Dems fear rigged election not fair

A suitably weird end to the week comes to us courtesy of Hong Kong’s traditional/mainstream pro-democrat politicians. Beijing loyalist Tung Chee-hwa points out that the Chinese Communist Party, not content with rigging the fake Chief Executive election at the nomination and polling stages, also – in its paranoia – reserves the right to throw out the actual result anyway. The pan-dems claim the venerable Crop-Haired One (or the leave-nothing-to-chance process he mentions) is undermining the ‘fairness’ of the charade…

There can be a difference between ‘fairness’ and some form or other of ‘justice’. Few right-thinking people will be able to resist a smirk on reading that frantically desperate Chief-Executive hopeful Regina Ip is painfully coming to terms with the fact that, after all her mega-shoe-shining and groveling, the Communists have no further need of her…

The more you prostrate yourself in fake (or real) adoration of the Communist Party, the more brutal is the inevitable kick in the teeth when it finally comes. Yet every shoe-shiner thinks it will be different in their particular case. It hurts.

An analysis of the rot behind ex-Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s conviction comes from Peter Guy. The blurb ponders whether the case is ‘a high point in Hong Kong’s jurisprudence, or a sign of its inevitable decline’.

Another way of putting the question is to ask whether the Communist Party believes it can maintain control of Hong Kong without a system of cartels and cronyism. Or in the Mainland.

(Just in: another jab at Sir Bow-Tie.)

I declare the weekend open with this – which was sent a few days ago…

The Hon Andrew LEUNG
President of Legco
Breach of Rules of Procedure

Dear Sir,

I trust that you will be taking appropriate action regarding the breach of Rule 41(8) by WONG Kwok-kin in LegCo on 17 February when he raised the conduct of judges, stating:

“In the past, Hongkongers described ‘fake foreigners’ as people with ‘yellow skin but a white heart’, but today I have to describe a judge as a ‘white skin with yellow heart’ – the yellow of a yellow ribbon.” 

[While Rule 41 (8) states]

41 Contents of Speeches

(8) The conduct of Judges or other persons performing judicial functions shall not be raised.”

Not only was this statement in breach of Rule 41(8), it was outrageously bigoted, racist and offensive…

I look forward to receiving your positive response.

And the positive response has been…

Thank you for your email below.

The President of the Legislative Council has instructed me to let you know that he has noted your views expressed in the email.

Regards

Dora WAI
(For Clerk to the Legislative Council)

Don’t hold your breath for more

 

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Some links…

…to pass the time (for those who have it).

Former prominent business figure Simon ‘modern-day Beau Geste’ Murray writes to the South China Morning Post to add his support for Hong Kong’s convicted ex-Chief Executive Donald ‘hates poor people’ Tsang. Like so many of us who at some point had a radio broadcasting licence and left it gathering dust somewhere, he finds the charges trivial. He is bolder than many of Sir Bow-Tie’s sympathizers in openly accusing the CY Leung regime of vindictiveness.

The triviality/vindictiveness line of Donald-defence is a good one. Unlike Donald, CY Leung put the Communist Party above all else and undermined public institutions in his zealous pursuit of counter-revolutionary elements that needed to be crushed.

One result is the Hong Kong Police force’s sad fall from politically impartial grace – a useful commentary on which appears here. An array of fringe or nominally independent ‘patriotic’ United Front groups and figures are now openly condemning rule of law and the courts, often in revealing xenophobic and racist terms. Hong Kong’s top officials meanwhile keep their heads down, too petrified or otherwise unable to agree or disagree.

If you really wanted a reason to put Donald in prison for years, it would be for using his time in office to deliberately push up housing prices and therefore the profits of property developers (like Simon Murray’s old company, Hutchison). Not only did he suspend supply of land and subsidized homes, he introduced incentives for developers to build projects with ‘luxury’ features like club-houses – which ended up being sold to money-launderers and investors.

You could even claim that Donald’s housing policy helped feed the discontent that CY Leung leveraged in his anti-dem witch-hunt Cultural Revolution. Then again, you could claim that CY has deliberately maintained and worsened the housing mess – to the extent that, according to this informative SCMP op-ed column, 14% of private housing is vacant.

