Functional constituency in ‘being taken seriously by someone’ shock

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The byzantine structure of Hong Kong’s rigged electoral system is a bit of a sideshow these days. There was a time when pro-democracy campaigners fixated on ‘opening up’ small-circle functional constituencies and liberalizing other arcane details of the political structure. But the quasi-democratic reform package proposed in 2014 finally made it clear that such fiddling is irrelevant: the Chinese Communist Party will accommodate elections only if it can decide the results in advance.

That led to the Occupy/Umbrella movement of 2014-15, followed by the Legislative Council’s rejection of the reform package around a year ago (the opposition ironically wielding a veto designed to give Beijing a braking mechanism). With Chinese officials now openly if clumsily increasing their influence in the city’s government, academia and media, the fight to defend Hong Kong’s freedom and values has spread far beyond the largely ornamental political structure.

Pro-democracy lawmakers still hinder the government through filibustering – to mixed effect. But most of the action is now on the streets and campuses and on-line, in the form of localism, anti-smuggler protests, indie cinema and dozens of future movements the authorities will fail miserably to anticipate. Different groups of young activists plan to participate in September’s Legislative Council elections, but with no agreement on why, let alone on tactics.

So it seems odd that a bunch of people should start to make a fuss about being accepted as electors in what the South China Morning Post calls the ‘cultural sector’.

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The SCMP reporters – like most people – find it all too confusing and don’t tell us whether the individuals were applying to be voters in the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publishing Functional Constituency or its Culture Sub-Sector. Either way, voters in these two entities must be corporate bodies, not humans. (The Performing Arts Sub-Sector, on the other hand, does allow some humans to vote if they are members of particular organizations.) It’s all here in this pamphlet if you really want to know, but, as we shall see, it doesn’t really matter.

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Whatever these guys hope to achieve, they will hopefully help publicize the true role and function of these ‘rotten boroughs’. As we see from the list of functional constituencies’ electors, this is a classic Communist/corporatist technique, in which rights are enjoyed by approved groups, not individuals. Some FCs – like the teachers, lawyers and nurses – comprise individuals each having a vote. But only a few of the 30 FCs are like that. A larger number represent business sectors (like banking, transport, retail, tourism) in which a small group of companies and/or masses of obscure trade associations vote. Other FCs and sub-sectors apparently represent clusters of unconnected, government-subsidized or barely-existent interests, like the Sports-and-Blah-Blah one (long the fiefdom of joke lawmaker Timothy Fok), or Agriculture and Fisheries.

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The official purpose of this idiocy is two-fold:

  1. Voters in FCs elect half the members of the Legislative Council. Since most of these FCs are made up of small groups of CEOs/tycoons or packed with phony United Front ‘organizations’, the system gives Beijing a large bloc, with a veto, that it can use to control the legislature.
  2. Voters in the sub-sectors elect most of the members of the Election Committee that supposedly elects the Chief Executive (and would have supposedly decided who got onto the ballot had we gone along with the 2014 reform bill). Again, this means Beijing controls a majority of the 1,200 votes – making the whole Chief Executive ‘election’ a complete charade: it simply rubber-stamps Beijing’s pre-determined choice.

If the entertainers applying to be members of the Sports-and-Blah-Blah FC draw attention to this disappointingly little-understood truth, that’s great. Wherever the action is, it’s never going to be the FCs.

 

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Colonial visionary thinking makes a comeback

Back in colonial times, according at least to the nostalgic and politically incorrect, Hong Kong’s civil servants were capable visionaries who put the city first in a spirit of effortless, can-do, stiff-upper-lip aplomb. Unlike – you are invited to infer – certain incompetent Beijing-worshiping weasels currently in office, whose names we won’t mention. (And seriously: can you imagine a Leon Lai concert being botched to hell under the Brits? Unthinkable.)

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As a reminder, former one-time long-retired ex-Chief Secretary Sir David Akers-Jones pens an op-ed piece in today’s South China Morning Post proposing a tunnel linking Tung Chung to the southern part of Lantau.

Cynics will immediately smell a rat. The concrete-laying, mall-building, landlord psychopath-parasites of the Tourism Sector are agitating for the whole of south Lantau to be turned into a Spa-Resort-themed Luxury Shop Mega-Attraction Concept Zone Hub with 63 exciting branches of Burberry’s. This sounds like one of their frantic taxpayer-abusing, environment-wrecking little scams.

