Adaptive neo-use – our problems solved

Nearly lost in all this week’s excitement was a proposal to scrap the planned Kowloon-SCMP-ScrapHSRGuangzhou high-speed rail link and convert the station into a mall. The idea comes from uppity know-it-all think-tank Professional Commons; they have actually costed it and determined that using the giant space for retail and other activities would bring a significantly higher return. Needless to say, such economically literate common sense would entail a massive loss of face for the bureaucrats who so desperately pushed the white-elephant project a few years back.

Still, we have not heard the last about the Express Rail Link, to give it its proper name. It was originally supposed to cost HK$65 billion, then went to HK$71 billion, and will now cost HK$85 billion. The big debate is whether the government or MTR should pay the overrun – as if either way it doesn’t ultimately come out of our pockets.

A Standard columnist asks how such an overrun can happen, and mentions that another project – Liangtang border crossing – is also massively over-budget. “Are there systemic reasons why the government keeps underestimating…?” We could also mention the Bridge to Nowhere/Zhuhai.

It looks like a scam. But I think it’s actually a double-scam.

The first scam is obvious. The Hong Kong people toil and create wealth, much of which is then sequestered via land premiums and other hidden taxes and stuffed into a Capital Works Stash. Bureaucrats and construction interests devise and build pointless huge projects to recycle your hard-earned money into their own pockets.

But they also gear this scam up. Obviously there is limited capacity in terms of equipment, materials and labour (especially as much of this industry is cartelized and controlled by the same tycoons who corner the rest of the domestic economy). So simultaneous big projects inevitably push each other’s costs up. This is accompanied by much hand-wringing and moaning and lamentation, as if the cost overruns are some sort of unforeseen natural disaster or act of God. The usual scumbags can come back and rip us off a second time.

Note the feedback loop here: the cost-overruns are an effect of other cost-overruns, and they cause yet more cost-overruns, and so on.

This is also happening with residential property prices. With prices rising, developers bid more for land. The Lands Department happily sells it for more. Land that used to cost HK$1,000 a buildable square foot now – regrettably – costs HK$2,000, HK$3,000 or HK$4,000 a buildable square foot. Higher costs cause higher prices? Or higher prices ‘causing’ higher costs?

Adaptive re-use – or maybe we should just call it adaptive pre- or neo-use – of white WestKlnTerminuselephants could solve a lot of problems. The vast palatial hole under West Kowloon could rehouse a load of crappy above-ground malls, which could then be turned into things people need but can’t have because We Have a Shortage of Land. (Proper food courts!) A glance at the map on my wall suggests that Disneyland is comparable in size to a big chunk of Shatin and, if repurposed into a car-free high-density Discovery Bay, could house 250,000 people with no problem (Shatin has 600,000). The wretched HK$7 billion cruise terminal at Kai Tak is a cavernous and empty structure that could hold every elderly care home, kindergarten, artist’s studio and columbarium niche we could ever need. The Zhuhai Bridge… a skateboard course?


I declare the weekend open with the peculiar thought that this is the second time this week I have declared the weekend open.

This just in: Stuart Wolfendale. For the old folks, a bit of nostalgia. Hard to believe today, but the South China Morning Post used to have this – a humour column. Really.

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Of frogs and flamethrowers

One of Hong Kong democrats’ most over-used metaphors is the frog in the pan of water. The frog = Hong Kong, and the person who (for reasons that are not explained) has put the frog in the pan = China. If the water is put straight to boil, the frog panics and jumps out. But if the temperature is increased slowly, the frog gets drowsy and doesn’t realize that it’s going to die. The message is that the Communist Party and its surrogates will squeeze and suffocate Hong Kong gradually – so we must be forever on our guard.

The South China Morning Post on the day following the July 1 handover anniversary seems to have other ideas. One stridently patriotic-toned headline and story comes after another, as if to frizzle the frog with a flamethrower…


Yet Hong Kong’s English-language current-affairs media scene is alive and well – online. We have the Nanfang (with particularly good Taiwan commentary), the specifically local Real Hong Kong News, Coconuts and Harbour Times, and the regional Asia Sentinel, all with their own writing, photography or video content of interest, and there are other blogs, translated material, bilingual sites and aggregators. And now, as you have probably noticed from the fanfare, Hong Kong Free Press has just joined the field.

Tw-HKHermSo today’s offering can be found here. (Executive summary: judging from experience so far, the evil would-be amphibian-boiler is ill-equipped and inept, and the alert frog has a chance.)