On the subject of construction, if you ever look at plans for big projects, you will see a reference to ‘Principal Datum’. I have always assumed from the context that this was fancy engineering-speak for ‘ground level’ next to the white-elephant monstrosity concerned. Apparently, it is a notional ‘ground level’ for the whole of Hong Kong from sea to shining sea. One of many fascinating factoids in this convoluted tangle of stuff about a copper bolt.

 

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Gratuitous worthless-cold-remedy plug

As well as work commitments – shockingly – biting into my day, I have recently been stricken by some sort of mutant flu/Black Death ailment. Medical science being too incompetent to find a cure for these things, victims can only wait it out.

I have expelled gallons of thick nasal mucus into hundreds of tissues – and I mean serious kitchen rolls, not namby-pamby Kleenex (specifically, I recommend ultra-absorbent Regina brand). More for amusement than anything else, I have also tried cough syrup. The choice is between Madame Pearl, who looks creepy, and African Sea-Coconut. Obviously, I go for the latter, with its splendid 1950s-style packaging in Chinese, Arabic-script Malay and Tamil…

The leaflet and list of ingredients are perfect to browse through during bouts of fevered delirium (ideally accompanied by Japanese cosmic freak-out music)…

I have actually seen a sea-coconut up close, at a museum in Macau. It is the Biggest Seed in the World – bigger than a basketball and weighing in at 30 pounds with no problem. After dropping from the tree, the monster floats across the ocean in the hope of being washed up on a distant beach where it can propagate its valiant species. (The museum’s story; Wikipedia says otherwise, pointing out that the tree never spread beyond two islands in the Seychelles.)

I assume it is endangered – otherwise, why use it in Chinese medicine?

Sniff.

 

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Sympathy for Sir Bow-Tie as self-pity

Hong Kong weeps and sobs upon reading pleas for leniency on behalf of former Chief Executive Donald Tsang, convicted of misconduct. Who cannot feel tears welling as ex-Justice Secretary Wong Yan-lun submits a 10-page letter to the court, and Chief Executive-in-waiting Carrie Lam ends her appeal with the phrase ‘Yours humbly’?

When ex-Chief Secretary Rafael Hui was convicted of bribery and misconduct a few years ago, people wondered how and why a highly paid senior official would succumb to temptation. One theory was that top bureaucrats socialized too readily with our mega-billionaire property tycoons and became mesmerized by the vastly different scale of wealth (private jets, etc) enjoyed by the lucky families who run our real-estate cartel. Moral hazard ensued.

It makes sense. Our officials have limited accountability and great discretionary power involving matters like land use. There are few formal firewalls to keep businessmen and officials apart (top bureaucrats hobnob with plutocrat ‘elites’ on first-name terms at the Jockey Club as a mark of status). The Chinese Communist Party sees co-opted tycoons as a key part of its local power base. One of Carrie Lam’s first tasks on deciding to ‘run’ in the pseudo-election was to call on the Real Estate Developers Association for a grovel-fest. Tycoons have every incentive to cultivate officials, and the system enables cronyism virtually by default. Rafael and Donald suffered lapses in willpower.

Yesterday, we used the word ‘corrupted’ to describe the damage Chief Executive CY Leung has done to Hong Kong’s public services and sphere. Aloof from Hong Kong’s tycoons, his only buddies have been Beijing’s Liaison Office and its United Front operations. His achievement has been to turn the police and other public agencies into political weapons in a fight to impose Leninist Mainlandization on the city.

The cries for mercy for Sir Bow-Tie can be seen as a not-so veiled attack on CY – even from Carrie, certainly from fellow-CE-wannabe John Tsang, from rebellious ex-official Anson Chan, from veteran pan-democrats, and perhaps on behalf of everyone except Beijing’s devout Communist faithful, who are nowhere to be seen. Jake van der Kamp’s column captures the mood: he (obliquely) hints that the prosecution was vindictiveness by Sir Bow-Tie’s successor, and concludes with an anecdote testifying to Donald’s loyalty to the Hong Kong core values CY is trying to destroy.

