Even for a paper that is largely a translation of other groveling Sing Tao Group output, the Standard has formidable quantities of oozing obsequiousness dribbling in great gummy globs from its pages. Today on page 2 ‘smooth operator’ Chief Secretary Henry Tang shakes hands with presumed rivals for the post of next Chief Executive with ‘panache’. Over the page, the fictitious ‘Mary Ma’ editorial pretty much nominates Development Secretary Carrie Lam (Tang’s probable sidekick in the 2012-17 administration) for sainthood for not owning a home.
Further into the publication is a daily dose of toadying called ‘Fame and Fortune’, crafted by Sing Tao chief editor Siu Sai-wo (a recipient, incidentally, of a Bronze Bauhinia Star – the scummiest and most insulting of Hong Kong’s tawdry medals, handed out as a kick in the face to the most avid hangers-on and wannabes desperate to be accepted by the Big Lychee’s self-styled ‘elite’.)
As its title suggests, the column usually focuses on a well-known rich person and remarks in glowing terms on what we might politely call a hitherto under-appreciated personal quality, such as his or her selflessness or intellect. (You can imagine Sing Tao owner tobacco heir/tycoon Charles Ho phoning Siu to announce that he feels a compulsive need coming on to lavish vacuous public praise over a particular property developer, and the lackey should see to it.)
Today, Siu mentions something called the Dashun Policy Research Centre, a think-tank recently formed by several legislators and professionals to focus on ‘infrastructure development issues’. “A source in government circles,” the constantly name-dropping Siu writes, “said Dashun looks set to play a leading role, as infrastructure projects in Hong Kong are facing more frequent and radical objections.”
Although we may never have heard of this group, it is soon obvious what we are talking about. First, it is being promoted in Sing Tao/Standard-land, and therefore will not be part of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy milieu. Second, the name Dashun (大舜) is transliterated in Pinyin; in normal local Canto-based Romanization it would be more like ‘Tai Sun’. This doesn’t automatically mark it out as pro-Beijing, but it certainly suggests a possible fondness for the cross-border integration/partnership/cooperation fetish. (It’s suitably patriotic: the name of a mythical Chinese emperor.) Third, the picture shows the group sitting beneath a banner in Chinese only. Again, you don’t have to be part of the United Front to do this, but let’s say it helps.
It also seems pretty clear that the Dashun Policy Research Centre has been set up to push the Zhuhai Bridge and Third Runway. Presumably, it has been established with government urging and no doubt some big corporate players wish it well (possibly including Mainland interests, given the role of state-owned construction firms in these big infrastructure projects).
A bit of rummaging around reveals that its leading figures include the gruesome legislator Priscilla Leung and colleagues Patrick Lau (architects’ representative) and Raymond Ho (engineering representative). The (apparently still alive) venerable Sir SY Chung seems to be the figurehead. The group dates from some time last year, but it hasn’t exactly captured the public’s attention (there was some sort of publicity surrounding a goof-up in which Priscilla wrongly linked the mythical emperor with ancient engineering projects).
Dashun has probably been established to counter an existing body, the Professional Commons, a bilingual group prone to dangerous outbreaks of critical thinking and leaning more towards quality-of-life than Stalinist-scale schemes to cover the city with steel and concrete. With Chief Executive and other polls on the way, Priscilla et al could also be entertaining fantasies about posing as a voting bloc, being offered high office or sweeties of some sort for backing this or that candidate. Or… they’re just another grubby bunch of plain everyday shoe-shiners.
Rummaging deeper down, we find a relative unknown sitting on the Dashun executive committee (from ‘2011-present’) who might give us a little bit of insight into the sort of ambitious people attracted to the fringes of the pro-Beijing sub-culture: behold, one Dr Vincent Ho BSc (Hons), PhD, MBA, PE, RSO, CSP, RPE, CEng, CFIOSH, FIMechE, CMILT of the MTR. What a resume, big enough to span the Pearl River Estuary – even a spell as Pasadena Police reservist gets in there. Can a Bronze Bauhinia Star be far off?