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.
The “Great Eva Microphone Snatch-type of stunt” is the sort of thing I might expect from a Bangkok sidewalk hustler encouraging you to enter their bar. I’d be up for it if they could guarantee that the said device was to remain switched on.
The LSD is probably getting advice from South Korean protest movements. The South Koreans are several steps above many protest groups in terms of tactics and organisation. I had some activists from Australia staying with me during the WTO and they were amazed at what the South Koreans were doing. Probably something to do with (a) Koreans being subject to compulsory military service and (b) Koreans being the craziest-in-a-synchronised-way East Asians by far.
Did the sound desk at the event not turn off the microphone as soon as it was snatched or had they already fallen asleep having listened to Eva talking about building more railways regardless of whether anyone will use them or not?
Really though, such confected outrage over a 2.5% MTR fare increase? What are people going to do when interest rates rise (as they inevitably will) or real problems start to emerge? Sundays now host a protest du jour along Hennessy Rd. Last week’s stunt involving some 800 people hardly seems worth the effort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that protests shouldn’t occur in HK, I just hope they dont become meaningless as an effective tool because they are used once too often for low level issues.
This whole fare increase thing is rediculous. Did you know that the Transport Department still insists that KMB run over 100+ 17-year old (high polluting emissions) non-aircon buses on the premise that people would not accept the marginally higher fares for air conditioned buses?
The tiff over the MTR fare increase is only peripherally related to the rise itself. It’s probably rooted in indignation over the fact that there is a system that requires MTRC to re-evaluate fares regularly even though their profits are both outrageous and guaranteed.
Their recent campaign admitting how much public nuisance it has caused since its inception and will continue to cause for the foreseeable future is civil service-like in its smugness. I look forward to the chaos and anarchy of the Great Admiralty Excavation in coming years.
I look forward to the quaint MTR architects models that show a multitude of trees and green that in reality will never exist when the project is completed. For historical references go and see the MtR HQ lobby in Kowloon Bay where they have the original models for HK station and others.
The reason for that is that architects and engineers are convinced that trees don’t have roots.