Holiday YouTube Binge-watching Guide

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Some recommended YouTube therapy to aid recovery from roast turkey, cognac, etc (and assuming you’ve already gorged yourself on the compulsory pinnacles of televisual popular culture from the old days like The Prisoner, Danger Man, etc)…

  • The venerable and ahead-of-its-time Quatermass and the Pit.
  • The cheesy, gloriously dated, pseudo-swinging, tongue-not-quite-far-enough-in-cheek Department S (1).
  • Last but not least, the classy-cast/low-budget (originally aimed at kids) nightmare-creepiness of Sapphire and Steel (the order of these episode-segments is patchy – just go with it) (2).

Footnotes

(1) Any pathological hardcore fans of the late-60s/early-70s louche/debonair/ooze jet-set satin-jackets genre can find more Peter Wyngarde in Jason King. (You need help – something like The Pretenders might wean you off it.)

(2) To see how, by contrast, a higher budget and overly earnest production reduces a talent like David McCallum to vapidity, see The Invisible Man – you should be convinced by the 13th episode.

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The Great Hibernation is declared open

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Winter Solstice heralds the pre-‘two-long-weekends-in-a-row’ wind-down and the Great 10-Day Hibernation. Hong Kong unites in wishing CY Leung an especially joyous final Christmas as Chief Executive. Our leader was up in Beijing yesterday getting his ‘Last Duty Visit’ kick in the teeth in true Communist Party-style – insincere ‘praise’ more rancid than recycled Mainland gutter oil.

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According to the South China Morning Post, Foreign Minister Wang Yi conceded that CY in office faced ‘complicated internal and external situations’. The word ‘complicated’ is the nearest Communists get to saying ‘we really screwed up there’. Maybe this will help add a little cheer at the Leung family holiday gathering. Perhaps they will also draw some comfort from the fact that, while CY has been the most hated CE since the 1997 handover, the others were also widely loathed, if not quite as much. And – while we’re looking on the bright side – each CE leaves office more detested than his predecessor, so in the long run he may not seem quite as wretchedly disastrous, relatively. In 15 years’ time, we will be looking back almost fondly and saying, ‘Wow – remember when we thought CY Leung was bad?’

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A glimmer of hope for 2017 comes in the SCMP’s Lifestyle section. Not usual reading material, but I can’t resist the headline ‘Not enough bankers: overpriced crap restaurants struggle to make ‘overpriced crap restaurant’ model work’.

The paper examines a place called Picnic on Forbes (which sounds like you get a sandwich presented on a Gordon Chang article – pretty cool concept if you get the pricing right). The owner is trying to attract customers with live jazz, an appearance by a Parisian butcher, and a revamped brunch menu. (If it were me, I’d attract customers by removing the live jazz and the Parisian butcher, but what do I know?)

scmp-notenoughWe are left wondering if this will work. And we fear it will not, as the SCMP writer, overcome with seasonal goodwill, lapses into advertorial-mode, plugging the aforementioned brunch menu, referring to the hefty price as ‘reasonable’ with no quote or source to verify it, and laboriously translating ‘poulet frites’ into English, as you would if you wanted to attract the sort of unworldly riffraff the owner did not originally have in mind.

Not far from Picnic on Forbes in Western (indeed, all over Hong Kong if you know where to look) restaurants thrive despite (or maybe because of) Not enough bankers. The fare is more likely to be Vietnam, Shandong or Malaysian, the décor more Formica, the prices around a third – the food amazing. So long as the Michelin pests don’t discover them…

Another sign for a saner 2017 comes in the suitably down-to-earth form of a bus going past a window in Central. It is not advertising skin-mutilating ‘serum’ beauty products, pop-star tutorial centres, a new luxury real-estate development, mind-numbing vacations in the Maldives, or diamond and gold watches. Just plain, humble, utilitarian Scotch Tape…

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Hope that Hong Kong can be held together?