On the subject of offerings, the manufacturer of my favourite kumquat-flavoured candy is going public. To my dismay, they are ditching their old logo of a depressed middle-aged bald comb-over guy with what we may imagine to be his irrepressibly cheerful (possibly dancing) aunty…


I entirely understand and would definitely do the same – but I will miss him.


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Happy SARday


Tomorrow is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s 18th birthday. Which means it is old enough to vote!

SCMP-RetailBossOr maybe not.

To mark the anniversary… Genius financial regulators in China are calmly devoting grandpa’s pension to propping up the stock market; civilization is coming to an end because, Horror of Horrors, consumers are paying less for stuff; and a big tough burly Hong Kong police inspector tragically (nearly) dies of post-traumatic stress disorder after being viciously assaulted with a mammary gland, weapon of choice among hardened localist brutes.

We need a holiday. I declare the delightful ad-hoc mid-week mini-weekend open with a special tribute to the chocolate-coloured poodle, Hong Kong’s most ubiquitous breed of pooch…


These creatures owe their distinctive fur pigmentation to a genetic mutation, and are all descended from one ancestor born several decades ago at a New Territories puppy farm. They became popular in this city because they matched pet lovers’ dyed hair.

Until recently, they were the one breed of dog in Hong Kong still allowed to use their legs. But the canine-worshiping authorities recently ordered owners to treat these hounds like other members of the species, and confine them to wheeled transportation. This practice reduces the beasts’ temptation to grab items from the lower shelves near the entrances to 7-Elevens, while making it easier for them to bite schoolchildren’s tiny delicate fingers. Most of all, it spares the precious little treasures the health-sapping hardships of walking. At least something is right with the world.

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Ronny Tong and the Path of Democracy – good band name


Today’s South China Morning Post lavishes many column inches on Hong Kong Civic Party quitter Ronny Tong. Ronny laments that fellow pro-democrats didn’t support him when he tried taking a conciliatory approach to the government or Beijing, and so he is going to explore a ‘third way’. Modern history is littered with ‘third ways’, from Alexander SCMP-TongFrustrKerensky to Clinton-Blair communitarianism, and it is hard to be optimistic about bringing Hong Kong’s Leninist sovereign and pluralistic populace together as one happy family.

The Beijing officials who now direct the campaign against Hong Kong’s opposition will see Ronny’s initiative as a chance to further split the pan-dems, confound dissidents’ evil plans and generally crush the enemy – as an instinctive reaction rather than as part of any grand strategy. This means Ronny and his Path of Democracy team may get a few pats on the head, such as invitations to tea and cookies at the Liaison Office. If they run in District or Legislative Council elections they will wedge themselves into a niche on the political spectrum between the mildest pro-democrats (the obscure ADPL, say) and the least-principled carpetbaggers in the pro-Beijing camp (say, Regina Ip’s bunch). And they will find out that in such an atomized political environment, the closer to the middle-ground you get, the more people hate you.

Even some of Ronny’s own natural supporters see moderation as a hopeless cause. As one tells the SCMP, the lovey-dovey-compromise thing works on the assumption that there are flexible and open-minded Beijing officials. Given Xi Jinping’s phobia about deviant ideology, this is not the case.

The conflict between Hong Kong pro-democrats and the Chinese government goes back decades, and both sides have occasionally shown some hint of hoping for mutual trust. But right now, Beijing is engaged in a zero-sum struggle: you are obedient, or you are hostile. For the pro-establishment camp, fears of the Communist Party’s wrath lead them to weep and bow in public over their botched vote on political reform. To most right-thinking (indeed, moderate) members of the public, this groveling to a distant and alien power is pitiful and nauseating. There is a real potential here for calm and unswerving pro-dems to gain broad ‘silent majority’ support as defenders of Hong Kong’s core values. Meanwhile, Ronny and his followers will nobly sacrifice themselves in a test to see whether a ‘win-win’ can exist in such a seething cauldron.


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Yes – it’s WhatsApp-Gate!


Just when you thought Hong Kong’s pro-establishment legislators couldn’t make themselves look any more servile and squalid, along comes WhatsApp-Gate. Leaked June 18 instant messages among the pro-Beijing politicians reveal nothing earth-shattering, but contain enough to further diminish their pitiful image following the Great Legco Walkout Fiasco a week ago.

