Someone takes Legco election seriously

It is hard to believe that someone out there takes the September 4 Legislative Council elections really, really seriously. Whoever it is, you would think, they must be pretty clueless and out of touch with what’s happening in Hong Kong. At the best of times, Legco is a constitutionally weak assembly with a rigged membership. Post-Occupy, with Beijing having unequivocally ruled out universal suffrage, the action is going to be elsewhere. Legco is an irrelevant talking shop, and it probably makes little difference what bills and other measures it passes or doesn’t pass, and thus who wins or doesn’t win seats.

But there is somebody who sees the Legco elections as a matter of life and death. Who could be so deluded and obsessed? Step forward, China’s local Liaison Office.

Although there is not going to be any evidence linking Beijing’s local enforcers to the Ken Chow affair, their fingerprints are all over the place. In New Territories West, someone (allegedly, etc) unsuccessfully tried to bribe the Liberal Party’s Chow not to run in the election. Now someone (allegedly, blah blah) has threatened him and his family, and, in tears, he is ‘suspending’ his campaigning. The main beneficiary, in theory, would be Junius Ho, pro-Beijing lawyer and rural leader, who is running as a supposed independent and would like the conservative businessman vote that might favour the Liberal Party.

This follows earlier friction within the pro-Beijing camp between the ‘official’ Communist Party-front DAB and loyal-when-it-suits-them rural/feudal interests. The Ken Chow drama seems to be partly about patching up that rift, while also punishing the supposedly Stan-TearfulCandpro-Beijing Liberals, whose disloyalties (in the eyes of Liaison Office officials) include openly detesting Chief Executive CY Leung.

Like so many other United Front attempts to consolidate supporters, frighten waverers and crush opposition, the net result of the whole episode will be repel and alienate most decent-minded onlookers. Not that it will occur to the dolts and thugs in the Liaison Office.

Meanwhile, fate delivers a little gift to anti-government Legco candidates who want some last-minute ammunition to use against opponents who support the administration. CY Leung’s rather (OK, astoundingly) lame plan to reserve some private housing for sale to Hong Kong people only has come to fruition in the form of a development called One Kai Tak. The price for apartments there: between HK$15,000-18,400 a sq ft or, if you’re the Standard and hate to cast property tycoons in a bad light, an average HK$14,400 after discounts.

The developer points out that no-one ever said anything about these ‘For HK-ers Only’ homes being affordable.

For people unable to afford Hong Kong’s sky-high housing prices – apparently on a perpetual upward course that must take them to HK$45,000 per sq ft, HK$200,000 per sq ft, HK$25,000,000 per sq ft in the years of moderate inflation and low median household income growth to come – I declare the weekend open with the reassuring words of Herbert Stein: “If something cannot continue forever, it will stop.” Of course, he never saw the Hong Kong property market.

 

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Baiting the panda

Against China’s wishes, South Korea is allowing the US to deploy an advanced anti-missile system on its territory. Beijing’s response: banish Korean entertainment stars from Mainland TV. The President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, omits any mention of the ambiguous ‘One China’ slogan favoured by Beijing and the last KMT administration in Taipei. China is retaliating by, among other things, barring certain (especially non-KMT) Taiwanese from attending events in Hong Kong.

Some observers see a carefully calibrated, cunning method to China’s prickliness; others see toy-throwing temper-tantrums born out of frustration. The pettiness of these reactions HKFP-BeijingBarsseems to reflect a combination of Beijing’s anger and its lack of practical alternative forms of protest. One thing we can be sure of is that these episodes reveal what Beijing considers most important and sensitive.

This is valuable to Hong Kong, which now faces a struggle to defend its freedom and way of life from the control-obsessed regime in Beijing – a regime likely to double down in its attempts to undermine local institutions and neutralize opposition. The old moderate pro-democrat route to reform and improved governance is dead. Many business and professional interests have been co-opted or cowed into silence. Resistance comes down to a disorganized assortment of radicals and free-thinkers with a potentially broad support base among the population.

Their main method looks set to be trolling and rattling Beijing: identifying what makes the regime most paranoid, and piling it on. It would be cruel and immoral to discipline a child who fears the dark with threats of a monster that comes out from under the bed when the lights are out. But a Leninist dictatorship is fair game. If Chinese officials lie awake at night petrified of ‘Hong Kong independence’, give them ‘Hong Kong independence’.