Even those of us who are less tolerant of overpaid officials’ foibles can sympathize. If Beijing’s mission to smother and absorb Hong Kong continues, we will look back with longing at leaders whose biggest betrayal was to pocket a free apartment.

 

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HK Police as victims

The conviction of the seven cops who beat Ken Tsang is long-overdue justice in the view of pan-democrats and, in theory, anyone who supports rule of law. To rabid patriots and anti-Occupy protestors, however, the two-year sentences are overly harsh, the evil work of white-skinned dogs, or otherwise wrong. Some Mainland military scion is offering a reward to whoever assaults the judge.

Officials are in an awkward position. Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen warns against inappropriate criticism of the judiciary. Police chief Stephen Lo can’t quite bring himself to admit his men committed a crime, and whines about the pressure they were under during Occupy. With the cops’ union demanding a pardon for the seven, perhaps he perceives possible severe disgruntlement – don’t call it mutiny – in the ranks.

No-one mentions where this pressure came from.

Chief Executive CY Leung, presumably at the behest of Beijing’s Liaison Office, systematically set about demonizing the pro-democracy activities and protests before, during and after the Occupy/Umbrella movement. He alleged (with no evidence) that foreign influences were behind the protests. Government-friendly media pushed the lines that Occupy ‘damaged rule of law’, harmed Hong Kong’s international reputation and was wrecking the economy. The business community was enlisted to sign statements warning of costly disruption and to publicly make elaborate contingency plans as if chaos loomed.

Marchers and demonstrators had reported for several years that the police were becoming less tolerant of the right of assembly. The firing of 87 rounds of tear gas on September 28, 2014 represented a major shift in police tactics. Either the crowd genuinely posed an unprecedentedly serious threat by modern Hong Kong protestors’ standards (as a foreign-backed insurrection might) – or it did not, but the cops had been prepared or ordered to react as if it did. Plenty of other incidents beside Ken Tsang’s case (like enabling thugs to attack protestors) suggest that the rank-and-file police had been psyched-up to see the pro-democracy movement as a public threat.

In the background to all this is Beijing’s White Paper on how Hong Kong had no intrinsic rights, and the subsequent heavy-handed denial of democracy in the city. Specifically, Mainland officials hinted (not for the first time) that civil-service neutrality was an incorrect idea – that state agencies exist to serve the government, not the public.

Since then, not only the cops, but other public servants have been corrupted in this way. Returning officers now supposedly have the legal right and telepathic powers to impose Thought Tests on candidates for election. The Electoral Office has mysteriously acquired the right to censor election materials, with help from the Post Office. The politicization of university governing bodies is also part of this trend.

This is what Beijing, CY Leung and his local officials have unleashed. In this sense, the front-line cops can make a case for being victims.

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Exclusive interviews reveal candidates’ profundity, wisdom

Contenders in Hong Kong’s phony but nonetheless quirky and entertaining Chief Executive ‘election’ grant exclusive interviews to lucky media outlets.

Beijing’s pre-determined winner Carrie Lam does an interview with Bloomberg – an ideal way to reach the more economically literate end of the audience-spectrum. But she is devoid of ideas except for a charming hope that by spending more of the government’s budget surplus she can ‘make everyone happier’. She also says she is puzzled as to why she is coming second in public opinion polls, which are of at least symbolic importance in the appointment process.

For an answer, she could check the South China Morning Post’s big coverage of John Tsang, who gave his interview in the form of a trendy Facebook Live online-streaming thing (Facebook being one of the many things in life, such as toilet paper-procurement, MTR travel and Mainland beggars, of which Carrie is blissfully ignorant).

John gets into the major issues. He insists his hand-shake with Chinese leader Xi Jinping was ‘a big deal’. His position on Silver Surfer is that the alien humanoid is a ‘contradictory type of character’. If he becomes Chief Executive, he would consider naming a street after Bruce Lee, who ‘gave Asians manhood’. How can the guy not wipe the floor with Carrie?

Meanwhile, the media – in common with former friends, Chinese government officials and the public as a whole – are paying no attention to third candidate Regina Ip. After years of being obnoxious to pro-democrats to show her worth to Beijing, she is now desperately groveling for nominations from the very same opposition. Hilariously funny or what?

