Yes, God did speak to Carrie Lam

Just before I left on my inspection tour of Zhongshan, Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said that God had told her to ‘run’ in the quasi-election for Chief Executive. Skeptics chortled as they pictured the elderly, bearded Creator of the universe inducing the no-nonsense bureaucrat to bow to His will. A few days later, it is clear that she was referring to a different and more fearsome divine and omnipotent power – Beijing.

The Bible tells us that ‘the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away’. It is the same with the Chinese Communist Party, as Carrie’s overly determined rival Regina Ip finds out the hard way. After her pal Michael Tien gets mysterious phone calls, it finally dawns on her that the Chief Executive ‘election’ that is rigged against all except Beijing’s chosen one is rigged against her as well. After years of obediently bowing and scraping, she sees supposed friends deserting her for fear of backing the wrong ‘candidate’. It all becomes too much when outgoing Chief Executive CY Leung heaps scripted praise upon his anointed successor but not her, and Regina lapses into teary, ‘chokes back tears’, ‘fought back tears’ mode, with a generous bit of foot-stamping thwarted-schoolgirl thrown in.

He (or she) who lives by the shoe-shine, dies by the shoe-shine. And they never learn.

The interesting thing about this is that even some pro-Beijing figures are shocked at the obviousness of the Communist party’s stage-management of this 2017 joke-election. Michael Tien whines about a ‘visible hand’ interfering where in the past an (apparently acceptable) invisible one did the job. It makes many other establishment loyalists look and feel like foolish tools, even if the ones quick enough to leap onto the Carrie bandwagon escape the humiliating kick in the teeth.

Assuming, of course, that Carrie herself survives any remaining brutality the Leninist system has yet to deliver. A conspiracy theory fantasizes that Beijing will ultimately choose Financial Secretary John Tsang (currently being hung out to dry) to make Hongkongers think how nice the Communists really are. Slightly more realistically, paranoia and power struggles among the black hair-dye brigade in Zhongnanhai could produce an upset and a different last-minute ‘winner’. But as of now, the script clearly says ‘Carrie’.

One sign: as well as pro-establishment stalwarts bending with the wind, the Heung Yee Kuk rural mafia is showing signs of backing her. These are opportunistic scumbags who will back anything if they think it will help them line their pockets.

The callous casting-aside of Regina Ip not only offends or discomforts her fleeing or faithful establishment supporters, and shatters the wider pro-Beijing camp’s delusions that they are privileged participants in a selection process. It is a slap in the face for Hong Kong Island’s middle-class conservative retiree schmucks who for some reason vote in numbers for the harridan in Legislative Council elections.

The Communist Party doesn’t care. It is abandoning much of the (always superficial) pretense that the Chief Executive ‘election’ is a poll in any serious sense of the word, or an autonomous affair of Hong Kong. This is presumably Xi Jinping paranoia meeting an increasingly pissed-off and uncontrollable Hong Kong. Even the small, rigged Election Committee that casts ‘votes’ in the make-believe election is now over 25% hostile to Beijing and (very roughly) 20-25% spoilt/stroppy/self-serving.

Beijing feels it must get a meaningful-looking majority of this rabble to back Carrie, compared with CY’s tragic 689 votes, out of 1,200. That means some extra kowtowing to vested interests on the body, but it also means slapping around some of these idiots behind the scenes, or more openly if they insist. Regina’s thank-you-here’s-your-kick-in-the-teeth is one ‘visible’ example of such friendly neighbourhood United Front work. As for the masses – Carrie is expected to sort out her own public-opinion hearts-and-minds stuff, so expect some waffle about pensions, etc before long. But it’s really nothing to do with you.

As for Zhongshan – full marks for the Museum of Radio…

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Hong Kong ends the first full working week of 2017 suffering from an overdose of Carrie Lam. The Chief Secretary’s stage-managed resignation announcement points the way to a choreographed ‘election’ in March through which the Chinese government will make her Chief Executive of the city (assuming a last-minute defenestration does not prove necessary).

