Not pretty: Donald tries scheming

The Big Lychee’s chattering classes are struck by bemusement this morning as they try to fathom the latest shenanigans in the never-ending clash between the forces of freedom and despotism.

Beijing’s local officials are seeking to peel the Democratic Party and other moderate, mature, sensible, constructive, decent members of the pro-universal suffrage camp away from the bad, naughty, unreasonable, anarchic hooligans of the Civic Party and League of Social Democrats. The short-term intention is to induce them to vote yes – or at least abstain – when the reform-free political reform package for 2012 goes before the Legislative Council next month. Further ahead, the hope must be that Albert Ho and the rest of the tired and faded DP will be susceptible to a bit of ongoing rehabilitation and eventual acceptance in United Front-land as semi-outsiders whose existence may be acknowledged, as opposed to the hostile, unpatriotic non-persons left naked and shivering in the CP/LSD wilderness.

How are they going about this? Invitations to a PLA open day, permission to join a study tour of the mainland, a pointless chat with a provincial official, and free tickets to the Shanghai Expo have all been dangled as lures. So now it’s time to make the great gesture: a meeting with someone important, namely Deputy Director of the Liaison Office Li Gang.

To call the forthcoming discussion ‘negotiations’ is a joke. Encounters between the imperial court and its subjects are not meetings of equal sides: the former commands and the latter kowtows. The moderate pro-democrats will get tea and a pat on the head. If they had somewhere to put it, there would probably a panda bear in it for them. It is all about symbolism. The question is: will DP members come out of the gathering – say with a little just-for-you snippet of a promise of future reform – so puffed-up and important-feeling that they will be happy to become constructive and cooperative semi-opponents? It doesn’t ring true. Most DP folk would find it impossible to leave their antagonistic comfort zone; pro-Beijing loyalists would also resent even the merest dilution of their status as specially privileged insiders.

Meanwhile, as if he is trying to undermine mainland officials’ efforts, Chief Executive Donald Tsang issues an invitation to CP leader Audrey Eu for a televised one-on-one debate on the political reform package. His note to her even includes a not totally disrespectful reference to the ‘five district referendum’ that he is supposed to have rejected as an abhorrence. As the huge grin on Audrey’s face when she proudly showed the invite to the media made clear, this is as good as a reward for forcing the by-elections. After pointedly refusing to let us ignore the polls for the last few months, Donald now seems determined to stop us from forgetting them, or indeed remembering them as a failure.

Presumably he cleared this insane idea with the Beijing officials in the Liaison Office, but then presumably he didn’t because they would never have approved it. Unless, perhaps, the plan is that when Audrey shows up at the studio a mysterious sniper shoots her from a nearby tower block.

The only rational explanation*, enunciated by Liberal Party founder and semi-outcast Allen Lee, is that Donald interprets the 17% turnout at the by-elections as resounding proof that Bow-Tie Thought has gripped and inspired the populace. Visions of himself reducing the famously skilled barrister to rhetorical rubble amid widespread public applause must have been flashing through his excitable mind, and none of his acolytes had the nerve to openly question his judgement. Predictably, all the other political groups are insisting on joining in the debate, and the pro-Beijing people (and the DP, for that matter) are seething at this apparent show of favouritism for the person supposed to be a money-wasting, constitution-challenging public enemy.

Donald is at his embarrassing worst when he forgets he is a dependable, plodding, linear-thinking administrator and plays at being a dastardly original, Machiavellian politician. As with his predecessor Tung Chee-hwa when he tried on occasions to act decisive, you cringe and really want to look away but can’t. This could – unless someone rides to the rescue and arranges a pointless four-way event – get so ugly we almost end up feeling sorry for him. Though not quite.

*Other than the usual ‘power struggle in Zhongnanhai’ explanation for almost anything.

