One of the better aspects of the ongoing unrest in our town is the steadfastness with which RTHK (the public broadcaster) has maintained a reasonably objective stance, at least in its English-language output. And today it comes with added humour.
I’ll post this as a screen grab since I suspect the page may not last long!
I’ve been a subscriber to The Economist for well over 30 years, and have always appreciated their cartoons as well as the rest of their excellent coverage of world affairs. But, as a long-term immigrant to Hong Kong, this week’s cartoon really stands out for me as one of their best.
For those of a certain age it captures perfectly the fact that “Made in Hong Kong” used to mean cheap mass-produced and perhaps shoddy goods, but now it signifies rather the reverse: the current last bastion against the Chinese Communist Party’s wish for everlasting domination.
Of course China is a country with a long and distinguished history in which the current subjugation by the Communist Party is but a blip. Obviously any attempt to homogenise a billion people is doomed to failure, and I would guess within a generation or two at most.
So Rupert Hogg has been “resigned” for, apparently, declining to kowtow sufficiently to Emperor Xi; I imagine it’s only a matter of time before Mr Slosar goes too since he is on record as saying “You would easily imagine that within that 27,000 we have virtually every opinion on every issue… we certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something.”
This is clearly not compatible with the Communist Party’s view of how companies should work. But, of course, Slosar is a Chinese Citizen (having renounced his American citizenship some time back) so maybe he gets cut some slack for that.
It was a while ago now, but I used to be in board meetings in Shanghai of a wholly foreign-owned enterprise and there was always the very discomfiting figure in the corner taking careful notes. This was, of course, the Communist Party representative, and I guess that part of the deal that was forced on Merlin Swire in his recent summons to Beijing was to accept such Party control over Cathay’s board.
I spent a large part of the decade 1998-2008 on Cathay planes and they were, particularly at the beginning of that period, quite simply the world’s best airline. (I also spent enough time on plenty of other airlines to be able to judge.) It is clear now that they are well down the road to their full takeover by Air China, which is a mid-tier airline at best. It’s a shame, but I guess all good things must come to an end.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive (in name only), Mrs Carrie Lam, is rolled out every few days by her puppet-masters in Beijing to do press conferences where she says absolutely nothing new and simply says: “we’re in the shit; please stop doing this or very bad things may happen”.
Now, of course, it is pretty much entirely due to Mrs Lam and her (so-called) government that we are in this shit, and since finding ourselves there they have shown absolutely no understanding of how we got there or what to do about it. But that ground has been covered repeatedly.
What I would like to address is why Mrs Lam, who is, at some level, an intelligent person, is still our Chief Executive (in name only). She is on record previously as saying that she was preparing to retire from her previous role (as Chief Secretary) to her home in the UK with her husband and son (who are both UK citizens). Yet, for reasons that are not at all clear, she took the role when pushed by Beijing (reportedly much to the annoyance of her husband), and now she is in some really deep doo-doo as a result.
It is reported that when it was clear that her Extradition Bill was making things go completely pear-shaped she resigned from her job, but that the Communist Party refused her resignation. Now this is a concept I don’t understand. When I resign, I resign. I simply don’t go to work the next day (and, maybe, forfeit some notice period pay). How can someone be forced to do the job of HK Chief Executive (in name only)?
So if I were in a press conference hosted by her, this would be my question:
“Mrs Lam, from your previous distinguished career in the Hong Kong Civil Service it is clear that you are an intelligent, decent, and honourable person. It is well-understood that you took the role of Chief Executive against the wishes of your family, and against your previously declared intentions. It is also now understood that you have attempted to resign and that the Communist Party has refused your resignation. Please would you clarify two things for me:
How does this concept of a refused resignation work? Is there someone with a gun who forces you to get out of bed every day and at least make a pretence of being a leader?
I feel that, in the absence of a gun to your head, the only reason why a decent and honourable person such as yourself would continue debasing themself as you are doing is that the alternative is very bad indeed. Are your family in a safe place out of the reach of the Communist Party? Or, alternatively, is there some skeleton in your closet which, as a good practising Catholic, you cannot bear to be exposed? An abortion perhaps, or an affair with Chris Patten? I think I can speak for most Hongkongers in saying that we would very happily forgive you these sins were you simply to do the right thing now!”
RTHK (who have been admirable as a public service broadcaster over the past few months) report that Ip Kwok-him, who is a member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong (i.e. the Chief Executive’s inner cabinet of advisors), has said that Hong Kong youth are not clever enough to be behind some aspects of the recent protests.
This sums up the current situation exactly: we are governed (if that’s not too strong a word) by a bunch of people who seem to fall into one of two groups:
many, such as Mr Ip, are of extremely limited intellect, and are elevated to the ExCo simply on the grounds of decades of shoe-shining rather than any significant achievements of any sort; they simply can’t grasp that there are Hongkongers a third of their age who are of a dramatically higher calibre than them
others, such as the Chief Executive, Mrs Lam, who, whilst undoubtedly of high brainpower in some IQ-like sense, have absolutely zero understanding of the world in which their subjects live. This is a woman who doesn’t know where to buy toilet rolls or how to use an Octopus Card.
It seems that in order to get a feel for “the street” Mrs Lam elevates people like Mr Ip to the ExCo (he was first appointed by CY Leung, but the point is true in general). And we all see the result: a government now in paralysis because they have absolutely zero understanding of what is going on, and, as a result, no idea what to do about it.
The “blame the foreigners” line is straight out of the Chinese Communist Party’s playbook: if Chinese people do something unacceptable to you then it must be a malicious foreign influence because (in the utterly racist worldview of the CCP) all ethnically Chinese people must be somehow inherently programmed to be loyal and obedient servants of the CCP. The flipside to this is, of course, that the many Hongkongers of non-Chinese ethnicity are automatically maligned by the CCP and still deemed “foreign”, even if their families have lived here for many generations and they are HK Citizens. The CCP still can’t comprehend the concept of nationality/loyalty that isn’t based on race, and therein lies one of its biggest fundamental problems.
I really don’t know what a good road ahead for HK now might look like, but it seems clear to me that a key part of it should involve getting morons like Mr Ip off the ExCo and replacing them with people who have a genuine understanding of what is going on in our town.