Few of us can be more fed up with this ritual than Financial Secretary John Tsang. He feels better qualified for the top job – being more popular, less associated with the evil Communist psychopath incumbent CY Leung, and relatively groovy and in touch with the young folks whose alienation from China should be a major worry to Beijing. Yet China’s authorities are making a big show of having forgotten that he exists.

At best, Beijing might view him as an emergency substitute in case something horrible happens to Carrie. The Communists will have noted that John is not convincingly servile towards them. His relatively positive public opinion poll ratings don’t help. The United Front in Hong Kong sweats and toils to maintain a coalition of dozens of shabby and grasping little ‘sectors’ because the obvious way of securing local support – being decent to everyone – just isn’t an option when the whole world is out to get you. Being popular among Hongkongers is a mark of untrustworthiness.

The Standard gently mocks John as he gets his New Year orange trees delivered and re-lives adolescent Bruce Lee fantasies. The rumour is that he will be fobbed off with some lame pseudo-job like Grand Vizier of the Belt and Road Investment Bank. Alternatively, he could go semi-rogue like ex-Chief Secretary Anson Chan, now a moderate and semi-detached member of the pro-democracy camp. He could end up becoming an ‘unlikely’ pin-up hero Localist icon – an idea that would unite both the Chinese Communists and the young radical nativists in horror.

I declare the weekend open with a plan to recover from the recent surfeit of Lam – an Inspection Tour of a Pearl River Delta backwater for several days, with no Planet Earth Internet connection. (It’s actually disturbingly close to Carrie’s holiday home, but I trust she will be busy here.)


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Team Carrie set to dazzle, inspire city

Hong Kong is in suspense as it waits to see which of two or three aging mediocre bureaucrats China’s Communist Party will use as puppets in a rigged charade of an ‘election’ for the city’s next hapless failed leader.

The pre-unveiling leak-announcement of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam’s ‘campaign team’ suggests a strenuous and calculated attempt to win over public opinion with a shock-and-awe assault of meek and mild moderation. Her supporters (reportedly) include renegade pro-democrat Ronny Tong, and Francis Ngai, an enthusiast of social-enterprises – caring sharing non-profits that don’t threaten crony-capitalist interests. Former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s Our Hong Kong tycoon-linked think-tank thing, which has also done research on how to mollify angry underclasses and sub-cultures, is lurking in the background.

Carrie’s two rival ex-civil servants stand naked by comparison. Financial Secretary John Tsang (avuncular, incompetent) tendered his resignation ages ago, and is yet to receive a positive response – which we are told he must obtain – from Beijing. (Cue witty cartoon in the South China Morning Post.) Regina Ip (authoritarian, hyper-ambitious), currently a legislator, can only watch as supposed allies like Allan Zeman and Bernard Chan sign up for Carrie.

Carrie is burdened with the Curse of the Ming Vases. Today’s scarcely believable Palace Museum semi-horror comes from (because there’s hardly anyone else left) the Equal Opportunities Commission. The EOC helpfully points out that one of the administration’s reasons for hurriedly and secretly picking Rocco Yim as architect – his wholesome Chinese-ness and genetic ability to understand Sinic culture – might be racism. With government stooge-bodies like the EOC for friends, who needs enemies? Beijing’s officials ask what manner of evil Western rules-based pluralist perversity this ‘Equal Opportunities’ thing is, and despair.

More great news for Carrie, and especially for long-term strategists in Beijing: you’re doing a great hearts-and-minds job – among the elderly and uneducated. Alienation of the young and schooled continues. And the best the Communists can come up with is Ronny Tong.

A fourth theoretical contender for Chief Executive is Justice Woo Kwok-hing. As a ‘joke’ candidate, he is the only one to come up with an idea – namely that New Territories villagers be allowed to build high-rise towers instead of their traditional ‘small houses’, thus solving Hong Kong’s housing shortage. It’s not actually an original idea, and no-one can work out whether it’s insane or brilliant. But you can be sure that none of the three ‘serious’ candidates come up with anything at all on the subject.