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13 Responses to Not pretty: Donald tries scheming

  1. MarcFaber says:

    What is the difference between kissing Peking ass and kissing Colonial ass? Pre-1997you would have called this kind of meeting constructive and useful, right? Britain had 150 years to get things right in Hong Kong but preferred lackies and stooges. What’s changed? Is it the fact that the Foreign Office isn’t running things any more which makes you so bitter ?

  2. Maugrim says:

    MarcFaber, any actual proof that what you say about Hemlock is true?

  3. Maugrim says:

    The question of ‘why’ is an interesting one. As was said, perhaps he feels he can dazzle the populace, perhaps he wants to show that he is somewhat ‘democratic’ by having a (regulated) public debate of some sort?

    He has failed to realise that as he did against Alan Leung, he may well come across as being a blustering, bow-tie wearing bully. Audrey versus Donald? I hope they throw in Wong Yuk man as well, just for entertainment value alone.

  4. Patrick Caddell says:

    This is a tremendous gift to the pro-democracy camp: a real dialogue with the Chief Executive, in public no less, on universal suffrage.

    There is absolutely no upside whatsoever for the administration, and a pretty good chance that it will be disastrous for the pro-Beijing camp, who have to defend the indefensible.

    The Democratic Party and every other pro-democracy supporter should simply shut up and let Audrey Eu have at Donald Tsang.

    However, the Democratic Party, in keeping with it’s perfect record of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity, will moan and groan long and loudly, and thereby give the administration the perfect excuse to back out of this insane idea.

  5. Davy Jones says:


    Another Septic who’s got sense of history!

    Annexation of New Mexico, Spanish American War – Philippines were ceded. American Indians ruthlessly colonized etc.

    And don’t forget the Coca Cola.

    Kiss your own ass and bugger off to the Land of the Free

  6. MarcFaber says:

    >Maugrim my friend…
    You can read all of Hemlock and this continuation without a single criticism of British (or American) foreign policy past or present. This should give you the clue to the agenda of the writer.

  7. Historian says:

    Philippines not really ‘ceded’ to USA – up to a million Filipinos killed by them in taking the country according to some accounts.

    Was certainly a couple of hundred thousand by general reckoning.

  8. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    I can get critiques of US and British policies elsewhere. I come here for droll critiques of HK and Beijing policies.

  9. Dan the Man says:

    Raymond Wong (ie Mad Dog) made the suggestion that maybe Donald Tsang thought up of this idea of debating Audrey Eu by looking at Taiwan. In Taiwan, President Ma debated the other party’s leader and his approval ratings went up and it was thought Ma “won” the debate. Maybe Tsang thought it would help him in the same way too. Gotta admit this is a plan that could only help the democratic opposition.

  10. MarcFaber says:

    Tiu darling…

    You don’t recognise propaganda and disinformation when you see it.

  11. chanboy says:

    I’m no fan of British colonialism myself, MarcFaber, and you can argue that nothing has really changed between the colonial days under London and the current days under Beijing.

    But there is a one major difference. London, no matter how high-ended and indifferent to Hong Kong, is utlimately a parliamentary democracy, accountable to the electorate. If the Brits get too out of hand in Hong Kong, we can always raise heckles in Britian to get attention from their press. That’s not the case with Beijing. Despite substantial improvements in Mainland livelihood and economic development over the past 30 years, Beijing is still an authoritarian government accountable to no one but themselves. Under these circumstances, if we are to safeguard our freedoms and strive for universal sufferage, we have no choice but to fight for it.

  12. Stephen says:

    Marc Faber

    The handover was thirteen years ago. Prior to that the Central Government’s line was (I recall a speech by Lu Ping) that future constitutional development in Hong Kong was up to the (then future) Government of the HKSAR. This changed when Tung went to the NPC.

    The Central Goverment, ably supported by HK Goverment, has changed the game rules here. So for once the Brits are off the hook.

  13. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    “You don’t recognise propaganda and disinformation when you see it.”

    It doesn’t really matter, does it? Whether I read propaganda and disinformation or the absolute truth, what I end up believing counts for nought as I don’t get to vote.

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