But let’s give Sir David the benefit of the doubt. He has a (discreet) record of not being hugely impressed by the excesses of Hong Kong’s property cartel. And in his SCMP letter LantauMapAJhe actually criticizes previous infrastructure development around Tung Chung for serving the sacred Tourism Sector rather than local residents. He seems genuinely concerned that Tung Chung is a dump.

Most of us are vaguely aware that Tung Chung is, perhaps, less than scintillating. It’s that New Town/suburb that flashes past just before the Airport Express reaches the terminal. It’s where delinquent teenagers from Discovery Bay go for a wild time. It allegedly suffers from air pollution (by the standards of Central, it seems fine). It has a shortage of eating and shopping choices, yet devotes one entire mall to Mainlanders bussed in to buy outdated luxury Designer-Label rejects.

Even so, it’s unclear why Sir David feels a twang of sympathy for Tung Chung in particular. It’s no worse than Tin Shui Wai, Tuen Mun and other far-flung, best-forgotten New Towns – though of course these earlier centres were planned and delivered by his colonial-era colleagues.

Anyway, the proposal… A tunnel to the beach at Cheung Sha. Apparently, this can be so big that people in Cheung Chau will be able to see the sun set through it. More to the point, it will be able to take all the polluted air from Tung Chung down to the aforementioned sandy shoreline.

It is a genius idea. Tung Chung residents who miss the old days of polluted air will be able to hop on the underground high-speed maglev monorail to the southern coast, where they can relive their town’s former smoggy past.

Or they can stay at home, away from the beach, but with clean air.

If that’s not a ‘win-win’, I don’t know what is.

But wait! There’s more! I declare the long weekend open with a flash of inspiration. If it works in Tung Chung, surely we can have our own tunnel from Central to, say, Australia or somewhere.

 

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A new museum for Hong Kong

A long weekend is coming up. It’s going to be too hot for a hike and too rainy for a barbecue. There’s no way you’re going to go all the way out to Shatin just to see the Monet exhibition. And you’ve tried all the Korean recipes on YouTube, and can’t face any more Truth about Trump features. What to do?

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How about a trip to the Hong Kong Museum of Hideously Disgusting Footwear? It’s free, it’s not too crowded, and the curators have found some of the most unforgettably shockingly vile excuses for design ever devised by mankind…

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Visitors are allowed to pick up and feel the exhibits (though not surprisingly, few do). The displays do not simply provoke revulsion; they prompt serious questions about the state of humanity today. Do people really hate their feet – indeed, their entire appearance, not to say very existence – this much? Do they really have nothing better at all to do with their money but buy these objects?

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Many of the items in the collection may remind us of ancient torture instruments. This is more than resemblance: these shoes are created specifically to cause mental torment to anyone who sees them. Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley are amateurs compared to the twisted minds behind the revolting and grotesque exhibits at the Hong Kong Museum of Obnoxiously Putrid Footwear.

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Visitors are advised that some of the content at this museum may cause distress. The illustrations here all come from the galleries featuring designs for men; I’ve left the women’s items out in case any children see this page.

The Hong Kong Museum of Repulsively Ugly Footwear is at 3031-3070, Level 3, IFC Mall, Central.

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Talking endlessly about not talking

How can we curb all this dangerous and seditious talk about Hong Kong independence? Why, of course – we must go on and on and on and on (and on and on) about it.

This is not as illogical as it seems. Young radicals’ scurrilous calls for a separate city-state have scared insecure paranoiacs in Beijing into declaring splittist opinions illegal and demanding that the traitors concerned be resolutely and vigorously crushed. Lacking the powers to do Mainland-style crushing but desperate to display obedience, Hong Kong’s establishment indulges in choreographed mouth-frothing about how terribly awful, bad, shocking and disgusting all this independence talk is – at great length. This show of righteous outrage and wrath is mainly aimed at the grey, grizzly, grumpy old malevolences in Beijing, rather than at the Hong Kong people.

This is clear because, in so doing, Hong Kong’s leaders are making the idea of independence sound cooler by the day. Chief Executive CY Leung refers to Golden Bauhinia Square as a unification gift from the motherland and a must-see destination for Mainland tourists, who support national unity and (dabbing tears from his eyes) might not want to visit any more. This plays to the official post-1997 story that Hong Kong survives only because of ‘support’ from Beijing. CY assures his audience that he shares their fantasy that Mainland tourists are a favour and we fear a drop in their numbers.