Which brings us to the issue of land, and the incredible prices being paid by Mainland developers for plots at Kai Tak. In case you missed it, the SCMP’s Shirley Yam asks what’s going on. It’s not just potentially yet-higher apartment prices, or increasingly desperate capital flight from the glorious motherland, or even a simple-and-honest crooks’ stampede from the anti-graft police – it’s weirder. A reminder that there is still hope of salvation and release for Hong Kong in the form of economic implosion north of the border.


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HK’s next administration grimly forms

While the Palace Museum 20th Anniversary Gift Vision degenerates into a classic Hong Kong government PR-disaster, preparations for the investiture of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam as the city’s next Chief Executive continue. As they must – assuming that the geniuses of the Chinese leadership, still wiping the blood of incumbent CY Leung off their hands, have no better plan.

The lady has dinner at a property developer’s mansion with a bunch of real-estate cartel scions. This is an old and predictable ceremony – a lot of sniffing and licking more nauseating to watch than the grossest mating ritual on a TV nature documentary. One or two more daring tycoons start to endorse her publicly, having deduced that wannabe Financial Secretary John Tsang is not to be Beijing’s choice.

Behind the scenes, a ‘campaign’ team is taking shape. The idea is to lobby stroppy interest groups represented on the Election Committee. Beijing wants to avoid another ‘689’ situation, where even a rigged ‘election’ fails to display enthusiasm for the winner. On the other hand, a one-horse quasi-race could look even less credible. To complicate matters, hostile pan-democrats now hold over 300 seats on the Committee – enough to theoretically make ballot-box mischief. (As an additional complication, Beijing’s local Liaison Office might be undergoing purge-rectification, sapping its voter-herding and micro-management ability.)

Carrie’s ‘campaign’ team is being hastily cobbled-together from the more nice-and-presentable circles of Hong Kong’s establishment, as typified by its chairman Ronald Arculli. The wretches will be expected to muster support from entitled vested interests, grasping parasites and other self-serving detritus of the Communist Party’s co-opted support base. CY Leung as candidate at least had some psychos and weirdos he could send off to talk to the Heung Yee Kuk as equals; the New Territories mafia will eat Carrie’s helpers for breakfast.

If China’s leadership wanted a dependable and solid local support base, it could start by asking why practically all 300 of the 1,200 Election Committee seats filled by something like a popular vote in December went to the pan-dems. Just joking. As it is, the zaniest Beijing could do in terms of last-minute panic-induced lateral-thinking is to pull John Tsang out of the hat.

Now poor Carrie prepares to declare herself a ‘candidate’ by pleading (in her oh-so-endearing ‘defiant tone’) with the opposition and broader public not to politicize her Palace Museum dream. The government has no legitimacy, so anything it does is going to be politicized. And dutifully scrabbling around for backers among property tycoons and rural gangsters isn’t exactly going to change that.

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It seemed like a good idea at the time

A profound cliché advises that, if you are in a hole, you should stop digging. Sadly, this does not apply to Hong Kong officials when continuing to shovel energetically down into a pit of night-soil is a sign of loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam was at some stage in the happy position of being able to brighten up everyone’s lives – arranging for Hong Kong to get an indisputably classy and desirable new museum, while making the authorities in Beijing look kind, caring and considerate. Sadly, the announcement came across as high-handed and presumptuous, and it coincided with Carrie’s hasty and (necessarily) devious preparations to possibly be the next Chief Executive. No-one, from hate-filled radical militants to leisurely critics-of-anything, could resist pouncing and tearing Carrie and her museum to shreds.

Within two weeks, the Hong Kong Palace Museum has gone from a secret proposal no-one knew about to an embarrassing mess that has Carrie and her team in full-blown panic mode. The PR rule that ‘you must manage events, not be managed by them’ must sound like a sick joke, as the elaborate symbolism spin-doctors designed to ram down our throats gets hijacked as a memorial to the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.