Beijing’s decision to take greater control of local immigration affairs shows us that the Communist Party is also petrified of opposition groups in Hong Kong and Taiwan coming together to ‘create a front to counter Beijing’s predatory – and sometimes [sic] atavistic – ideology’. Excellent. Sounds like a good time for Edward Leung, Joshua Wong or other unpatriotic local demons to take a few trips to Taipei for mysterious closed-door meetings with the Sunflower activists and other rebel counterparts across the Strait.

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‘Both ends of bridge to open at same time’ shock

Of all Hong Kong’s multibillion-dollar white-elephant mega-projects, the Zhuhai Bridge is arguably the most dimwitted. The Third Runway and the High-Speed Train Tunnel to that-Guangzhou-suburb-we-can-never-remember-the-name-of are both horrendous wastes of money, but at least follow the demented logic of our tycoon-bureaucrat policymakers – cram more people and stuff into the city, then more, then more again. The Zhuhai Bridge won’t even do that. It links a place that can’t accommodate any more road traffic (Hong Kong) to a place no-one wants or needs to go to (Zhuhai) via a place that is far easier to get to on the existing ferry, and will actually not admit any vehicles beyond a remote parking area, and is kind of a seedy tacky dump (Macau). Hardly anyone will use this bridge.

So news that its opening is delayed is rather underwhelming, especially as we heard it several months ago, complete with lurid gossip about supporting parts of the bridge sliding around on the sea floor. The Standard reports that, when it does open, it will do so as one complete bridge – not in stages as different segments are completed. A great moment in infrastructure project-management, as the engineers determine that people won’t use a bridge if only one end is open. (Actually, if the users are Mainlanders, the engineers are wrong. Look at how the hard shoulder along the Guangshen S3 Expressway overlooking the sea near Shenzhen airport is crammed with picnicking SUV owners.)

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Stan-InFactWongThe report goes on to say that it’s surprising that the Hong Kong end of the project is the one full of screw-ups, as it’s the Zhuhai segment that has some Seriously Scary construction challenges. However, the ingenious and resourceful Mainland contractors have devised some sort of fix, so everything’s going to be tickety-boo. I mean, it’s just a ‘submerged tube tunnel’ – what could go wrong?

The ultimate reassurance that the delay will be manageable comes from an academic. Zhuhai and Macau have small populations, and economic integration between them and Hong Kong has been ‘of limited scale recently’. You could delay the bridge for years and years, and no-one would notice.

SCMP-HousewifeChallengedThe South China Morning Post brightens our day with the Quintessential Everyday Story of 2016 Hong Kong. It has everything: psychopath Mainland woman (in orange tracksuit, but you knew that); some heavy Maxim’s-cake-shop action; Mainland kid who is bully and (we imagine) standard-issue one-child-policy brat; valiant Hong Kong grandmother defending herself and grandchild from chip-on-shoulder psycho Mainlanders; attack on grandma’s daughter, Bryony; emergency trip to Pineapple Bun-Size Wound Department at Prince of Wales; threats of posting video on-line; locust-baiting protestors at court ‘hurling abuse’ at Mainlanders, who are by now, presumably, rethinking this whole cross-border shopping idea.

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Fanny Law on hunt for class enemies

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We are here to stuff fears, suggestions, fantasies, dramas, delusions and the overall concept of Hong Kong independence down your throat until you agree that it is a big, bad, ugly horror to humanity. Executive Council member and former senior civil servant Fanny Law talks endlessly about how we mustn’t talk at all about Hong Kong independence. She is especially freaked out about people discussing it in schools – for any reason that comes to mind, but right now on the grounds that it is too complicated unless you also understand the first Opium War. (You must admit, she gets 10 out of 10 for complicated.)

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng’s latest view on this pressing subject depends on what Beijing last told him.  Last we heard he was OK with talk of independence in schools provided it was in line with the Basic Law. I don’t think he means Fanny, though you could be forgiven for thinking she is the most ‘basic’ Law around at the moment.