The most damning material is the participation in group messages by Legco president Tsang Yok-sing. As a leading member of the DAB – a local Communist Party front – he ODN-whatsappwould be expected to take part in discussing the pro-Beijing lawmakers’ tactics. But as the supposedly neutral speaker of the assembly, he certainly crossed a line ethically by passing on ideas about the opposition’s plans. And yet… The main damage done is to his own carefully crafted reputation for moderation and fair play. And his input was entirely unhelpful to his own side in practice.

The messages (especially after the idiots realize they have missed the voting) give the impression of a bunch of naughty children trying to work out what it is they’ve done, and how and whether to apologize. It now seems that the original excuse for the walkout – they were waiting for New Territories warlord Lau Wong-fat to arrive – was untrue. (The fact that most observers accepted the explanation as so-desperate-it’s-credible reflects how low the pro-Beijing rabble rank in public esteem.) Naughty children would have worked through this with more panache.

If the WhatsApp revelations show Legco’s pro-Beijing members as hapless crawlers, the broader United Front reaction reminds us what a divided and artificial alliance it really is. We are assured that there is no support for a witch hunt to find out who did the leaking, which means vicious eye-scratching is going on behind the scenes. And Beijing’s local Liaison Office is pretending all is well and even being nice to people, suggesting there is Major Hell to Pay. And snotty local National People’s Congress deputies’ WhatsApp messages are also being leaked, perhaps by themselves, in an effort to seem relevant – I mean, do we really care what Fanny Law thinks right now?

What’s really going on?

Hong Kong is a sideshow to national-level factional struggles and concentration of power. A decision from on high to crush much of the local Liaison Office, DAB and local shoe-shiners as part of Xi Jinping’s latest clean-up could look like this. It is easy to see why members of Beijing’s coalition of devout Communist-worshipers, cynical shoe-shiners and pathetic opportunists might see some major malevolence at work here. Events have conspired to make them appear as a grouping so wretched and grubby and infantile that it is almost unfair.

I declare the weekend open with the thought that, instead, perhaps we are seeing the limits of the Leninist grip on this pluralist environment. This episode displayed, among other things, Hong Kong’s press remaining free and raucous, and an almost charming lack of paranoia or security-worries among pro-establishment Internet users.

Beijing’s political reform process in Hong Kong has been one long series of screw-ups that backfired. So it (for now, perhaps) ends. China long ago identified and named its friends and favourites in Hong Kong, and the city can see, more than ever, that this sorry parade of specimens are clowns. So distasteful do they seem that, by contrast, the pro-democrats – from Emily Lau to Long Hair to nativist students – can’t help but be left with a collective image of integrity, maturity and purpose.

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HK pro-democrats – someone’s impressed!

If China’s leadership studies and respects Hong Kong public opinion on political reform, it will bring prosperity to the people of Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan, and to the Communist Party, and ‘will make everybody truly happy’. So says dissident Bao Tong.

His reading of Hong Kong’s rejection of Beijing’s ‘fake democracy’ model BaoTongis compelling because he was the right-hand man on political reform for Zhao Ziyang, the Premier banished to life under house arrest after trying to avert the Tiananmen massacre of 1989.

He states that the Legislative Council’s 28-8 rejection of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s August 31 edict was a domestic setback to the Communist Party unprecedented since 1949. His logic here is that the NPCSC decision was, under the PRC constitution, absolutely legal and authoritative; and Legco’s vote, the body being quorate and in accordance with procedure, also has ‘incontrovertible legal effect’.

The NPCSC was overruled. The NPC is a rubber stamp for the politburo leadership, so let’s rephrase that. A bunch of (mostly) popularly elected politicians in Hong Kong overruled the supreme and sole source of power in the one-party state. In accordance with the law. It should not be able to happen. Yet it did.

To Bao, under house arrest and looking on from afar, this is momentous. Are our pro-democrats themselves (or local officials, pro-establishment types and others wrapped up in their Hong Kong-centric world) aware of what they did? Or maybe Bao is cut off and overestimates the impact and unresolvable-ness of the NPC-Legco contradiction.

If it’s the former, we really haven’t heard the last of this. Meanwhile, Apple Daily reports that Liaison Office director Zhang Xiaoming is in for the chop – for what that’s worth.

