A quick stroll near the Legislative Council on Saturday morning showed what looked like a serious over-provisioning of gallant boys in blue, given the small size of the crowd:
The events that evening, when the mostly young, anti-express rail activists mounting the Great Legco Siege of 2010 scuffled with pepper spray-wielding cops represented the nearest Hong Kong has seen to locally originated political violence for years, maybe decades. Philip Wong Yu-hong, the pro-Beijing legislator whose main claim to fame is making an obscene gesture to pro-democracy protestors outside the Legislative Council in 2003, caught a full-looking water bottle on the back of the head. The prurient, voyeuristic and bloodthirsty may enjoy watching and re-watching the outrage starting from the 0.37 mark here:
This was after he and his colleagues had been trapped inside for hours by crowds demonstrating against the vote approving HK$66.9 billion funding for the rail project. Police eventually created a cordon through which ‘Dr’ Wong and the others made what may have been their first ever visit to an MTR station.
The city’s leaders, their detractors and all the usual chattering bystanders are now engaged in a frenzied analysis of the underlying causes of the conflict. Much of the attention is aimed at the ‘post-80s’ generation of teens and 20-somethings who made their debut a few years ago with the protests to save the Star Ferry and Queens Piers from the Central Reclamation, another mega-project devised by bureaucrats behind closed doors and rammed through regardless of opposition.
Predictably, officials are bleating about the need to ‘improve communication’, the favoured remedy for public opposition since the dawn of Tung Chee-hwa’s demise. It is based on the assumption that the government has failed by not adequately conveying the correctness of its policies to the people, who implicitly must take some of the blame for being too stupid to understand. A key part of this is to pretend to listen – and what could be more depressing than vague plans to ‘reach out’ to the tech-savvy younger generation through online forums? Whatever happens, our visionary leaders will not open their ears to the basic message: if you want to stop being criticized for wasting public wealth on projects that benefit only the tycoons, stop doing it and spend the money on parks or health care instead.
Is Leung Chun-ying, the convenor of the Executive Council and undeclared but obvious aspirant to be next Chief Executive from 2012, secretly masterminding the youthful rebellion from behind the scenes? In the movie version, he would be; he is already describing the weekend’s events and the whole high-speed rail mess as having taught the government a lesson. By apparently disowning any personal responsibility as a member of our top policy-making body, he is confirming that the cabinet is simply a rubber stamp for concrete-crazed incumbent Donald Tsang.
Since Sir Bow-Tie is only doing the bidding of his masters in Beijing, and since Leung would not indulge in brazen, opportunistic, populist treachery without the blessing of someone else up there, we can assume that there is something of a little power struggle over Hong Kong’s future at Central People’s Government level. To complicate matters, there is the announcement by Beijing’s Hong Kong affairs people that the by-election ‘referendum’ concept is unconstitutional. Although a communist-run one-party state could never allow an actual referendum, it can hardly prevent by-elections if legislators in Hong Kong resign. By dreaming aloud that it is illegal to pretend such a poll is a referendum, the Chinese officials are making it more likely that people will treat it as one. All very confusing.