The unseemly groveling continues with a visit to the Taoist Association, which she attempts to win over with the deplorable idea of public resources for religious bodies ‘to promote their faiths and contribute to community services’. She claims that some of the Taoists will support her, but their boss says they haven’t yet decided. Thus Regina is learning the answer to the ancient question: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

On the subject of religion, I declare the weekend open with Funniest Jewish Joke of the Week here (should start at 4m02s to 4m52s, but the whole 15-minute epic movie is quite amusing).

 

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Company Gwailo ‘forced to work’ scandal

The next few days – weeks, indeed – are a rush, so this CIA-funded painfully unconvincing ‘rich expat banker’ act will be even more erratic than usual for a while.

Just time to note a couple of things.

First, all right-thinking people will be heartened to see yet another reluctant, hand-wringing half-admission in the press that the forthcoming Hong Kong Chief Executive ‘election’ is a rigged, fraudulent, ritualized joke-charade…

As substance-abuse counsellors say, abandoning the pretense and admitting the reality is the first step to facing and overcoming your problem.

Second, it’s only mid-February, and we are already making plans for the July 1 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from the UK to China. The celebrations of the reunion with the motherland promise to be suitably rousing, joyous and merry…

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Carrie unveils ‘Prelude’

If it was a Valentine’s Day gift, it would be a couple of stale Ferrero Rocher chocolates and a wilted flower yanked from a Leisure and Cultural Services sitting-out area. Carrie Lam, China’s choice for next Hong Kong Chief Executive, produces her very limited selection of timid and insipid policy ideas. A quasi-platform befitting a quasi-election.

The most eye-catching item is a HK$5 billion-a-year boost in education spending (actual beneficiaries to be decided). A similar allocation of unused surplus revenues to health-care would be an obvious and easy supplement to this – but it’s not there. Instead there’s a lame cut in (already low) taxes for small business, and vague-sounding incentives for R&D/cultural/blah-blah investment.

As for the number-one issue of housing, the best she can do is another layer of subsidized homes for the latest economic stratum (the upper middle-class) to be priced out of the insane private-sector residential market.

Even the Beijing-friendly media are underwhelmed. The South China Morning Post charitably describes Carrie as ‘refusing to take the bait’ of offering any substance.

Officially, this is a ‘prelude’. The lady will release more details later, after the nomination period, which begins today. In other words, she will tell us her plans only after the ballot is finalized – nominate me first, then I’ll reveal my platform. When you have already been picked as winner of a rigged election, it doesn’t matter.

Her campaign team do actually call this an ‘Election Manifesto Prelude’. Maybe it escaped reporters’ notice, or perhaps it didn’t make the final press release, but one little phrase in the part on housing should at least slightly jump out. She will, in the finest Hong Kong civil-service tradition, establish a Community Engagement Prevarication Task Force of ‘professionals’ to investigate ways to increase land supply from various possible sources, and one of these will be ‘land reserves of private developers’…

It is unusual for anyone in the establishment to mention private-sector developers – let alone their hoarded land – as having some possible connection with our housing problems.

In the meantime, Carrie sends her apologies and explains that, unlike her rivals, she didn’t have time to think up detailed plans…

During 35-plus years in government diligently administering all sorts of policies, she never stopped to ask herself ‘are there better ways of doing these things?’

 

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While you wait for Carrie’s ‘shock and awe’ manifesto…

Hong Kong is in shock after a self-immolation/arson attack on a crowded MTR train put a dozen people in hospital on Friday. (Chief Executive candidate Carrie Lam’s response to the news: “What’s an MTR train?”) Authorities assure the public that the incident was not terrorism; the signs are that it is another case of a mentally ill person going over the edge.

Genius press-relations officials swiftly put out a whiny defensive statement insisting that the government takes mental health really, really seriously. In other words, of course, it does not – it has under-funded such services for years, despite widespread criticism.

No prizes for guessing why. Such expenditure would not benefit the construction industry, the ‘tourism’ sector, or the property cartel – so it doesn’t happen. Why waste money on reducing waiting lists for people suffering depression, when for 100 times that much you can build a cruise terminal no-one will use?

