Hemlock's Diary
29 Apr-5 May 2007
Mon, 30 Apr
In 2003, it was generally understood that the Basic Law would allow Hong Kong to have universal suffrage in 2007.  Then, in 2004, Beijing declared that the wording of the Basic Law meant that it could not.  So everyone assumed that universal suffrage would have to wait until 2012.  Now, at the end of April 2007, anonymous sources spread the word that the earliest possible date for full democracy is now 2017.  The pattern is that every three years universal suffrage will be put off for another five years.  Thus, in 2010, the word will be out that democracy can’t come before 2022, and in 2013, we will be told 2027.  In 30 years’ time – 2037 – those of us still alive and actually caring will hear that Hong Kong can’t have democracy for another half-century, or 2087. 

According to a ‘well-informed, pro-Beijing source’ (CY Leung, likely as not), the problem is that the heavily rigged Election Committee was still able to put someone like shifty-eyed Alan Leong – a well-known stooge for American and Taiwanese forces aiming to topple the Communist Party – in a position where he could theoretically win an election.  The implication is that Hong Kong must devise a system that weeds out anyone unacceptable to the Central People’s Government.  In practice it will probably mean that only the dependable but uninspiring person Beijing has chosen gets a nomination, and then we will all be entitled to go along and vote for him.  (For appearance’s sake, he will have a rival contender, but it will be a creepy ‘well-informed, pro-Beijing source’ who everyone hates.)  This will be called ‘universal suffrage’, though the main difference between it and the North Korean system is that we won’t have 99.998 percent voter turnouts.

During a discussion on this on RTHK Radio 3 this morning, listeners were treated to an ‘out of the mouths of babes and innocents’ moment when one of the presenters (either Me-Nick or Me-Hugh) blurted out, “Why doesn’t Beijing just appoint the guy?”  Exactly.  It would save a lot of fuss between now and 2087.  Better still, why not ‘interpret’ the Basic Law so it allows Beijing to put a Mainland official in charge, rather than someone from the small pool of local shoe-shiners, buffoons and incompetents that China can tolerate.  While they’re at it, they could also give us an answer to the obvious question – why did you insist on taking this place back from the British if you can’t trust anyone here?
Wed, 2 May
The shots fired into the air by Macau policia at yesterday’s Mayday workers’ rally were blank (source A) or live (source B).  The charitable view would be that the former must be the case, as no properly trained cop would fire actual bullets upwards in such close proximity to an overhead walkway.  But this would assume that law enforcement agencies over there routinely load their firearms with dud ammunition.  Either way, it is a contrast with the way the place used to be run.  During pro-communist rioting in the late 1960s, the Portuguese authorities filled the streets with huge Mozambican troops not known for their fondness for blank ammo or shooting into the sky.

Unlike their counterparts in Hong Kong, who are mollycoddled with public housing, hospitals and welfare, the Macau underclass are the epitome of self-reliance, many still living in shanty town-type shacks in a northern neighbourhood that for some reason never makes it into the tourist guidebooks.  For aficionados of corrugated iron, tangled electric cables and dripping water, it has a certain charm.  But these hardy members of the lower orders have one vice – envy.  They resent the way Nepalese and Filipinos make good money as security and hospitality staff in the booming casino industry.  They get upset by the sight of hard-working Mainland workers with no papers doing what they can to earn a crust building all the new hotels and malls.  And when they see officials (most fortunate enough to have ties to gambling and construction interests) doing deals behind closed doors to allocate land for development with no public tenders, they get angry. 

Few people on this side of the Pearl River Delta know how much, in terms of poverty and collusion, Macau makes Hong Kong look like Sweden.  Nor do they realize how mad these covetous indigents are getting.  Next time, bring live ammunition.
Thurs, 3 May
In the IFC Mall branch of Pacific Coffee, I struggle to focus wild American friend Odell on Hong Kong’s most important upcoming event.  “I shouldn’t be here,” he interrupts, changing the subject for the third time.  “I gotta go to the Starbucks in Hutchison House.  Gotta check that out.” He takes a quick, excited sip of his hot brown water-flavoured liquid.  “I mean, c’mon – the La Leche League!  The La Leche League!  All these women go there in a group and feed their babies, right in public.  Gotta see that!”

I try to calm him down and divert his attention to the issue at hand – the cover of
How I Trashed Asia’s Greatest City by Tung Chee-hwa, which goes to press soon.  He looks at the artwork.  “That’s amazing!” he finally responds.  “How the hell did you get a photo of Tung Chee-hwa in the nude with Mickey Mouse?” 

With a weary sigh, I stick the back cover under his nose.  “This is the blurb,” I tell him.  “The important bit.  It’s supposed to make people say ‘Wow!’ and rush off out and buy it.”  The perverted ex-Mormon reads through it and tosses it back to me.  “Camera?  Check.  Right – off to Hutchison House.  See ya.”
FLICKING THROUGH the papers in the gwailo’s lair, it is interesting to see how Tuesday’s police action in Macau seems to have produced the ‘shot heard round the delta’, attracting long-overdue attention of the sort the sleazy city’s authorities don’t want.  After a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation, I would guess that if Hong Kong had been run like Macau since their respective handovers, the Big Lychee would have auctioned a dozen lots of land and disposed of a thousand others through cronyist, Cyberport-type deals.
It is one of the rare cases when the ‘F’ word is apt.  Up to the 1970s, the former colonial power was run by Salazar’s fascist regime, which handed out monopolies in banking, construction and other industries to its buddies.  Replace the Portuguese Catholic Church with the Chinese Communist Party, and little has changed. Will Beijing be having second thoughts about Macau Chief Executive Edmond Ho’s governance?  Or are they giving him a pat on the back for his law enforcement agencies’ no-nonsense approach to bad elements trying to spread chaos?  Stupid question.

Fri, 4 May
In his most inspiring display of decisive and visionary leadership yet, Hong Kong’s dashing Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, unveils his
eagerly awaited and awe-inspiring reorganization of the Government Secretariat.  Just a quick glance at the main features of this radical overhaul of the top tiers of the administration is guaranteed to set the heart racing with giddy excitement. 

For example, the people in charge of plans to boost traffic emissions as much as possible will be separated from the ones who think you can reduce air pollution by measuring it and put in the same bureau as the officials who spoon-feed the three million serfs dwelling in the world’s biggest stock of state-owned housing.  The Constitutional Reform Postponement Bureau will be have the word ‘Mainland’ inserted into its title to create jobs for people who paint signs on doors and print official stationery.  In line with his pledge to maintain Hong Kong as the world’s biggest per-capita consumer of concrete and to rid the city of unhygienic and malodorous old buildings and trees, Sir Bow-Tie will establish a new Ministry of Truth and Development.  The bureaucrats in charge of devising a way to introduce a minimum wage that doesn’t involve a minimum or affect wages will be transferred from the department that runs schools that are so bad no civil servant would send their kids to them and put in the same unit that produces posters reminding residents of Tin Shui Wai not to attack their children with meat cleavers. 

And the list goes on and on, creating synergy in such quantities that the stuff oozes all the way down Battery Path until people in Queen’s Road are up to their waists in it.  And just as I am wondering how a humble and unworthy citizen like me can best express his deep gratitude for such benevolent and genius statecraft, what should appear in my mailbox but…