That would be a shallow, snide comment without some sort of proof. Which brings us neatly to Fanny’s new bright idea, which is to look into the family background of pro-independence students. History provides us with a rich choice of ways to do this, such as:

  • Measuring their noses
  • Testing for extra Y chromosome
  • Weird forehead
  • Grandfather was a member of landlord class who starved the peasants
  • Wasn’t breast-fed/prolonged eczema misery as infant/spent whole childhood locked in dark spider-infested cupboard by evil step-mother
  • Hereditary predisposition to oppose totalitarian rule, mind-control, ex-civil servants with mad staring eyes stirring up witch-hunts at behest of Communist overlords

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Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reports hundreds of pro-independence localist groups (don’t you mean ‘cells’?) springing up in schools. Could these be the Hong Kong public schools that are still closed for Summer Vacation? Yes. Oh, and by ‘groups’, we mean Facebook pages, many of which could be started up by one or two mischievous kids waiting for classes to re-open in a week’s time, or indeed by Fanny Law as part of some demented ‘false flag’ operation.

In fairness to Fanny, it could be she wants to investigate the family backgrounds of deviant-thinking children in order to find socio-economic causes of dissatisfaction with the state of governance in Hong Kong and the Chinese regime that imposes it on the city. For example: the family lives in a barely affordable subdivided apartment; the family hoped CY Leung would deliver on his promises for affordable housing after he became Chief Executive; instead, property prices have risen another 50% since 2012; the parents complain about this to each other; having only 100 square feet to share, the kid overhears them; the kid starts a pro-independence terrorist squad with his buddies in Form 3. She might learn something.

See here for a good summary of how this mess has been and is still unfolding. Talk about resurrecting Article 23 looks certain before long. It is hard to say at what point Beijing bites off more than it can chew, but it does seem that the fun and excitement is just beginning.

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(‘Class’ enemies – geddit?)

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Let’s start the week with joyful sharing, enjoyment and mind

The South China Morning Post’s Peter Guy notes a HK Free Press/Apple Daily report on a lame government award purporting to recognize tech-innovation-hub-start-up-buzzword-excellence. The winners included companies that had essentially borrowed others’ work. The articles point out that the government committee judging entries was headed by a tycoon’s son, and Guy traces the ‘intellectual corruption’ of the process back to a system dedicated to maintaining ‘property-cartel-dominated serfdom’. Correctly, most right-minded people would say.

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The use of tycoons’ kids to pretend to chair pointless public boards is even more desperately unoriginal than the award-winning tech entrepreneurs’ innovations. Critics see such appointments to such bodies as ‘rewards’ for loyalty. This may be the case with the grovelling status-seeking commoners co-opted by the government this way. But for plutocrat-scions, it is a way for officials to bind them publicly to an unpopular administration. Daddy’s company has investments on the Mainland, so – even if the young tycoons are aware enough to realize what’s happening – they can’t refuse.

Whether it is seducing social-climbers with baubles, or inducing business figures to identify themselves with the government, the public consultation system is perhaps no longer part of the colonial-era trick known as the ‘administrative absorption of politics’. It no longer pretends to be bringing external opinion or advice into the power structure. It has lapsed into what Guy calls ‘promotional stunts to distract young people from the real problem’ – the aforementioned property-cartel-serfdom.

This is reflected in the very concept, structure and style of these ICT Start-Up Awards, which have ‘intellectual corruption’, not to say laziness, written all over them. The officials organizing the thing have put a lot of effort, meetings and expenses into making something that looks like a tech competition. Meanwhile, over at the Welfare department, they’re chucking a bit of cash around to make it look like they care about poverty. This could be a long list. The Legislative Council election we are invited to take so seriously simply looks like a poll for a lawmaking body. Outside a local restaurant, the only hint of someone not taking part in a charade is the pet-owner looking for a lost parrot…

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While Hong Kong is still more or less decently enough administered day to day, its actual government seems to be a giant exercise in pretending to recognize problems and pretending to do something about them, while pointedly ignoring anything and everything going wrong all around us. To the extent that the bureaucracy is now putting up posters pushing its new soma hotline…

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Thought-crime confusion sort-of clarified but not really

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A few days after his bureau said teachers mentioning the ‘I’ word could lose their professional qualifications, Education Secretary Eddie Ng comes back from a brief but refreshing trip to Beijing to say that actually they can talk about Hong Kong independence in schools after all. There is a condition: the discussion must be within the scope of the Basic Law. No-one knows what that means. Officials can’t say whether they want to criminalize ideas, let alone go into whether they can.

