Say What, Part 2

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My post yesterday on Premier Wen Jiabao’s stern encouragement to Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang aroused a few heated comments. I’ll reply to them here.

First off, there were some questions of the translation provided. If you follow the link, you’ll see that it comes from the China Daily, the state-run English language newspaper. About as official as it gets in this case.

A couple commenters asserted that as a Westerner I couldn’t appreciate what Wen said. I wasn’t the only one in Hong Kong who noted the Premier’s curious “only after death does it end” quote. There were plenty of other journalists, commentators and politicians who had similar observations, and I quoted and linked to a couple of stories mentioning them. And yes, many of those observers are Chinese, if you feel a need to check I.D.’s. The Apple Daily, one of the city’s larger Chinese dailies, even had a front-page editorial cartoon of a nervous-looking Tsang strapped to a bomb.

The bigger point here is the communication gap between Hong Kong and Beijing. Clearly Tsang has a direct line to the central government, though he told me in an interview last month he doesn’t often hear from them. But for the city at large, and especially the camp that wants faster democratization, Beijing’s intentions are often unclear. So when Wen says something opaque in regards to Hong Kong, you’re bound to find a few different interpretations here of what it all means.