While the city waits and bites its fingernails, anxiously awaiting the decision on who will be next to take the throne, the incumbent leaders carry out their ancient rituals with unquestioning and robotic dumbness, like zombie lame ducks on autopilot – were such a mutilated, technologically aided beast to exist.
On planet Lands Department, they are holding an auction, as if it was still 1988 when government sold space to developers to build homes for Hong Kong people and used the resulting revenue to pay for things Hong Kong needed. After selling three plots to various property cartel members for a total of HK$5.7 billion, Real Estate MegaCorp deputy director Graham Ross pronounces himself ‘satisfied with the results’ in the Standard. The two acolytes who tick sheets of paper put on their best seriously self-importantly smug looks to emphasize the point.
Those results are as follows. The property developers will construct nasty, ugly, mean residential projects smothered in marble, chandeliers and faux-Italian names, which they will sell for absurd prices to Mainlanders with cash they are not supposed to have, who will leave the dazzling/luxury/exclusive units empty for years on end. Meanwhile, the government adds another drop to its ocean of over a trillion bucks in reserves, which it will sit on pointlessly, occasionally and grudgingly using some of the interest income to augment revenues from taxpayers. If it ever gets around to spending some of the capital it will be on unnecessary and environmentally horrible infrastructure projects, essentially recycling much of the cash back to the property cartel, which also corners the construction materials market. Most of the press report all this as if a government thinking and acting like a real estate company is pure, natural, wholesome goodness.
At least the Lands Department actually performs some sort of visible actions that have noticeable – if bad or stupid – outcomes. For sheer redundancy, no-one can touch the Central Policy Unit, an office of arcane ceremony and puffed-up pomposity. Its boss, Professor Lau Siu-kai, has just performed an obscure, drawn-out symbolic rite known as the Meeting of the Commission on Strategic Development on Hong Kong’s work direction in complementing the National 12th Five-year Plan. (Neither the Commission on Strategic Development nor the National 12th Five-year Plan actually does, or means, anything. The former was founded years back by Chief Executive Donald Tsang to appoint his friends to, and more specifically not to appoint his critics to, so they would sit in the corner and feel all left out and miserable. The latter is an ancient sacrament involved in the worship of the failed god known as Communism.)
The Government, Lau grandly announces, may consider launching public engagement exercises to help Hong Kong people understand the need to enhance the city’s economic cooperation with the Mainland.
Somewhere in the bureaucracy, a public engagement exercise alarm goes off. We always have room for one more. There’s the ‘Don’t reverse trucks into elderly ladies, it’s not nice’ campaign. There’s the one that goes ‘Do our shopping malls a favour and be friendly to tourists, it’s more fun than you’d expect’. There’s ‘I love Hong Kong, I love green’. Then we always have ‘Don’t do drugs, kiddies, drugs are nasty and not nice’, now in its 74th amazingly successful year. And the hugely convincing ‘Let’s all be harmonious and friendly to everyone, it will be nice’ promotion, which I like to think made me what I am today.
Lau’s proposal addresses a particular communication challenge:
Noting Hong Kong is actively participating in the nation’s development and the country is willing to open its market to the city, Mr Lau said the development provides opportunities for Hong Kong industries to grow.
“But at the same time, not everyone will benefit from Hong Kong-China economic integration and some people will see themselves as losers in the process, particularly young people and the grassroots.”
In plain English: “The Mainland is going to swamp this place. If you’re a landlord you’ll make billions. The rest of you are screwed. Ha ha. Thank you for your attention.”
Let’s call it National Education for grown-ups.