Since schools are currently closed for summer, and political debating sessions are not part of the curriculum anyway, this is a case of Clarifying Illogicalities Arising from Giant Contrived Mega-Fuss about Nothing. But pleasingly scurrilous young people in Hong Kong have discovered that by talking and acting as if a measurable ‘independence movement’ exists in the city, they can trigger yet greater automatic mass-mouth-frothing and frenzied head-exploding among Mainland officials.

Hong Kong officials and sycophants feel compelled to emulate their Mainland masters. But alas! Their automatic mass-mouth-frothing skills are mostly feeble in comparison with the vitriolic rants spewed out by the professionals in Beijing. The blatherings of shoe-shiners like Rita Fan or Fanny Law are so limp that it’s embarrassing. (Indeed, Rita seems to have gone completely soft in the head, recently suggesting that Chinese Communist officials fail to understand Hong Kong – when any patriot knows it’s the other way round.)

But occasionally, a local kowtowing groveler to the one-party state successfully comes up with a classy diatribe. Today’s award goes to Alan Hoo, a Basic Law expert.

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He is so miffed and alarmed by the creeping, lurking, looming pro-independence menace in our midst that he is demanding the death penalty, over the border, at least. Such heavy-duty, no-nonsense wrath rightfully deserves a response. The Hong Kong National Party, which Hoo wants banned, dares the authorities to declare it illegal and come and arrest them. The Communist Party’s propagandists are of course also challenging the Hong Kong government to eliminate and crush the (unregistered, nebulous) group. Our officials can only squirm and issue macho-sounding threats to do something to someone, somewhere, sometime. Probably not next week.

(The Standard refers to the Hong Kong National Party simply as ‘the National Party’, which prompts in my mind the instant word association ‘Pik Botha’. Presumably, the paper hopes that omitting ‘Hong Kong’ dilutes the subliminal-ish splittist message conveyed by the full name. Which it does, if ‘Pik Botha’ flashes before you.)

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I declare the weekend open with Uplifting and Cheerful Documentary of the Month for the viewing pleasure of anyone interested: A Certain Kind of Death – how Los Angeles deals with the property and (especially) bodies of those who die with no next of kin.

 

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Cops conclude home-made soap is… home-made soap

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The poor Hong Kong Police. For a while, in the 1990s and 2000s, they were probably one of the most popular forces in the world. Surveys consistently showed them to be people’s favourite government department. No-one called them ‘pigs’ or ‘filth’. They had a reputation (at least) for a reasonable degree of competence. Accusations of brutality were rare. Nearly everyone saw them as fair and even-handed.

Little anecdote… A bit under 10 years ago, radical activist ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung was part of a sit-in protest in Victoria Park. Fearing it could drag out, the authorities told participants they could leave but not return to the spot. This was a problem for Long Hair, as smoking had just been banned in parks, and he needed the occasional cigarette. After hearing the law-abiding radical activist’s pleas, the cops came to an arrangement whereby he could step just outside the barriers for a quick smoke and then go back.

Times have changed. The Chinese Communist Party does not do politically impartial civil service. In the Mainland, any government agency is a political tool, and in the last few years Beijing has ordered Hong Kong to fall into line and use public services to fight political opponents. Chinese officials apparently insisted that the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement was on a par with some sort of coup attempt, and the order was passed on to the police. When the protest began, the cops turned it into global news – and shocked Hong Kong – by firing dozens of rounds of tear gas and going nuts with pepper spray. In the following months they beat protestors, turned a blind eye to thugs who beat protestors, tried to take ‘chalk girl’ away from her family and arrested innocent people.

Since then, the police have participated in melodramatic and staged arrests of government opponents, discovered a ‘bomb-making’ plot that apparently never was, failed to cooperate in the investigation into the Ken Tsang case, fired shots in the air in the Mongkok fishball riot, tried to hush up the compensation payments to wrongly arrested people and otherwise humiliated themselves. Young people who would once have respected the police now mock them. The United Front pays grungy old uncles and aunts to don blue ribbons and mount clunky pro-police demonstrations.

And the latest: the dangerous fiends suspected of possessing offensive weapons with intent were actually environmentalists doing some recycling project to help old folks – which, bizarrely enough, as the sleuths might just have noticed, was exactly what they looked like. The Commissioner insists the gallant boys in blue were right to think the greenies were mutant psycho terrorists, meaning that he knows another screw-up when he sees one.

