Just another day for the Hong Kong government. It announces a HK$7.2 billion (and no doubt counting) terminal – handout, in plain English – to the cruise liner industry, which specializes in bringing tourists ashore to take a few photos before whisking them back on board ship to spend their money. It sets up two systems: 1) to pay private doctors a subsidy for vaccinating patients against the latest Mutant Swine Instant Agonizing Death Flu virus, and 2) to try to stop the selfless, dedicated professionals from cheating by claiming reimbursement for the same patient more than once.
And then, on a far weightier matter altogether, the administration announces new/reappointed members of the Honours Committee, whose job in turn is to announce new members of the Big Lychee’s most elite clubs: the government-conferred honours and awards that entitle the great and good to put letters like JP and GBS after their name and thus differentiate themselves from plain folks and, crucially, each other.
Of the eight names announced, no fewer than four (The Hon Charles LEE Yeh-kwong, GBM, GBS, JP; The Hon Ronald ARCULLI, GBS, JP; Dr [real] the Hon Edward LEONG Che-hung, GBS, JP; and Dr [honorary] the Hon Marvin CHEUNG Kin-tung, GBS, JP) appear consecutively (on page 2) of the ever-fascinating Hong Kong Precedence List.
Innocent onlookers may feel this suggests a certain laziness or lack of imagination on the part whoever selected the names; couldn’t he at least have shut his eyes and jabbed his finger around to get a degree of randomness? In fact, this bunching-together reflects the four’s common status as non-official members of the Executive Council. This whole system – the medals, the titles and the positioning in the official pecking order – are all about the scrupulous avoidance of any hint of randomness.
Three of the four – Chuck, Ron and Marv – are full-fledged government courtesans whose posteriors have warmed too many seats on official and semi-official rubber-stamp bodies to count. As well as Exco, all have served on the Stock Exchange. The fourth, Leong Che-hung (Edward, apparently) is a harmless medic and former lawmaker who should know better than get involved in this nonsense.
Let’s look at the other four. Lawrence Lau is an Exco member (p.3) of academic extraction who seems to aspire to Arculli-like commitment to the government’s cause. Elsie Leung (p.16 courtesy of a GBM) is a former justice secretary and recently appointed board member of Rusal, the colourful Russian firm trying to get listed on the aforementioned Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Joseph Yam (p.17, GBM) is a former Monetary Authority boss who should have better things to do in retirement. Odd man out by a mile is Lau Chin-shek (not important enough to appear in the Precedence List), pro-democracy labour activist and former lawmaker. He is presumably supposed to lend the Honours Committee a dash of the proletarian masses, at least until the day they empanel a jury of teachers, housewives, bus drivers and secretaries to pick the lucky winners of JPs, GBMs, GBSs, etc.
Eagle-eyed perusers of the Precedence List will notice a plethora of exotic characters like The Rt Hon the Lord WALKER of Gestingthorpe but a marked absence of people called Huang, Zhou, Xu, etc. Locally based mainland officials are not of this world. This is why former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa gets a special mention on p.46 in the copious notes, to explain his apparently lowly appearance on p.17: he is in fact too important to appear higher up.
I see that the Roman Catholic bishop appears to have been ‘demoted’ from no. 2 to no. 3 on the list in respect of HK religious leaders. Presumably this demotion has no connection with the health of the Vatican-Beijing relationship.