The main criticism of the Palace Museum proposal is that there was no public consultation. Pleas that it was supposed to be a gift, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the handover, are in vain. Behold the whole Hong Kong-Beijing Gap in Understanding in HK$3.5 billion-style microcosm.

To Chinese leaders, it seems obvious that Hongkongers should welcome a dazzling collection of national treasures and even feel some patriotic appreciation. Hongkongers just want the Communist Party to go away and stop its post-1997 screwing-up of their city. For the Hong Kong senior officials caught in the middle, it is a time to display their professionalism, integrity, dignity, devotion to ‘serving the community and defending its values’ and moral courage – and thus drop to their knees to assure the Beijing rulers that they are right, and nothing could possibly go wrong.

The furious digging continues. The Hong Kong government’s hapless cultural bureaucrats patch together an unconvincing and desperate ‘public consultation’ on the already-decided project, and then lose their nerve, and any hope of regaining a trace of credibility, by postponing it, to ‘consolidate’ the barrage of venom, blame and nitpicking. Carrie – as in ‘Carrie the can’ – knows there is no turning back once the manure is up to your neck. Visiting a school, she grins and tells the kids that rather than be bankers they can polish antique bronzes for a living. The school, inevitably, is celebrating that 20th anniversary. It has to be, doesn’t it? She adds that they can also clean out pandas as a career.


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Carrie’s Palace Museum Pile of Doo-doo

Despite the over-obvious patriotic glorious-motherland angle, the lack of popular enthusiasm for the 20th anniversary of reunification with China, and the fact that the finest of the treasures are in Taipei, Hong Kong people should have broadly welcomed the prospect of a local Palace Museum. It would introduce some badly needed content into the concrete boxes planned for the West Kowloon Concrete Box Hub. And – judging by past exhibitions of these items in Hong Kong – the displays would be well worth visiting.

But no – the officials had to find a way to mishandle it. We wake up one day to learn of it for the first time, and it’s a done deal: the plans for West Kowloon have been rejigged behind closed doors, the Jockey Club ‘charity’ is serving as a political-project slush-fund, and they even lined up an architect six months ago. Within seconds, a lengthy TV series on the Palace Museum is miraculously ready for broadcast, and a lavish promotional ad lines a vast hall in an MTR station.

The original idea must date back to a time before the Chinese government decided to toss out Chief Executive CY Leung. Perhaps desperate fantasists in the Communist hierarchy thought such a ‘gift’ would win the hearts and minds of the Hong Kong public for both the sovereign in Beijing and the (yet-another) disastrous local administration it had appointed. (Previous ‘gifts’ to Hong Kong from Beijing include surgical masks to counter the Mainland-caused SARS outbreak, and unmanageable floods of tourists letting their kids pee-pee on the sidewalk – so, in fairness, we can detect a trend in the right direction.)

An average PR company could have devised a Communications Strategy with lots of win-wins and buy-ins to lure public opinion onside, even inspire a little excitement. The problem is that a consultation-led approach sends a message to the populace that they are ultimately in charge of the government, not vice-versa. If Hong Kong’s bureaucrats find this hard to stomach, the big bosses in Beijing see it as dangerous and alien. So to the extent that this was an act of generosity, it had to be delivered in a patriarchal manner guaranteed to piss off the intended beneficiaries.

But we the taxpayers, residents and museum-goers are not the only audience. For Carrie Lam, who takes some credit for the HK Palace Museum vision, it is a test to convince Beijing that she is tough and loyal enough to be CE. And so, in the bizarre and tragic way of Hong Kong’s post-1997 governance, the object of the exercise becomes – in effect – to anger the population by ramming the project through at all costs.

