideals expressed at Tiananmen if they were attempting to regain control from a narrowing elite.

https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/democracy


The import of those words is horrific, for which there can be no excuse and no tolerance!




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