(A couple of points on the article. 1. Bao refers to an ‘elite … used to being the only show in town’. He means the ruling class in Beijing – now perhaps humiliated in the eyes of their own people after running into the Hong Kong ‘obstacle’. Hong Kong’s own ‘elite’ are dependents. 2. The translation says that under the fake-democracy model, you could vote for ‘Zhang’ but not for ‘Zhang’; this is either a typo or Bao is using two different names (張, 章) both rendered ‘Zhang’.)

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It was UFOs, the Illuminati and the Bilderbergs

We all love a good conspiracy theory, so here’s one from a highly respected commentator: the Chinese government might have engineered last week’s Legislative Council voting farce in order to humiliate Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung and chuck him out.

‘Beijing to defenestrate CY’ is not a new story. Furthermore, the replacement of Tung Chee-hwa with Donald Tsang in 2005 serves as a precedent. In fact, the downfall of the EJ-LegcoPlotCrop-Haired One has some almost-eerie parallels with today: the huge July 1, 2003 march with the 2014 Umbrella-Occupy sit-ins; the failure of the Article 23 national security law with the failure of the political reform package; and for Twilight Zone fans, the rebellious role played by James Tien and the Liberal Party both times. Cosmic stuff.

Few can doubt that China’s leaders will view the Umbrella Revolution and the rejection of the political reform package as a loss of face. Hong Kong authorities enlisted the city’s international business organizations and foreign consulates, respectively, to endorse the Chinese government’s official line on these issues. The world was watching – and Beijing couldn’t get its cosmopolitan financial centre in order.

On top of that, we have to consider the possible role of Zhongnanhai factional intrigue. CY, as a sort-of political protégé of Tung, is part of Jiang Zemin’s old sphere of influence, which is out of favour in the Xi Jinping era. And there’s the possibility of bureaucratic rivalry. CY is also a creature of the Liaison Office, which had a hand in his stealing of the 2012 ‘election’ from Henry Tang and has since micro-managed the United Front crush-the-democrats campaign that has produced such an anti-Beijing backlash in Hong Kong over the last couple of years. Maybe the conspiracists and plotters are out to get the Liaison Office rather than just hapless CY. Maybe the episode is just a little sideshow in the much bigger Cracking-Up of China.

Of course the notion that Beijing is going to dump CY is entirely believable. No contrived Legco voting walkout disaster is necessary. It should already be obvious that they would only give him a second term if they wanted to take the face-losses to even greater heights, such as riots and a growing independence movement.

One reason to doubt the Legco-vote conspiracy theory is that it involves an even more-shameful public loss of control. To the extent the Legco farce humiliated CY, it humiliated China too. If Beijing wanted to pull the plug on CY with maximum prejudice, they would make it personal – as with Henry Tang’s basement, or Bo Xilai’s murderous wife.

Finally, how on earth could anyone plan, organize and execute such a chaotic screw-up as the walkout from the chamber to wait for Uncle Fat after voting has started? It would require weeks of rehearsal to choreograph such a sprawling mess, and Oscar-standard acting skills for 31 pro-establishment lawmakers to pretend so convincingly to be clueless idiots. The only way you could do it would be to implant a microchip in each one’s brain so they could be controlled remotely.


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Pan-dems split into a zillion tiny evil-smelling pieces

Just a few days ago, Hong Kong’s pro-establishment lawmakers made stupendous asses of themselves by neglecting to vote on the crucial political reform package. Their farcical exit from the Legislative Council chamber highlighted the unthinking and robotic behaviour Stan-TienFamilythat the Chinese Communist Party expects and requires of its allies (and the problem with unquestioning obedience). It also raised doubts about some of these individuals’ basic IQ levels. And for good measure, it reminded observers that the pro-Beijing camp is simply an ad-hoc and largely incompatible mish-mash of devout believers, co-opted special interests and blatant opportunists, with little in common but obsessive-compulsive shoe-shine disorder. One of the humiliated zombie-walkout losers-of-face is publicly blasting his fellow legislator and brother for not joining in last Thursday’s March of the Loyalist Lemmings.

And so it is only to be expected that the big story this week is… the earth-shattering and fatal mega-split in the pan-democrats, otherwise known as the departure of Ronny Tong from the Civic Party.