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Local residents, who detest the inundation of visitors, can’t believe their luck: demand GoldBauhindependence – get rid of the tourists. Who’d have thought it could be that easy? (Maybe they can take the ugly Gold Bauhinia eyesore with them.)

CY’s localist detractors and other tormentors take a break from skewering him over Airport Bag-Gate and mock his sudden insistence that pro-independence chatter will harm the economy. In essence they jeer: “One minute you say you will arrest us, and now you realize you can’t so you’re trying to con everyone into thinking we will cost people their jobs – how pathetic.” It is almost painful to watch. If I were Beijing, I would cut Hong Kong loose just to rid the country of such heartless and cruel youths.

The South China Morning Post’s contribution to the campaign is a lengthy editorial on Not Talking About The Thing We Must Not Talk About. I failed to share the writer’s sense of cosmic wonder contemplating why the law allows us to have ideas that are neither feasible nor constitutional, and suffered a sudden attack of Attention-Deficit Disorder around sentence 3. But as with CY’s remarks, we are not the intended audience.

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The government that can’t do anything right

Consider two single-mother-with-two-kids households. One has HK$12,000 a month to spend on food, utilities, transport and clothing, while the other has only HK$8,000. Are these two hard-up families equally poor?

To put it another way, consider those people you see/read about who help feed their kids by scavenging at wet markets for leftover produce at the end of the day. Do you think they are more likely to be living in public housing, or in private subdivided units?

For some reason, when Hong Kong established an official poverty line, the idiot bureaucrats didn’t include housing arrangements in the calculation. The result is bad data. A ‘working poor’ family in public housing might spend 10% of its income on rent, while the same family in a private subdivided apartment might see half their income go to the landlord – yet our ‘poverty line’ implies that the two households’ circumstances are the same.

An attempt to fix this has just been rejected by the Poverty Commission.

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A university professor of social work on the body claimed that incorporating housing costs in the calculation was too brain-taxing for him. But the real opposition came from what might be called the labour/welfare-lobby subset of the pro-democracy camp, backed instinctively by much of Hong Kong’s general population of people who distrust if not loathe the government. Their assumption was that officials would take the new, more-informative stats and claim credit for a miraculous drop in poverty levels in the city.

Whether our leaders, in all their slimy duplicitousness, would try to get away with such a lame sleight-of-hand is debatable (given their past clumsy attempts to con the public over, say, electoral reform, we can’t rule it out). But that’s not a sound reason to keep a misleading poverty benchmark when we could have a more reliable one. The conclusion is that whatever this administration does, people will interpret its intentions as malign. Which means, in short, it might as well give up.

Even if they weren’t being evil on this occasion, the officials were being stupid. The correct way to go about this would have been to present the change in the poverty line as one that would accentuate the hardship suffered by the poor in private rentals, rather than apparently lessen that of their counterparts in almost-free public units. In other words – it would make the government look worse, not better. Frederick Fung and his buddies would have fallen over themselves to approve the proposal.

On the subject of inept governance and unintended consequences: a part-tongue-in-cheek but thought-provoking look at demonized Chief Executive CY Leung as ‘the father of Hong Kong independence’ and the inspiration for a golden age of vivid creativity in the city – here.

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Thought-crimes here we come?

Looking back, it is clear that since Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012, the Chinese government has decided to take the post-1997 gloves off and start smacking Hong Kong around as if the city were a bunch of uppity Tibetans. Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung – installed in office not long before – has seemed all too eager to go along with Beijing’s new ‘get tough’ approach. But most of the city’s top bureaucrats and other officials find themselves in an almost-impossible position.

Previously, they saw their role as broadly reflecting local needs in reconciling the contradictions in ‘One Country, Two Systems’. They performed ‘patriotic’ rituals for National Day flag-raising and other occasions. But otherwise they promoted and implicitly defended Hong Kong’s non-Mainland/Communist Party characteristics – every speech to an international audience stressing all the ‘rule of law’, ‘free press’, ‘clean government’ stuff to the point of tediousness.

Since around 2013, the city’s sovereign has increasingly required them to publicly downplay or disown these local values. A perfect example of this is how to treat Hong Kong’s supposed ‘independence movement’.