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A vaguely brighter side to Carrie Lam

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Fragrant and elegant former Chief Secretary Anson Chan gives the Hong Kong public the benefit of her wisdom on the subject of next Chief Executive. Financial Secretary John Tsang, she says, ticks all the right boxes in terms of dedication to the community’s core values, law and rights and freedoms. She goes on to accuse current Chief Secretary Carrie Lam of too-readily assuring Beijing of her continued adherence to CY Leung Thought and the recent Leninist-psychopath assault on the city. (Dame Conscience briefly dismisses third and ultra-desperate wannabe Regina Ip for much the same reason.)

carrie-cyThis might confirm what many right-thinking people feel. However, it is not as simple as ‘John is nice, Carrie is nasty’.

To be sure, John looks appealing to Hong Kong’s anti-Communist decadent bourgeois and radical youth: growing up in the US, assisting last Governor Chris Patten, enjoying coffee, French cinema and ‘local’ (non-Mainland) culture. Carrie, meanwhile, looks scary – having loyally served CY Leung and the Liaison Office on the political non-reform package, the purge of loyalists and other ideological campaigns.

However, there are more dimensions to it.

John is widely viewed as laid-back and uninterested in difficult changes, while Carrie has a no-nonsense reputation for getting things done. So, although John is supposed to have a magical ability to unite the community and restore harmony, he would not fix the serious economic and structural problems that create much of discontent and anger in the first place. Carrie, on the other hand, might upset and irritate everyone by overriding opposition, but she might actually improve the housing and welfare side of things in the process – and calm this restless corner of the empire.

It gets murky. Among John’s biggest supporters behind the scenes are the same people who backed Henry Tang in 2012 – including, of course, the property tycoons. There may be an element of revenge in this; indeed it could even be personal, as Carrie was Development Secretary, thus in charge of the Buildings Dept, which enforces laws against… illegal basements. There will definitely be an element of self-interest.

carrie-blueAnd murkier still. The word is that Carrie Lam is hugely, massively, stunningly unpopular with the top-ranking civil servants for being pushy, demanding, ‘my way or the highway’ and generally a pain. They would much prefer laid-back John (and indeed many would rather have CY Leung, who doesn’t know the inner workings of the bureaucracy).

The smug, pompous senior civil servants are – along with property tycoons (and public housing tenants, Heung Yee Kuk and private car-drivers) – the most arrogant and entitled interest group in the city. Their longstanding resistance to change in land, education, welfare, the lot goes beyond mere laziness or hypocrisy into the realms of group culture, identity and sense of self-worth. They detest and fear Carrie for the stiletto-heeled jack-booted stomping she has in store for them.

Beijing will no doubt have a big hang-up about John Tsang’s Westernized and nativist baggage, anyway. But if it’s any consolation if/when Beijing openly picks her, think of Carrie Lam’s enemies.

 

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Communists give John Tsang sitting-on-edge-of-seat torture

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Like a lonely love-struck schoolgirl staring at the phone, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary John Tsang waits and waits for China’s Communist Party HK Compatriot Cadre Micromanagement Dept to process his resignation. Only then can he offer himself as a candidate in the city’s Chief Executive ‘election’ next March.

For semi-official conjecture about the Chinese leadership’s thinking, the South China Morning Post turns to Lau Siu-kai. The all-purpose think-tank/’advisor’/loyalist grants the paper an enigmatic tale about Beijing not wishing to seem either approving or disapproving of Tsang, so dragging out acceptance of his departure for a perfectly non-committal two weeks.

Cheng Yiu-tong of Hong Kong’s Communist-front labour organization comes up with a suitably less la-di-da, more proletarian explanation for the delay: the Beijing officials are busy. It’s such a lame excuse it almost sounds credible – where would you put John Tsang in your list of priorities among Donald Trump telling you to shove the US Navy drone you stole, and capital flight from the country verging on Big Panic Crisis yet again?

scmp-standfirmWhile Tsang sits patiently, he might like to ponder yesterday’s question, which was: Would Beijing have the nerve to end Hong Kong’s artificially engineered housing supply/pyramid-scheme/rip-off-scam, if that’s what it took to avert rising social discontent and a growing pro-independence movement that threatened to split the glorious motherland?