Ronny’s unsurprising and probably inconsequential decision reflects the pan-dems’ own dilemmas and inner crises. There is the perpetual Moroseness-at-all-Costs that requires the pro-democrats to be depressed and depressing, even when last week’s events hand them reasons to be cheerful and confident. This is important: a community looking for leadership doesn’t need woeful wrist-slashing martyrs. Related to this is the generational gap, as stodgy old lawyers and journalists obsessed with constitutional structures give way to the freedom-loving Hong Kong-first youngsters of the Umbrella era. And ultimately, there’s the deep question of how you convince a totalitarian, Leninist one-party state to let a pluralistic society live. Does it take defiance and opposition, or is moderation and compromise the only way?

As well as quitting the Civic Party, Ronny is standing down as a legislator. This will trigger a by-election. If the pan-dems manage to lose his seat in New Territories East, they will lose their narrow majority in the geographical constituencies, and thus much of the obstructive power they currently hold in the legislature – notably use of the filibuster.

This should be a hypothetical and improbable outcome. It will be a straightforward first-past-the-post race rather than the usual multi-seat, party-list proportional-representation bizarreness we usually get in Legco elections. The pro-dems will have to put a great deal of effort into losing – but as we all know, this is the sort of challenge they can’t resist.

It could be a blessing in disguise if the pro-dems did lose their power to filibuster. Nothing pleases the pro-Beijing media more than the chance to portray the pan-democrats as nihilistic troublemakers, a charge that resonates with much of the public. It would encourage them to seek different methods and indeed different goals. After 30 years, the fight for democracy in Hong Kong has achieved little or nothing, while the cronyism, the poor governance, the rip-offs and the inequality get worse, and people get angrier.

If there is a split, the pro-dems are dividing between those who have run out of ideas and energy, and those who have other things to do. What other things? Those who can’t answer that question should follow Ronny’s example and step aside.

Meanwhile, the real entertainment continues over in the pro-Beijing camp, where zombie-buffoons weep and wail and turn on their own siblings in their desperation to appease and assure their Communist Party string-pullers.

Another of those ‘Whoops we forgot it rains in Hong Kong when we designed the lobby area of our multi-billion dollar office complex’ moments…

Drains? We don’t need no stinkin’ drains.

Drains? We don’t need no stinkin’ drains.

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Great moments in marketing (cont’d)


The South China Morning Post reports that Beijing is justifying its island-creation in the South China Sea on the grounds that it will improve weather forecasting. It also files the story under the tag ‘Diplomacy’, since ‘Pathetic lies’ wouldn’t fit. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong pro-government legislators who accidentally walked out of the most important vote of our time continue to weep vigorously in public to atone for their unforgivable sin against the Communist Party. What these two items have in common – aside from the obvious totalitarian Leninist context – is that they are both about people making a ludicrous excuse along the lines of ‘the dog ate my homework’.

Over in the private sector, the profit motive rules, and they know how to tell blatant falsehoods convincingly and with panache. The reason, of course, is competition.

For decades, Hong Kong’s market in packaged foodstuffs was a duopoly comprising the Park N Shop and Wellcome supermarket chains. They each claimed (and continue to claim) to offer consumers more, better and cheaper than the other, while in fact carrying near-identical product ranges at suspiciously identical prices. With no real competition, they had no serious incentive to lie well – as their unoriginal marketing and advertising shows.

However, in recent years new and adventurous retailers have identified gaps in this rigged and restricted market. Perhaps the first was Prizemart, whose cheap and amazingly cluttered stores offer known and unknown brands at very low prices, which could only have been sourced from different, and probably distant, distributors from those serving the Park N Shop/Wellcome monopsony.

The big success story in this sector is 759, a paradise of Slovakian canned stew, ultra-cheap French beer, wondrous Japanese wasabi-seaweed snacks and undiscovered species of Korean noodles. The chain has become so mainstream and ubiquitous that it has a branch at the airport and is expanding into cosmetics, cafes and toys. Some freethinking counterculture consumers accuse it of becoming a sort of neo-Park N Shop – though that seems a tad unfair, at least until they start offering 759-brand micro-apartments.

One newcomer is Foodwise, which specializes in things like frozen seafood (and is one of the few places outside Thai-inhabited neighbourhoods where you can get spicy luncheon meat).

And then we have Bestmart 360, which started up just a couple of years back. It’s the same sort of approach: look around the 99.99% of the world’s packaged food products that the Park N Shop-Wellcome duopoly don’t carry – and ship in whatever looks like good value. As with the other interlopers, it’s not so much the low prices of the parallel imports as the novelty of the obscure Asian, European and other brand names.