Thanks to Beijing’s cumulative mishandling of Hong Kong, the previously unthinkable and, in purely constitutional terms, laughable concept of separatism has gained traction, especially among younger people. Some may be idealistic and sincere. But in effect this is protest by trolling – the young localists have found one of Beijing’s hyper-sensitive nerves, and they are mercilessly needling it for all it’s worth.

Chinese official spokesmen predictably take the bait and sternly warn that calls for independence are illegal. Hong Kong’s local officials awkwardly respond using ambiguous wording – saying independence is ‘contrary to’ the law, as in ‘disagrees with’ rather than ‘breaches’ it. State media spot this ruse and accuse the Hong Kong government of doing nothing. Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen whines that he is indeed examining the law to see whether some part of it might apply to independence advocates.

Now, Hong Kong’s former top public prosecutor declares that peaceful expression of an opinion is no crime – as everyone has assumed all along. Pro-Beijing politicians lusting for approval from the central government start talking blatant crap in their attempts to shoe-shine…

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Regina Ip suggests that pro-independence groups might be committing sedition by recruiting more members. And the even-more embarrassing Priscilla Leung maintains that expressing an opinion can become illegal when more than a certain number of people do it (the Wang Zhenmin ‘dinner table’ test).

Other top officials, notably the Constitutional Affairs and Security ministers, waffle helplessly as the local press demand an answer to the quandary: do you round up dissidents in line with Communist Party instructions, or do you maintain freedom of speech in line with our status as a civilized international financial centre? (‘Rimsky has answered this already’ they splutter.)

If the Hong Kong government states that no law exists against expression of the idea of independence, it will invite pressure from Beijing to outlaw thoughts. Should the local administration try to comply – it will have no choice – it will invite widespread 2003-style resistance, more trolls calling for independence (or jokily turning themselves in to the cops), and international concerns about rule of law.

If the local government tries to prosecute localists for expressing ideas about separatism, the same thing will happen. If the courts reject the cases, you go back to the ‘pressure from Beijing to outlaw thoughts’ scenario. If the government somehow gets convictions, you still go back to the ‘widespread 2003-style resistance’ scenario, complete with martyrs.

Whatever happens from here, it looks like a mess.

The only way out is for Beijing’s officials to grow up and learn how to handle a pluralistic society – which means putting the gloves back on and letting the local officials run the city as distinct from the motherland again. How likely does that sound?

 

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Localism provokes outbreak of personality disorder

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Economist Francis Lui says Hong Kong ‘Localists’ have a personality disorder. He doesn’t say which one – presumably not Obsessive-Compulsive Shoe-shining Syndrome, which tragically afflicts so many public figures in the city today. China Daily gives more coverage to Lui’s Nobel-level insight: if Localists got their evil way, Hong Kong could survive only seven months on its financial reserves, real-estate values would drop more than 90%, and everyone’s genitalia would shrivel up and fall off.

With him was real-estate tycoon Ronnie Chan, who ‘explained’ that the Localist problem goes back to colonial times, when the evil Brits deprived Hongkongers of any identity (thus, presumably, leaving them – well, Hongkongers)…

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The event, by the way, was organized by the Hong Kong Development Forum. For an idea of how hip and groovy and cool and up to speed they are, feel free to visit their funky website, preferably using a 56k modem for the full effect.

Ronnie began by praising localism as wonderful, but not if it undermines national CD-LocalismCidentity. It is a tribute to the Localists that pro-Beijing/establishment types are trying to jump on the bandwagon. Financial Secretary John Tsang has been flaunting his native credentials. Some DAB politicians’ publicity materials use the ‘local’/‘indigenous’ phrase, and the party has tried boosting its HK-first image with anti-refugee sloganizing. Today, the Standard joins in…

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The paper’s main priority, as ever, is to push its owner’s friends’ real-estate scams. As with the anti-Localist sycophants ranting at the HK Development Forum, the purpose of this unseemly groveling is not to convince onlookers and the public to change their minds. In finest shoe-shining tradition, the only aim is to openly demonstrate nauseating obsequiousness towards the intended recipient of the kowtow. That innocent bystanders will mock, or puke, is immaterial…

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It is Hong Kong’s most prevalent and debilitating personality disorder.

I declare the weekend open with the cheering expectation that the week ahead will see a million umbrella movements in Hong Kong…

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Another day in Beijing’s hearts-and-minds disaster

Few openly suggest that the People’s Republic of China is actually an empire – not to say the world’s last surviving one. In the West, the trendy ‘Free Tibet’ cause implicitly SCMP-NoMinorstates it. But generally, the regime in Beijing does a good job of obscuring this provocative slur/obvious fact, and induces the world to see China as a multiracial and unified nation-state.