A contribution to the debate comes from property tycoon Vincent Lo, who urges the next Chief Executive to continue CY Leung’s policies on housing.

Could these be the policies that have enabled housing prices to rise 45% since CY became CE? Yes they could.

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You know, just like commodities/property trading proceeds do everywhere else in the world…

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The week gets off to a slow start

One of the more enjoyable analyses of the downfall of Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung appears in the NY Times today. How can you resist this?

His administration tried to change school curriculums to add history and civic-education classes extolling the Chinese Communist Party. It has appointed power-hungry loyalists to run Hong Kong’s universities. It has funded militant or Communist youth league-type organizations. It has facilitated the immigration and integration of people from the mainland, which many Hong Kongers see as a form of creeping colonization. The government’s official think tank is headed by ultra-Maoists-turned-ultra-nationalists.

… Mr. Leung has committed, in the parlance of Chinese communism, the sin of ultra-leftism.

One tiny nit-pick: the National Education push was essentially unfinished business left over from Donald Tsang’s administration. Not that CY had anything against the principle, of course. But he basically picked up his predecessor’s plan – badly thought-out apparently because Sir Bow-Tie simply didn’t take it very seriously (the idea going back to some off-hand blather from then-Big Boss Hu Jintao).

A similar point of information may be in order about current CE-hopeful Regina Ip. The then-Security Secretary did not resign in disgrace as a result of her failure to implement Article 23 in 2003; she had already planned to quit government to accompany her daughter to college in the US.

scmp-guyprop1It is not necessary or desirable to embellish these people’s lists of disasters.

The NYT piece focuses on how CY alienated even pro-establishment elements in Hong Kong through his obsessive (verging on deranged) attempts to wreck the city in order to save it for the holy Communist faith. In so doing, he also abandoned the original social-welfare emphasis of his 2012 ‘election’ platform. He hit the ground running, sort of, by barring Mainland mothers from giving birth here, half-curbing the milk-powder smuggling frenzy and ordering dozens of street-side elevators to help old folk cross roads on overhead walkways. Then along came Occupy, the pro-independence scare and all the subsequent mayhem.

The Big Mutter right now is that the next CE must concentrate on getting this livelihood stuff right this time because you’re sure as hell not going to be getting universal suffrage, and the alternative is more radical splittist youth uprising threatening national security. Peter Guy in the South China Morning Post sets out simple benchmarks by which we can measure how serious Beijing’s appointee is going to be on the key question – to fix housing or not?

Is the prospect of young separatist rebellion sufficient to frighten pigs into flying?

 

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Hong Kong celebrates National Regina Day

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Regina Ip, Hong Kong’s very own Iron Butterfly, dons her bullet-proof bra and finally announces her desperate, drooling and long-obvious feverish desire to be Chief Executive.

She doesn’t seem to notice that her support base is a bit threadbare, comprising mainly retired colonial-era officials, and Westerners at that. Oh, and Peggy Lam – the redoubtable contraceptive-pushing Dragon Lady of Wanchai, apparently (and gratifyingly) still alive. This is a 1980s nostalgia tour.

scmp-iprevivesOne reason Regina is scraping the bottom of the barrel is that Hong Kong’s great and good establishment ‘elite’ are still waiting for Beijing to indicate positively who it will pick as next CE. Many of them got their fingers burned last time, endorsing Henry Tang and then finding CY Leung getting the job. If Regina flew up to Beijing tomorrow to get a hug from Xi Jinping, they would all drop to their knees in adoration of her.

Another reason is that not many people like her. Regina Ip is different from most Hong Kong politicians in that she has a big personality – it’s just not a very nice one. She scoops up the aging leather-fetishist vote on Hong Kong Island in Legislative Council elections, but is otherwise too openly, scarily opportunistic and ambitious for the top job. Her every word and action over the last few years has been for the benefit of a small audience in Zhongnanhai. Hence her establishment of a ‘Belt and Road’ Inanity Institute, her cold, steely psychopathic attitude to radicals and other threats to national security, those visits to the Liaison Office, and that junk-policy-platform she released yesterday. She doesn’t care what anyone in Hong Kong thinks and is impervious to your mockery.