And the good people of the city rise to the occasion with their usual wit and verve. The ad at Hong Kong MTR station gets a magnificent bloody handprint, a Tiananmen Square tank sticker, and other subversive adornments. Predictably, MTR staff swarm the concourse with advanced anti-bloody hand technology. Opposition lawmakers are drooling with disruptive questions and investigations. Localists get a new high-visibility, easy-to-mock-and-parody target for their creative ingenuity. Some shoe-shiners have started up a pro-Palace Museum alliance, and a handful of sad culture enthusiasts who would just like to see Ming vases here struggle to get a word in.

Before she has even announced her ‘candidacy’ for the Beijing-chosen CE position, Carrie Lam has cooperated in creating a controversy – soon to be upgraded to ‘scandal’ – out of nothing, and is now placing it squarely upon her shoulders, where it will fester for however many years she remains in the public eye.

The only good news for Carrie, perhaps, is that the Palace Museum might distract attention from the probably-murkier Lok Ma Chau Loop Tech Hub-Zone Shenzhen Project. A couple of commentaries worth reading: on the futility of the concept, and (more to the point) the sort of real-estate scam we are probably looking at, assuming it ever happens.

Spot the difference. L: Lok Ma Chau Loop, HK tech-science innovation swamp-zone; R: Antioch, Greco-Roman trade and cultural hub and cradle of Christian civilization…

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Carrie Lam helps out forgotten elderly

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam will ‘announce’ her ‘candidacy’ for Chief Executive ‘election’ next week. Thursday, it seems. But wait! The mind-numbing hyper-predictability takes on unprecedentedly freakish dimensions – which is to say, the script-writers developing the story are introducing desperate plot elements that verge on parody of self-parody. Ronald Arculli is to be her ‘campaign office director’…

The Hon Ronald Arculli GBM, GBS, Diamond Award for Immeasurable Influence, CVO, OBE, JP: lawyer; elder and all-purpose front-man for the Hong Kong bureaucrat-tycoon establishment; obedient sitter on numerous toothless consultation committees and public-body boards; docile promoter of countless doomed government policy proposals; and occasional eater of bananas in Pacific Coffee. Apparently, ‘…he and his wife have been guests at Royal Ascot [citation needed]’.

The position of ‘campaign office director’ is obviously a ridiculous pretense in a rigged quasi-election. Even so, you would have thought someone would have the wit or flair to find a slightly fresher, less hackneyed choice as gimmicky mascot for our presumed next Chief Executive. But no – they called on poor dependable old Ron, knowing he will stand and grin, while clutching Carrie’s Manifesto, to order.

It looks like a hastily cobbled-together, cynical and bored gesture contemptuous of public opinion. But it also shows that a good poodle-cheerleader is hard to find these days. The traditional tycoons and pompous bureaucrats had a nasty experience in 2011-12, rushing to openly back Henry Tang only to be betrayed when Beijing went for CY Leung. And the bold types who sided with CY at that time – like former civil servants Sir David Akers-Jones and Fanny Law – end up having to tip-toe away from a disaster.

This is a culture where the urge to shoe-shine is intense, but shoe-shining has become risky and dangerous, best left until things are absolutely certain, if ever. Ron is welcome to it. With Beijing these days apparently so unsure what it’s doing, this charade is no longer even remotely funny.

I declare the weekend open with evidence that we have surely hit Peak Self-absorbed Narcissistic Entitled Millennial…

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The pile of toxic mud that would not die

After mulling it over, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam will, according to the chatter, ‘announce’ her ‘candidacy’ in the March ‘election’ for Hong Kong Chief Executive next week. The Chinese Communist Party’s local zombies will be under instructions to remain non-committal for a time, while Beijing waits in case any skeletons are found – or need to be found – in her closet/illegal basement. And not long ago the lady seemed genuinely intent on retirement in sunny England. It would be fascinating to know what Leninist charm-tactics persuaded her to change her mind.

Meanwhile – she has signed this deal on the Lok Ma Chau Loop.