On other matters, the South China Morning Post provides an interesting juxtaposition on the subject of think-tanks. One article says the China’s think-tanks are (in essence) garbage because the institutions are told what to think by the Communist one-party system. Another reports that a Hong Kong think-tank with strong Communist Party ties proposes allowing Mainland women to give birth again in local hospitals, supposedly to guarantee the city a vital stream of future workers – presumably with ideologically pure DNA.

Another juxtaposition from media-land jumps out at me today: the SCMP has a front-page ad for a Lalique glass sculpture by architect Zaha Hadid, while Marketwatch reports that pop singer Prince’s works will be available on online streaming services…

What do these items have in common (aside from ‘purple’)? First, in both cases, highly respected creative individuals’ works are being debauched by tacky commercialized outlets. Second, both individuals died around 10-11 months ago.

Lastly, a peculiar YouTube channel that could use a bit more traffic. Not sure who Boiling Point are, but at around 9m30s, they engage in an earnest discussion about this very website, believing it to be clumsily pretending to be by a rich expat banker and concluding that it is probably CIA-backed. Of course, that’s what Chief Executive CY Leung pretty much said about the Occupy/Umbrella movement. These guys don’t look like United Front operatives, but maybe that’s what we’re supposed to think

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Almost-sympathy for Carrie

One thing about Hong Kong’s make-believe ‘election’ for Chief Executive: it is unique. In North Korea, dictators enjoy laughable landslides in which they win 99.99% of the vote. In the tragic Philippines, armed thugs have fired at nuns guarding ballot boxes. In Hong Kong, the poll is a mass-delusion: the Chinese leadership decides the winner ahead of time, yet nearly everyone takes the subsequent campaigning with the utmost seriousness.

The media are carrying ads from the anti-corruption agency solemnly promoting a ‘clean’ election. Papers report with no trace of irony that Beijing’s 194 most groveling hand-picked local supporters spontaneously pronounce pre-determined winner Carrie Lam ‘the glory of Hong Kongers and of Hong Kong women’ (making her sound like an object of Catholic veneration).

The entire population is lured into the dream-like ritual, as illustrated in today’s South China Morning Post two-part survey. The first part finds that the public overwhelmingly prefer Carrie’s rival John Tsang. The second part finds that they also overwhelmingly – and, as the SCMP says, ‘realistically’ – expect Carrie to be the next Chief Executive.

Where it gets really bizarre is that Chinese officials themselves are treating the rigged election like a genuine battle. Behind the scenes (by all accounts) they are telling Carrie to win not just the inbuilt obedient majority of the rigged 1,200 Election Committee’s votes, but enough extra to make it look more convincing. This means begging with 100 or so of the pickier and less-reliable business-related and other members of the pro-Beijing camp. At the same time – almost ludicrously – Beijing is adamant that Carrie score well in public approval ratings.

To complicate things, her two main rivals are indeed posing a challenge in these respective areas.

Regina Ip, who has been preparing for this for years, is doing quite well among some of the grubbier vested interests. She comes armed with PowerPoint presentations and rash promises to grant their fading sectors ‘pro-active’ policies, privileges and other favours. Her aggressive style makes her unpopular among the public, but she is winning some friends among the shabbier corporate Election Committee blocs.

With John Tsang, it’s the other way round. Obscure Election Committee factions are unimpressed by his laid-back manner and lack of interest in their commercial and parochial concerns. But the public are fond of him for his local-boy nice-guy persona. He’s been blogging for years, can chat away about noodles and kung fu and crappy movies with anyone, and even looked half-way normal in a hoodie hanging out with dog-rescuers the other day.

To Carrie Lam, with only a few weeks’ real advance-warning since Beijing dumped CY Leung and confirmed her as next CE/victim, this election – rigged, quasi- and phony – is nonetheless a hellish struggle.

It almost makes you feel sorry for her.

OK – so it doesn’t.

I declare the weekend open with an amazing rumour: that after Pocky, ice-cream, macarons, donuts, Oreos, Kit-Kat, latte, mocha and now inevitably Cup Noodles, some marketing genius is going to bring out… matcha-flavoured tea.

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