Surrounded by blandness, she is genuinely fascinating in a lurid sort of way, and it’s no wonder the media can’t resist her.

She does have allies lurking in the background. The hardcore fans of CY Leung look to her as a replacement for their defenestrated hero. But she is a fake. CY converted to the True Chinese Communist Faith back in the late 70s and is a devout zombie-slave to the cause. Regina is just another Instant-Noodle Patriot, like so many of the Hong Kong establishment, kneeling, praying and shoe-shining at the Red altar out of economic necessity or lust for acceptance and status. Anyway – if CY and his Liaison Office buddies are the local losers in a Beijing power-struggle, Regina-as-surrogate is toast.

Maybe Beijing will allow her onto the ballot as a sop for the CY faction or to make presumed winner Carrie Lam look reassuringly calm and moderate by contrast. And then it will be over. We will never know what life would have been like under the stiletto heel and horse-whip of Broom-head.

I declare the weekend open with something for serious fans of Asian female politicians crashing to their deaths – the ultimate explainer on Park Geun-hye’s Shaman Explosion and other Korean weirdness, Part 1, and Part 2.

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World awaits with bated breath on tenterhooks…

…Regina Ip’s grand official announcement that she will ‘run’ in the ‘election’ for Hong Kong Chief Executive. (Presumably, the lady fantasizes about a repeat of 2012: power-crazed Chinese officials at the Liaison Office will abandon Beijing’s previous plan by leaking revelations of Carrie Lam’s illegal basement-dungeon in which a stable of virile Korean toy-boys and Mainland ‘小鲜肉/little fresh meat’ are housed, leaving ‘Reg’, as her friends call her, to pick up just over 600 ‘votes’ cast by the Communist Party’s robot-slaves on the so-called Election Committee.) While we wait…

Most Enticing Watch Ad of the Day Award goes to this in the South China Morning Post

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A ‘tourbillon’ is a type of onion popular in France. A ‘perpetual calendar’ is a calendar that takes you right up to The Rapture. A Lange 1 is of course the (now-defunct) predecessor to the Lange 2. By combining them, you get a watch that you can read (as opposed to one that you can’t) and which exercises discretion – otherwise known as ‘the better part of valour’, which is unusual, if unnecessary, in a timepiece. This seems to have something to do with a tragic communications screw-up between the design and production departments. The result (as watch ads say): a small watch somewhat off-centre in a bigger watch case, sadly leaving us with something ugly and stupid-looking.

Which bring us rather neatly to the Nastiest  Office Tower Christmas Tree in the North-West Quadrant of Central Award Winner…

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Congrats to The Center.

On which subject, this year’s Nastiest Digital Christmas Tree from a Newspaper Award goes to the SCMP. If you are on their e-Christmas card mailing list (as Trump would say, ‘Sad!’), you get a ‘tree’ made of the funny teardrop-balloon-things that Deputy Editor Phil Space scatters around the pages. And – nice touch! – they leave in a line that is supposed to be cut before sending. But mostly what you notice is that Big Red Star…

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…straight off the Work Unit Party Secretary ‘s green cap.

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Carrie Lam gets Hug of Death from Crop-Haired One

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The Chinese Communist Party has always distorted the history of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. For years under Mao, it pretty much ignored the event in order to obscure the fact that the Party was playing no serious military role when the Japanese attacked the Nationalist capital. More recently it has, if anything, exaggerated the scale of the atrocity to encourage a crude anti-Japanese popular sentiment and nurture the Chinese-victimhood-before-gallant-CCP-came-to-rescue line.

This version of history essentially downplays Japanese slaughter, rape and pillage in Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong and elsewhere. Obviously, no-one mentions the CCP’s 1948 siege of Changchun, where the civilian death toll possibly exceeded that in Nanjing.