What has happened is that the Liaison Office has sent the word down via Chief Executive CY Leung that the cops must protect Hong Kong and the nation and help to crush evil foreign-backed splittist counter-revolutionaries. Being dutiful, literal-minded and not really into nuances – and presumably emboldened by the sort of esprit de corps of uniformed services – the police have gone ahead and followed orders.

The police still arrest suspected bad guys, and when not serving the Communist Party come across as professional and courteous. But their reputation and image have nose-dived. Another Liaison Office success story.

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China finds cool way to take everyone’s mind off Olympics failures

Imagine a universe different from Einstein’s. One where the South China Morning Post tackles quantum physics…

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The SCMP stresses the quantum orbiter project’s potential to enable the glorious motherland to have ‘un-hackable’ communications. The real-life applications, which include computing, are overshadowed by the freakiness of the theoretical science. One attempt to explain this advises that ‘hardly anyone on the planet truly understands quantum physics, and some of them are probably bluffing’. Another says it sounds ‘more like paranormal activity than physics’. For example, ‘by the very act of watching, the observer affects observed reality’. The cat, it seems, cannot only be alive and dead – but in two different places at once. As someone more or less put it: if you understand quantum physics, you haven’t studied it properly. (A stab at de-mystifying the quantum entanglement thing is here.)

Something else we cannot get our head around may be Beijing’s observation of reality. In Hong Kong, we find it scarcely believable that China’s leaders can look at this city and detect the terrifying foreign plots, splittism, nightmarish independent judiciary, threatening media and other horrors it seems to see. It helps to remind ourselves that their view of everywhere else is just as warped

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Latest battles in war on pro-independence menace

Hong Kong’s witch-hunt against dark and evil pro-independence forces continues. Communist newspaper Ta Kung Pao sends a reporter out to smear and goad localist Stan-PaperTriessuperstar Edward Leung. And following the contrived panic (from contrived ‘Academy of School Managers’ group) about pro-independence teachers, another United Front mob called Real Hongkongers’ View gather outside a teachers’ union to accuse it of encouraging sedition, splittism and devil-worship. The Education Bureau, as if fearful of being left out, yaps its approval.

No-one has ever actually seen a pro-independence teacher.

The above four links respectively report: character assassination, violence, intimidation and threats of being fired. Insofar that this campaign is fighting a barely existent, mainly imaginary enemy – a Hong Kong ‘pro-independence movement’ – it would be funny. But the way even fairly moderate figures and government agencies are being required to publicly align themselves with this artificial hysteria is creepy.

Possible reasons Beijing’s Liaison Office is mounting such an elaborate crusade, in increasing order of likelihood:

  1. They really believe there is a CIA plot to mount a local coup and set up a puppet independent Hong Kong city-state from which to overthrow the Chinese Communist regime
  2. They are trying to provoke a mass movement or incidents to justify sending the tanks in and eliminating free Hong Kong once and for all
  3. Their bosses in Beijing really believe there is a CIA plot, and they are too afraid to disagree
  4. They are trying to convince their bosses in Beijing there is a CIA plot, so they can ‘crush’ it, thus get bonuses and promotions
  5. This is a Leninist United Front attempt to condition Hong Kong into accepting the banning of ideas and criminalization of thoughts as normal, reasonable and necessary
  6. This is a Leninist United Front attempt to force moderate officials, professionals and others who prefer to keep their heads down to publicly declare their loyalty (or implicitly declare disloyalty)

Anything I’ve missed? (They’re all on drugs, or something?)

For anyone keeping a list, don’t forget to add another area of creeping Mainlandization in Hong Kong: financial market analysis. The Communists are so far keeping their claws off the courts, which have found Joshua Wong and friends charged with Occupy offences to be ‘brave youths who express their opinions’. Something tells me brave Magistrate June Cheung who expresses her opinions isn’t going to be getting a Gold Bauhinia Medal any time soon.

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Splittist teachers invited to organize

A United Front astroturf group issues a dire warning about teachers being barred from their profession for pro-independence thought-crimes. (The Germans, as ever, have been there and have a word for it – Berufsverbot.) This comes ‘in response to a slew of new “localist” concern groups springing up at secondary schools’.

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No-one has actually seen this ‘slew’ so far, but we are living in a strange world where ‘in response to’ means ‘designed to create out of nothing’. The slew comes next.

 

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