At the same time, the government in Beijing also manages to convince the world that it has a unique status and even right to represent ‘the Chinese’ as a race and culture. To con the rest of the planet into accepting both these notions pretty much without question is impressive.

Take the plight of Taiwan. Anyone who visits the place knows instantly that they are in an independent country. Yet Beijing routinely belittles and humiliates the place – and inconveniences other states – in its insistence that it has sovereignty over the island and its people. The world acquiesces. To get an idea of how outrageous this is: imagine if the UK refused to have diplomatic relations with any country that recognized the government in Dublin or threatened to invade if the administration there declared a Republic of Ireland, on the grounds that the place was still British.

While gullible and distant international leaders still kowtow, there are signs that, closer to home, this mythology of ‘China as nation, as culture, as race, and as CCP monopoly’ is breaking. Beijing’s atrocious people-skills and self-delusion have convinced many young Taiwanese to see China as a malevolent force. It’s fairly mind-blowing to think that another place where this is happening is Hong Kong. It is less than 20 years after the handover, and we are surrounded by people talking and thinking about how to insulate the city from the danger represented by China, up to and including independence.

At the establishment-friendly end of the scale, a South China Morning Post piece today agonizes over the harm done by the (alleged, etc) abduction of book-publisher Lee Po, Chief Executive CY Leung’s apparent abuse of power over his daughter’s bags at the airport, and the distrust and polarization in Hong Kong. The writer would prefer Beijing to be more understanding. The list is of course much longer, from cronyism, to swamping the city with Mainland visitors, to the denial of universal suffrage, to the smears and intimidation of pro-democrats, to attempts to tame the media and academia, to eradicating street culture, to hassling kids with cellos on the MTR – in sum, simply imposing a worse colonial regime.

Away from the tycoon-owned media, Beijing’s massive failure to win Hong Kong’s confidence or respect, let alone filial warmth, continues. Young localist writer and broadcaster ‘Lewis Loud’ turns the rhetoric of alienation up a notch in his latest Passion Times piece. The first two paragraphs above summarize much of it; he also claims a Hong Kong ethnicity, which happens to pre-date the Chinese one by 70 years. You might dispute facts, detect callowness, or be impressed by the breadth of ideas. But you can’t deny the sheer audacity, or the sense that, with opinions like this stirring things up, Beijing – with its current tactics – has already lost the battle.

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Invasion of the Rent-a-Quotes

Readers of the South China Morning Post online are greeted with a big top story today: an Exclusive interview with Alibaba boss Jack Ma. Presumably they tried to get a one-on-one with a major tycoon who did not own the paper, but had to make do with their friendly proprietor this time. (Well, and next – it’s a two-part series.)

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The Mainland’s leading and well-connected Amazon/PayPal/eBay emulator believes China has another 15-20 years of serious growth ahead once the current ‘difficult three to five years’ are over. He might be right. Maybe the Communist Party can and will enable a more innovative economy by sharing power over allocation of capital, over markets, over regulatory enforcement, over the judicial system, over information, etc. Being so confident, Ma is no doubt willing to buck the Chinese elite’s current financial behaviour patterns, and sell his alpine kingdom in upstate New York to invest back home in all these lovely opportunities. Wait for Part 2 to find out…

Ma is at least prepared to state a position on the record. Flicking through the rest of the paper, we are reminded of the challenges Hong Kong reporters seem to face when seeking quotes for their stories. The MTR has just raised its fares, leading to the inevitable outrage and wailing from commuters now facing starvation. The SCMP asks Lingnan University president Leonard Cheng what he thinks. We are not told why Cheng’s views might be especially relevant, though he does indulge in some fancy micro-economics jargon. But he starts off by declaring that the fare mechanism should ‘strike a balance’ and ‘not pit the interests of the public against the investors’…

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This is the sort of Hong Kong establishment waffle that gets you appointed to boards, awarded Bauhinia Medals – and quoted in media keen to encourage ‘positive energy’.

The simple fact is that any ‘balance’ will by definition pit the interests of the public against the investors. A better quote would be: ‘This is what you get when you try to semi-privatize a publicly subsidized utility.” The commentator could follow through by stating what an idiot former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was for bringing this about, and perhaps suggesting splitting the property developer from the railway and accepting the subsidized (and actually cheap) transport system as the social good it is. But such forthrightness might alarm the frail and the thin-skinned, and disrupt harmony.

