Just when I thought I wouldn’t be switching on the air-conditioning again for four months… The streets have a ‘hot, wet, summer day after the typhoon’ feel about them this morning. Maybe winter will start next week.
The background: just as Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung’s administration is under fire from all sides over just about everything, Beijing official Zhang Xiaoming chooses to make things even worse by spouting scare stories about foreign interference in the Big Lychee and stressing the need for national-security laws, as mandated by Article 23 of the Basic Law. He also echoes Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung’s recent comments that Beijing rules local courts, which led pro-democrats to demand her appearance in the Legislative Council, and her refusing to bow to ‘McCarthyism’.
Pan-dems are up in arms about Zhang. But, according to the SCMP, ultra-patriot Elsie has suddenly joined them, describing his comments as ‘not only unconstitutional but also immoral’ – even though he was agreeing with her previous remarks.
What happened is that the ‘immoral’ quote comes from Civic Party’s Alan Leong. Perhaps the copy editor (are they still using Sri Lankans based in Bangkok or something?) accidentally inserted Elsie’s name in the wrong place (Leung/Leong – so easy to confuse), leading a designer to innocently put a picture of the old girl next to the outraged anti-Beijing quote. They have fixed it in the on-line edition.
Except… do things this horribly wrong happen by accident? Or could it be deliberate editorial vandalism? Maybe the SCMP needs an Article 23 of its own to root out subversives in the news room.
I look forward to the groveling apology on tomorrow’s front page. Will they have the nerve to blame it on that old stand-by, a technical glitch, or will they be man enough to admit human fault, perhaps with an assurance that the perpetrators have been rounded up and locked in a dungeon full of snakes.
Of course, it could be that Elsie really has turned against Zhang. He has, after all, committed an act of sabotage of his own. The chances of Article 23 being implemented looked small enough, especially after the people’s revolt over National Education. Now, it has never looked more dead.
Paranoia about foreign interference in Hong Kong seems to be triggered by the waving of colonial flags at protests and vague mutterings about autonomy or even independence. It would be unthinkable among Beijing officials to shrug this adolescent silliness off and ignore it. Whether they really mean it when they describe a serious threat to the nation, we have no idea. Conspiracy theorists believe that Chinese leaders want to provoke trouble in Hong Kong to justify a serious clampdown (that is, use anti-Article 23 unrest to justify Article 23). One witty comment below the on-line SCMP article suggests that Zhang wants to buy a home in Hong Kong and is trying to bring property prices down.
Apparently, it is beyond anyone in the government or pro-communist community in Hong Kong to go to Zhang or some other official and say: “Listen, cut the number of Mainland visitors by 80% and give everyone back their streets and shops, and the ‘foreign interference’ will magically disappear.” Why use a simple solution when massively complex, trouble-provoking ones are available?
I declare the weekend open with one of the best things most people have never heard: Erika Stucky singing ‘Why’ from Carla Bley’s opera ‘Escalator Over the Hill’, featuring such lines as ‘So many ingredients in the soup, no room for a spoon’…