So enlightened Hongkongers who know better can be forgiven for not taking China’s revisionist self-pitying ceremonies seriously, and indeed indulging in notable lapses in decorum if dragged off to attend such an occasion. No surprise, then, that two of them – former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and more-or-less putative next CE Carrie Lam – ended up groping one another yesterday while all around them bowed in patriotically selective mourning for the victims of Japanese fascist aggression.

Carrie also took a cheap shot at presumed rival Financial Secretary (Resigned) John Tsang. She used a report no-one knew he had produced on the Aging Population Threat-to-Civilization as an excuse to accuse him of disrespecting our plucky senior citizens – treating them as worthless unproductive mouths that a dwindling younger workforce will need to feed.

carrie-povertyIt is impossible not to admire such hypocrisy. The Hong Kong bureaucrat-tycoon establishment fears diverting government expenditure away from white-elephant infrastructure projects towards people, and sees a low-wage/high-immigration model as the only source of future economic development. Carrie is part of this.

But wait – there’s more. Carrie brings even more outdated policy baggage from long-dead generations of the British colonial ruling caste. This includes condescension towards the infantile populace who are unfit to hold views on public affairs – or understand anything not presented using cartoon visuals. More to the point, it is descended from the Victorian work-house philosophy that society will be ruined if the poor are not made to suffer hardship. For example, she has opposed measures to help families stuck in subdivided apartments on the grounds that it would encourage others to move into such accommodation.

CY Leung became Chief Executive nearly five years ago with promises to move away from this approach – which is why the tycoons hate him. Once in office, he and his Liaison Office minders instead went off on their Ideological Rectification Campaign, turning Hong Kong into a hotbed of counter-revolutionary deviance and splittism. Carrie’s job, presumably, will be to get it right this time. So she has to get used to being a bit more warm and cuddly on welfare issues, like being nice to the elderly. What better way to practice than a hug with old Tung in a crowd of geriatric patriots?

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Being uncool…

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If we were to be really cool, hip and trendy, we would treat the Next Hong Kong Chief Executive Guessing Game with disdain. Beijing will choose someone who will obey its orders – nothing else matters. It would make more sense to chatter excitedly about who will be running the Liaison Office or the HK and Macau Affairs hierarchy. Why lend credence to the pretense that some sort of up-for-grabs election will decide Hong Kong’s next leader?

One reason is that the Chinese government’s locally based officials are micro-managing the process obsessively. They work hard to bolster the loyalist vote in the (already adequately rigged) Election Committee, and they discreetly steer potential ‘candidates’ towards or away from participation. They seem to be doing more than just conjuring up an illusion of an election. Perhaps they are making work for themselves to justify their own Liaison Office bureaucracy. But it seems likely that the Communist Party likes to arrange a bitchy beauty contest to see what happens before finalizing its decision; it still has complete control over what happens later.

(It is important to remember how complete. Let’s say Mr Popular, with overwhelming support in public opinion polls, managed to get on the ballot and threatened to make Beijing’s pre-ordained winner look bad. Something nasty from Mr Popular’s past would suddenly come to light – an illegal basement, evidence of marital infidelity, or whatever. More likely, Mr Popular would already have been dissuaded from taking part. The Communists don’t leave these things to chance.)

To add to the Liaison Office’s semi-challenge, pan-democrats scored impressive victories in those parts of Sunday’s Election Committee Subsector Blah-Blah Elections in which humans vote for competing candidates. The Standard offers a good graphic…

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The pan-dems even had some success in the Chinese Medicine subsector, which is traditionally a United Front stronghold (resentful of anything Western, dependent on public money, etc).

The worthless and superficial rent-a-quotes in the South China Morning Post conclude that this shows professional elites are unhappy. Of course, the whole population is unhappy – the lawyers, teachers, nurses, architects, etc subsectors are simply the only outlets for genuine public opinion in the tightly rigged Election Committee structure (check out the number of uncontested seats).

Which brings us to Financial Secretary (Resigned) John Tsang. The SCMP reports that he is the most popular potential Chief Executive candidate in public polls, and the most likely to win the backing of the pan-democrats. The paper adds that ‘This bodes well for Tsang’. Oh yeah?