Following yesterday’s HK Free Press hilarity on government-funded ‘Belt and Road’ youth exchange trips to Syria, the SCMP reports that the Home Affairs Bureau is really into kids’ safety.

The experts quoted in the piece are all very reasonable about the (admittedly notional) possibility of sending Hong Kong children to a humanitarian disaster zone in which Salafi, Assad/Alawite and a dozen other psychotic and desperate camps are slaughtering one another over blood-drenched uninhabitable rubble. Perhaps the sacred status of the ‘Belt and Road’ concept requires such sensitivity and understatement. Lawmaker and pro-Beijing businessman Lam Tai-fai thinks such tours ‘should not be encouraged’ and boldly suggests that if any group is planning a fun trip down Damascus way, ‘the government should advise it to adjust its itinerary’…

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You would have thought the paper might have found someone honest (or rash) enough to deliver an expletive-filled rant about the idiocy, absurdity or sheer insanity of a government that unthinkingly produces such a policy – but apparently they did not respond to our requests for comment.

 

 

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Your tax dollars at work – it’s getting freaky

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Hong Kong Free Press finds that the city’s government is offering subsidies to non-profits organizing youth exchange visits to Syria – a war-ravaged country that also merits a Black Travel Warning.

This may seem like an extreme, if potentially effective, way for Hong Kong’s embattled administration to rid itself of the city’s rebellious and militant younger generation, who are setting up pro-independence and/or anti-Beijing political groups on a daily basis. (An aside: the latest ‘line to take’ from the Establishment Official Smears and Memes Department is that the tour of US universities by Demosisto’s Nathan Law and Joshua Wong is highly suspicious in a CIA-kind-of-way because – hey, how can kids afford airline tickets for such a long journey?)

But of course the subsidized trips to distant and dangerous places – Iraq is another – are part of something even more desperate and sinister: Chief Executive CY Leung’s deranged fetishization of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ slogan-initiative.

Insofar as anyone can make sense of it, ‘Belt and Road’ is part of Xi Jinping’s egotistical and grandiose ‘China Dream’, with an unfortunate whiff of thousand-year greater co-prosperity/Lebensraum spheres. The nuts and bolts is to export China’s industrial overcapacity by conning obscure and backward Central Asian and other corrupt regimes into signing up for Mainland-built infrastructure. The ‘vision’ is to gather up much of the Eurasia landmass and Indian Ocean littoral into tributary states, thus displacing US influence, hegemony and (a particular obsession) the dollar. It is all wrapped up in pseudo-historical baloney, harking back to the ancient Silk Road and Zheng He’s Ming Dynasty voyages, complete with clunky maps featuring Samarkand and Venice.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, there is no evidence that these other countries want or need China to oversee their infrastructure development, let alone absorb them into a Sinocentric New Economic Order. The list of 60-odd ‘Belt and Road’ countries has been drawn up unilaterally in Beijing (and apparently by academic/think-tank bodies, so at arm’s length from the PRC government). Few or none – Pakistan may be an exception – asked to be named a ‘Belt and Road’ member or participant. There are signs that in Beijing itself, the concept is being downplayed, perhaps in recognition that at best the whole thing comes across as a self-absorbed Han-supremacist fantasy.

CY Leung’s hyper-obsession with ‘Belt and Road’ is shoe-shining on both steroids and hallucinogens. The man is apparently oblivious to local public opinion, which – to the extent people care – finds his mania bewildering and alienating.

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His bureaucrats try to meet his demands for outlandish ‘Belt and Road’ schemes and projects while discreetly ensuring that no harm is done. And they succeed admirably. You can get a daily subsidy of HK$680 per person if you organize a Comradely Mutual Exchange Tour of sunny, historic Homs, but HK$1,360 if you drag the Patriotic Kids’ Club off to boring and drab Uzbekistan for some mutton pilov. In case you don’t get the hint, next week’s briefing session is in Cantonese only – a sign that this is a symbolic policy, designed to give Beijing the impression that Hong Kong is a community of fervent Communist Party/Glorious Motherland faithful. The functionaries at the Home Affairs Bureau silently plead with everyone to ignore it, we’re just going through the motions here, let it pass.

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