Which brings us to the Outrageous Offensive Hypocritical Mendacity in Marketing of the Week Award winner…


Even among the weird and offbeat products at Bestmart 360, this jumped out off the shelves at me. ‘Flanders Field Selection’ chocolates – Belgian – supposedly created in honour of the valiant heroes of World War I (ongoing centenary, etc), in the shape of what the packaging calls a ‘Tommy helmet’, the ‘tin pan hat’ of the British and American soldiers in the sodden, rat-infested trenches of the Western Front.

Needless to say, after recovering from a latter-day consumer-society variant of shell shock, I grab a box of these things. Eight for HK$20, since you ask. The chocolate is OK, quite thick, and has a slightly minty white filling. They are awkward to hold and bite, but that is no doubt the hardship we must bear to pay homage in this way to the fallen. If I didn’t see it and eat these things, I would imagine it was a parody, but it is indeed a real concept, raising funds for New Zealand veterans.

Mere governments or politicians desperate to put a spin on something would never have the creativity or imagination. Or the nerve. “All done in the best possible taste,” naturally.


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With friends like these, does Beijing need enemies?


So the expectation was that 42 pro-Beijing legislators would vote in favour of Hong Kong’s proposed ‘quasi-democracy’ political reform, while 28 pan-democratic members would vote against. The pro-dems would deprive the constitutional package of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, but they could be portrayed as villains who thwarted the popular will supposedly represented by the 42. Instead, just as the voting started, most of the pro-Beijing lawmakers rose from their seats and filed out of the chamber, embarking on what would go down in history as the United-Front Turkeys of Zombie-land Death March.

They were attempting to delay things while waiting for the elderly New Territories representative Lau Wong-fat – who rarely shows up – to arrive, as they felt he wouldn’t want to miss the vote. Unfortunately, they got things in the wrong order (for future reference, it’s supposed to be: walkout before the vote takes place). But not all the pro-government lawmakers went along. The Liberals had been left out of the loop, mainly because the other pro-Beijing people all hate them. (Frankly, who doesn’t?)  And a couple of other loyalists stayed behind, apparently uncertain what to do…


It’s to do with information overload. The brain seizes up for a few moments while it processes more input than it was designed to handle. You can do this for yourself, with an appropriate subject, as demonstrated here.

The final vote therefore came out as 28 to 8 against the package. The orchestrated pro-OD-8yanBeijing hate-fest against the evil pan-dems had to be hastily re-scripted to strip out the bits about how 42 obviously morally outweighs the tyranny-of-the-minority 28, who had cruelly denied Hong Kong universal suffrage. Chief Executive CY Leung went sort of Zen on the loyalist lawmakers’ disappearance and just savaged the pan-dems.

Most right-thinking people are understandably still collapsing in fits of uncontrollable mirth at this whole absurd hilarity. Serious-minded pan-dems and others meanwhile warn that this is just the beginning of a new era in the fight, and they cannot always rely on circumstance and opponents’ incompetence to give them unity and victory. And Beijing officials must be asking whether to finally wise up and try a new approach to Hong Kong, or stick to Communist form and seek murderous bloody revenge against the pro-democrat menace. But before we start to Focus on the Economy and ponder on the profundities of what will happen next, it’s worth looking at the 31 pro-government legislators who walked out and asking – what were they thinking?

The 31 include former senior official Regina Ip and rising star Starry Lee, who are both at times mentioned as potential Chief Executive material. They include the pompous great and good of the patriotic community, like Ip Kwok-him and Tam Yiu-chung, and representatives of our oh-so important smug and entitled plutocrats like Abraham Shek and Jeffery Lam. And they include venomous attack dogs like Priscilla Leung and self-styled thinking moderates like Michael Tien. Having received medals and appointments in return for shoe-shining, they strut around apparently believing in their own superiority – over pro-democrat politicians and over the rest of the populace. And now we see: they can’t even push a button at the right time.

One of their number called the walkout ‘a stupid and careless mistake’. But only individuals make stupid and careless mistakes. Even 31 sheep would probably not all simultaneously make the same ‘stupid and careless mistake’. The loyalists who walked out are, we can only conclude, obedient, unthinking, slavish, unaware – useful idiots to a Legco-CMoLeninist machine, but probably not worth listening to about anything, and certainly unfit for public office. That was Beijing’s leadership material in action.

I declare the weekend open with yesterday’s lesson: while exasperating at times, the pro-dems at least have their own minds and souls and the freedom to use them.


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