Reading between the gaping lines, Beijing is currently earmarking Chief Secretary Carrie Lam for next CE. Regina Ip could go on the ballot alongside her as the nasty option everyone hates. The pro-dems could nominate some hapless, charisma-free no-hoper from the Civic or Democratic Party. Carrie would come out ahead in the public opinion polls, and the Election Committee rubber-stamp ‘elects’ her. All very neat. Hong Kong continues lashing out as it spirals down the toilet for another five years.

If the Communists were Amazingly, Dazzlingly Original, Creative and Super-Smart, they would pre-select a Mr Popular as next CE, and lure the pan-dems on the Election Committee into backing him. This would take effort: the individual would have to be suitably nuanced about things like Article 23 national security laws and political reform, and obviously some pro-dems would split away. But it could – in our wildest dreams, at least – transform the mood in Hong Kong. John Tsang is presumably hoping something like this might happen. (We will leave his unimpressive record to one side.)

Needless to say, Xi Jinping’s inner circle will not and cannot be this subtle. Splittists. Crush. End of story. If John persists in butting in, he may need a visit from someone with an envelope containing ambiguous photos from a long-forgotten Mainland karaoke evening.

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Where did this come from? Whizzing past Disneyland over the weekend, I spotted what looks like a load of 1970s factory blocks from Kwun Tong have suddenly turned up.

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Lam to the slaughter

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Up to last week, Hong Kong had not been untouched by the worldwide eruption of populist revolts, celebrity deaths and general mayhem that is 2016 (of which 18 days are still to come). Chief Executive CY Leung started the year by dedicating his entire Policy Address to the mystical ‘One Belt One Road’ phantasmagoria; subsequent months brought (among other extreme events) the Mongkok Fishball Riot and the introduction of de facto religious tests to keep localist heretics out of public office.

So – after a relaxing weekend to absorb the news, it doesn’t seem so surprising that Beijing has tossed CY aside. The time had come. With Hong Kong’s ‘elite’ squabbling, it was either that or signal that CY would get a second term as Chief Executive.

hkfpcy-notseekThere are all sorts of possible factors at play, such as infighting within the Communist Party, even Chinese leaders’ nervousness at the prospect of President Trump stirring up the Empire’s splittist fringes. The timing particularly suggests a degree of panic ahead of yesterday’s Election Committee Subsector elections – a charade that only a bunch of Leninist control-freaks could take seriously. Pro-democrats, property tycoons and reluctant hyper-moderates all saw the rigged-poll-for-a-rigged-electoral-college as an opportunity to send an anti-CY message. (You can view the ‘manifestos’ of the candidates in David Webb’s 1,539 candidates in under 4 minutes video.) The danger was that only the bare inbuilt majority of automatons on the body would deliver CY their 689 or so votes; faced with such a flimsy and humiliating semi-endorsement, the Commies flinched.

Proof – yet again – of two things.

One: Hong Kong public opinion, manifested in various ways, can influence/intimidate the Chinese government. CY joins Tung Chee-hwa as the second of three CEs sacked by the Hong Kong people. Bear in mind the role played by ‘failed’ youthful rebellion: CY sealed his own fate through idiotic opportunistic reaction to the Occupy/Umbrella movement and the radical lawmakers’ Oath-gate saga. (To put all this another way, beneath the big tough mighty exterior, Beijing is paranoid and frightened – a typical bully, or empty vase. If Hong Kong can push the tyrants around, so can others.)

hkfp-carrielamreconTwo: the Chinese Communist Party has no loyalty, gratitude or debt to anyone. CY Leung has served, groveled, kowtowed, obeyed and self-flagellated for the CCP and New China for over 30 years. In the space of minutes on Friday, they stomped on him and chucked him out with the trash. Every supercilious lick-spittle shoe-shiner out there can expect the same treatment the moment they have no further use. And you are either that, or a free human who is ‘hostile’ to the regime: there is no middle ground. The CCP is a conveyor belt leading to a teeth-kicking machine. Now, Carrie Lam steps up through the John Tsang/Regina Ip Me-Me-Me hullabaloo to be next.

 

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