Our Peng Chau correspondent has thoughtfully dusted off the (surprisingly exhaustive) archives going back to late Oct 2005

…and continuing into Aug 2007 (perhaps especially recommended), Oct 2007 (starring Regina Ip), early March 2008 (highlight on Shenzhen’s agenda), late March 2008 (Henry Tang) and Nov 2008 (Henry fobs off Shenzhen rabble). Yes, the Lok Ma Chau Loop Shenzhen Cooperation Tech Hub-Zone has a past.

(It has never gone away. Those well-known Friends of the New Territories at Arup were concocting some Low-Carbon High-BS Strategic Development Strategy up there recently.)

What has changed in the last decade?

First, it seems ownership has now been officially transferred to Hong Kong, no doubt by order of Beijing. Pure nasty conjecture: this might have involved confiscation from one of the old Shenzhen mayors or deputy mayors who were imprisoned over the years for selling municipal promotions. Either way, following the necessary arm-twisting it seems ‘Shenzhen’ in some form or other still insists on being involved in the land within Hong Kong jurisdiction. This is a/the key point.

Second, the Hong Kong side has apparently changed its tune. Ten years ago our officials were humouring their Shenzhen counterparts but had little intention of agreeing to the Mainlanders’ obsessive pleas for ‘cooperation’ and ‘partnership’ on Lok Ma Chau.

Third, the pile of dredged-up toxic mud has somehow become fit for humans to develop and occupy.

What has not changed?

First, the notion that this piece of land must be some sort of ‘tech’ or whatever hub, when sprawling Shenzhen easily accommodates thousands of start-ups, the Pearl River Delta is full of other such designated districts, and Hong Kong is supposedly short of space for housing, elderly homes, playgrounds, even apparently dog charities.

(More broadly, we see the continued bureaucratic mentality that a patch of real estate plus a big construction budget can bring into being human talent and inventiveness. Or, alternatively, can serve as a disguise for a luxury housing development for a favoured family, a la Cyberport, or as a way to uplift surrounding land values – on both sides of the border – after the Hong Kong taxpayer puts all the roads, sewers, power lines in.)

Second – and this is the most interesting recurring theme – the Shenzhen side still has a curious deep-rooted interest in Lok Ma Chau as a venue for cross-border movement of (at least some) people and money

There could be an innocent-ish explanation for this. As we see with its Qianhai Professional Modern Services International Cooperation Hub-Zone Complex, Shenzhen would love a slice of Hong Kong’s low-tax convertible-currency free-for-all money-grabbing action. Who wouldn’t? Beijing would also no doubt like to encourage more ‘integration’ (merging, absorption, profit-reallocation, etc) across the border. (By ‘innocent-ish’ here, we mean in accord with Chinese government policy rather than with private criminal aims.)

Then again, the Shenzhen officials seem to be in a surprising hurry to get the Arsenic Swamp City Science Tech Zone-Hub Park up and running, right now, ASAP, gimme gimme gimme. And the area is very conveniently located near the Shenzhen government headquarters.

And the murk goes on. The Hong Kong side’s estimated time-scale of some seven or so years suggests that our bureaucrats foresee some potential for unforeseen difficulties as they ‘move forward’ possibly without getting anywhere. Maybe, after the Palace Museum supplicant’s kowtow, Carrie just needs to give some quick face to ‘Shenzhen-integration’ to be absolutely sure of moving into Government House.

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HK prepares for ‘20 Years of Joyous Yippee Fun’ celebrations

July 1, 2017 will be the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China. At the behest of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (allegedly, etc), Beijing will give the city a reunification gift in the form of antiques too humdrum for the Kuomintang/Red Guards/Communist Party to grab/destroy/keep, to appear in a Hong Kong Palace Museum.

By groveling for such an act of patriotic generosity, Carrie hopes to get her apparently deepest, if inexplicable, wish: to succeed discredited CY Leung as Chief Executive. Her role in ‘facilitating’ today’s out-of-nowhere Lok Ma Chau polluted-swamp Shenzhen-cooperation Techie Flimflam Zone-Hub looks like a similar credentials-proving performance.

But what would the Hong Kong people like from Beijing on this special occasion? The answer, Ming vases aside, is surely: better local governance.

