Monday, November 07, 2016

Hong Kong and Jakarta: Anger is The New Normal



“I don’t know if this protest will achieve anything, to be honest. It’s very hard to take on something like the Communist Party because it’s huge and it’s got its tentacles absolutely everywhere. But this is a very new, serious development. Because what they’ve done is that, right up front, very loud and clear, very explicitly, there is no more One Country Two Systems. They’ve invaded our judicial independence. It is the end of the last 19 years of pretending we are not a part of China.” 
“I don’t think anybody in Hong Kong wants to be ruled by the Communist Party. To me, this is not really about Baggio Leung or Yau Wai-ching. This is about something way bigger than the oath controversy. This is about a complete abuse of process, it is essentially undermining the constitution that we have.” 
“I think the lawmakers were a little bit silly in what they did but they did not deserve to be kicked out of the legislature. They were elected. People who were elected sit in legislature, that’s what they do, but now they are being denied that right… I didn’t sign up for this. I signed up to live in Hong Kong, not China”
Lau Chi-hung, quoted in the HK Free Press (link)

When the leadership is adjusting its Hong Kong policies under the “new normal”, all eyes are also on the two top executors of Beijing’s latest instructions: the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) under the State Council; and the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong. That was why many were amazed to see the Communist Party’s top anti-graft agency criticise the HKMAO for its “weak leadership” and inefficiency in carrying out party orders. Some also wondered whether the liaison office would be the next to be inspected. 
The critical report was released by a team from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, headed by anti-graft tsar Wang Qishan. Some also worried the “weak leadership” comment would lead to a more hardline style since current HKMAO director Wang Guangya is regarded as an open-minded, dovish official. 
But a closer look at the matter can be revealing: it was a nationwide party discipline inspection that has become a “new normal” of Chinese politics, and while the criticism surely is a reminder to the HKMAO, it would be too far-fetched to link it to the chief executive election as some have suggested; also, as a party mechanism, the commission has not sent any team to inspect overseas organisations, not to say to Hong Kong, where the party does not conduct any open activity under one country, two systems.
Tammy Tam in the SCMP (link)
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What began on Friday – as this writer observed on the way to meetings in central Jakarta – as a peaceful, democratic expression of dissent, well-managed by the police, took a nasty turn after dusk, and beyond the agreed 12-hour schedule of disruption. Groups that are yet to be fully identified took control of the protest and triggered significant, albeit contained, looting, some of it with an ominous focus on the ethnic Chinese business community. 
Is Jokowi's hitherto impregnable position now under threat? We will have to wait and see. He has supported Ahok throughout these difficulties, but has also announced that his remarks that caused the controversy will be the subject of an official investigation. Events could move quickly and in unexpected directions. The threats to religious and ethnic harmony are ever present in this generally secular and tolerant society. There is a large, poor under-class who are not enjoying the fruits of rapid economic development. Indonesian political coalitions are fluid at the best of times. A host of political actors – including importantly two former presidents and a former presidential aspirant – are waiting in the wings for the slightest presidential misstep.
Hal Hill in the Australian Financial Review (link)

The Jakarta election should be about the programs that the candidates are proposing to solve the myriad of problems plaguing the capital, from severe traffic congestion and pollution to garbage collection problems, reclamation controversies and housing for the poor. But since the campaign period began in mid-October, we have heard nothing but calls for Ahok to drop out from the race on allegations that he insulted the Quran. And nothing fires up the political base of Ahok’s rivals more than allegations that he insulted Islam. 
The rivals of Ahok, who will certainly reap huge political gains if Ahok drops out of the race as a result of Friday’s rally, certainly share some of the blame for fanning primordial sentiments to get what they want. 
All of us, however, should take responsibility for allowing such sectarian sentiments to grow and fester in our democracy.
We have been complacent for too long, happy to think that the movements against Ahok, and those groups responsible for acts of intolerance and violence in this country, are only fringe groups who matter little in politics.

On Friday, we were proved wrong. These groups now hold the keys to the Jakarta gubernatorial election and, probably, the success or failure of our experiment in democracy.
M. Taufiqurrahman and Kornelius Purba in the Jakarta Post (link)

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