Executive Council Convenor and Chief Executive-wannabe CY Leung criticizes radical protestors who snatched a microphone from Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng during an event in Central on Sunday. Not to be outdone, Chief Secretary and Chief Executive-wannabe Henry Tang criticizes radical protestors who snatched a microphone from Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng during an event in Central on Sunday. Or was it the other way round?
A person I know who had a bird’s-eye view of the Great Eva Microphone Snatch at the MTR charity blah-blah prize-giving ceremony was mightily impressed with the diversionary tactics employed by the League of Social Democrats’ wreckers of law and order. First, they said, LSD rowdies started creating a noisy disturbance at the back of the crowd to decry rail fare increases and distract security guards’ attention. Second, an anti-social troublemaker intent on ruining harmony ran down one side of the seating towards the stage, clearly intent on pulling off some sort of dastardly Great Eva Microphone Snatch-type of stunt. The security guards rushed in his direction to cut him off. Third, the real anti-social troublemaker intent on ruining harmony ran down the other side of the crowd and effortlessly jumped onto the dais, grabbed the mike from poor Eva and ranted about the coming revolution.
Meanwhile, new Police Commissioner Andy Tsang warns of a tough, no-nonsense, strike-hard approach if the downtrodden masses rebel and riot outside the Legislative Council today when lawmakers debate the budget. (The picture here shows the valiant boys in blue already ensconced around the building at 7.50 this morning.)
The severe nervousness that has caused Beijing to ‘disappear’ artist Ai Weiwei seems to be infectious: Hong Kong officials are rattled by the prospect of violence. The Big Lychee hasn’t had a real street riot for decades, but there is an unmistakable trend towards disorderly conduct in recent years. The sit-ins over the Queen’s Pier demolition, the siege of Legco over the high-speed rail project, hot tempers outside the Chinese government liaison office, protests over the budget – including the celebrated toddler-pepper-spraying, disgruntled Lehman minibond investors/property owners/pregnant mainlanders, and so on. Everyone is getting pushier, literally. After bystanders take the side of an elderly unlicensed hawker of egg waffles being busted, petrified top officials fall over themselves to help the old guy out even faster than Financial Secretary John Tsang did his famous U-turn last month and started flinging HK$6,000 cheques all over the place. What would it all be like without a boom, with the last two reported quarters’ annual GDP growth rates at 6-7%?
Surprisingly, there are people like CY Leung and Henry Tang who actually want to take over this mess. As part of the absurd charade we have to go through to make it look slightly as if the Chief Executive is chosen in Hong Kong, the government has chosen this time to suggest raising the expenditure limit for next March’s CE ‘election’ from HK$9.5 million to HK$13 million. By the standards of the forthcoming Obama campaign, this seems trivial, but there will be only 2,000 ‘voters’ in this sham. It would be a HK$39 billion spending cap if applied at the rate of HK$6,500 for each of the 6 million people of voting age. Given that the appointment will already have been decided in Beijing, you have to wonder why any CE candidate needs a penny in campaign money.
But forget the candidate – think of the donors. Last time, in 2007, property tycoons fell over themselves in their attempts to pile cash into Donald Tsang’s quasi-election chest. To get round a suggested HK$50,000 cap on individual donations, they sent cheques from subsidiaries and family members, so that Cheng Yu-tung’s New World empire stumped up some HK$1.5 million, Li Ka-shing’s interests and family gave a bit over HK$1 million, Robert Ng’s greater Sino Land group HK$800,000, and so on (carefully researched, sordid details here). As formation shoe-shining goes, it was a better-than-average performance.
In fact, these people were not merely groveling to the anointed new Chief Executive in advance of his make-believe election. They were endorsing Beijing’s choice in an act of fealty to the Chinese Communist Party, and that would have been spurred in part by fear. But will they – or, more correctly, the next CE-in-waiting when his/her identity officially dawns on us all later this year – have the nerve to arrange contributions to 2012’s bigger HK$13 million pot in this way?
A lot has changed in five years, and the public’s tolerance for what looks like blatant candidate-buying by the property-cartel families (even if there is more to it) is going to be a lot thinner this time round. If I were the Chosen One and worried about “actions that destroy order in society [and] arouse and intensify conflicts” (to quote Henry’s government press release), I would be careful about where my ‘campaign’ contributions came from.