At the time of the handover in 1997, Hong Kong was clearly the most prosperous, energetic and progressive place in Chinese-speaking (if not most of) Asia. Today, Taiwan has leaped ahead on democracy and social reformism, Singapore is statistically wealthier and (rightly or wrongly) increasingly confident about a more liberal future course, and Mainland cities are at least in some respects far better planned and more livable.

After decades of Mao, the KMT and Headmaster Harry Lee, Sinic Asia Ex-Hong Kong inevitably had some catching-up to do, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that Hong Kong is now relatively less advanced socially or economically, or in pop-culture and soft-power mojo. But most Hongkongers have a sense that their city has seriously under-performed in absolute terms since 1997.

Some supporters of the local establishment might point out that people’s expectations have risen, and/or that globalization has increased inequality and dissatisfaction elsewhere too. Others (including some candid pro-CCP loyalists) might concede that governance has lagged – but it is the fault of the city’s pro-democracy and opposition forces for hindering the administration or spreading chaos.

Many, if not most, local people would put the blame squarely on the city’s post-1997 leaders and – more to the point – the Chinese government that appointed them and presumably approve their crony-pampering policies. It shouldn’t have been too difficult to appoint officials who would at least match the British colonial regime. But Beijing installed, and keeps installing, administrations that fail to meet basic expectations of competence and fairness.

Specific major (and overlapping) failures since the handover: overt favouring of tycoons/vested interests; deliberate reduction in affordable housing supply; unmanageable influxes of Mainland tourists/shoppers and unskilled immigrants; expenditure on infrastructure white-elephants instead of social welfare/quality of life.

This has led to an inevitable popular backlash: rising demand for democracy and political reform; growing alienation from Mainland ways and culture; increased awareness of local identity.

Beijing’s Communist United Front strategists’ typically subtle responses: shrill demands for greater national consciousness, patriotism, schooling; dark warnings about supposed threats to national security; greater aversion to political reform.

Which has led to a fiercer popular backlash, especially among the younger/educated population: street demonstrations; outright hostility to the Communist regime; even an independence/localist movement.

Beijing’s re-doubled freaking-out reaction: undisguised interference in Hong Kong’s mini-elections, university governance and media; blatant downgrading of the role of local courts; intimidation of critics and even abduction of local book publishers.

How does this cycle end? The obvious solution is for China to stop putting idiots or scoundrels in charge. But Beijing puts idiots and scoundrels in charge because it doesn’t trust the people who aren’t idiots and scoundrels. And of course this is not simply about Hong Kong, but about Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, the Internet, etc, etc.

So we welcome 2017 and the July 1 anniversary – a time to ask what another 20 years of this will bring.

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What we did on our holidays

And so we emerge into the daylight, blinking, after the Great Hibernation. A period that was not totally unproductive…

I did my civic duty – volunteering for a day’s Counter-Tourism Patrol along the Peak Tram tracks, ensuring that none of the hordes escape from the carriages as they are being transported through and away from our city…

One of the distinguishing features of this well-heeled neighbourhood is the Missing Dog posters, which offer surprisingly large cash rewards for the recovery of lost pets. In this case, HK$30,000 for one ‘Bella’. The distraught owners helpfully mention the breed – a Shetland Sheepdog. A quick search on Google confirms that ‘Finding a shetland sheepdog dog in hong kong has never been simpler’; many of them have an identical shape and colour scheme to Bella, and you can pick one up for a couple of thousand bucks, no problem. I will leave the rest to your imagination, but let’s say that for a day’s unpaid work keeping the community safe from the tourist menace, it was quite lucrative.

Perhaps the Almighty was smiling on me for obeying His Word and resisting temptation while I was up the hill. People think His commands are confined to ancient Jewish manuscripts…

But they live on today, in the form of the by-laws along Hong Kong’s Eden-like hiking trails…

I found none – maybe rampaging tourists or a ravenous Bella have finished them all off.


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