Monday, 29 September 2014
The Great Panda vs. Big Charlie
As we hold our collective breath to see whether restraint will rule the day in the face of the heroic student protests for democracy in Hong Kong, I note the predictable clamp down on information by the censors in Beijing. On social media, euphemisms are deployed: the big question is how will the Great Panda react?
In its state censorship and propaganda China shows alarming signs of similarity with Tokyo in the 1930s. In the early Showa period, the Japanese emperor Hirohito was a figure so divine that the eyes of onlookers had to be firmly cast down to the ground when his celestial majesty passed by. One dare not speak a word of criticism against him and to do so in public or private was to put one's liberty in peril. But the foreign correspondents in Tokyo had a neat trick up their sleeve - Hirohito became known as 'Big Charlie' and about 'Big Charlie' you could say pretty much anything you pleased.
It's incredibly important I think that The Great Panda knows that the eyes of the world are upon him and that his attempts at repressing information will not - can not - work.
If the regime moves to deploying the army against the students, then it is an entirely different matter. The police are the instrument of internal civilian order; the army are the means by which a regime defends itself and attacks others. If the army are deployed, then it is entirely legitimate for the international community to become engaged also. I'm pleased by the statements from around the world calling on restraint from Beijing and condemning excessive force against pro-democracy campaigners.