Protestors, patriots, puppets on parade

A quick glance at RTHK’s news website on Friday afternoon showed an interesting juxtaposition of headlines. The ‘thousands’ on the annual 7-1 march turned out to be 50,000 according to the police, whose estimates of such figures these days are treated by the media as fiction, or over 200,000 according to the organizers, who are saintly, objective and meticulous and blessed with inerrant crowd-counting ability. It was, beyond doubt, the biggest number on the streets since the 2004 demo, which had the pulling power that only then-Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa could provide.

The ‘hundreds’ – probably ending up at 20,000 or so in full – referred to the wholesome, non-spontaneous loyalist counter-event celebrating the reunion of Hong Kong with the glorious motherland. Of the “largely elderly crowd,” as subversives at RTHK put it, “many had been brought … by a fleet of tour buses.” In other words, enticed into coming, some reportedly lured by an offer of a free bottle of soy sauce. You could also enjoy the People’s Liberation Army Band performing patriotic tunes in, of all places, the Queen Elizabeth Stadium.

The government meanwhile issued statements anxiously claiming that it was committed to a better Hong Kong and attached great importance to public views. The paucity of people who would lend the slightest credence to these assertions was then displayed with pride to the world, and to the distinct sound of the bottom of barrels being scraped, in the form of the Handover Day list of honours recipients.

The Grand Bauhinia Medal, the most important civic laurel of them all – reserved for only the highest level of government official, the richest of billionaires and the most esteemed of patriots – went to two figures: Executive Council convener CY Leung and Lan Kwai Fong mega-landlord Allen Zeman. The fact that Leung did not already have this bauble shows how strictly rationed it is. The award of one to Zeman, best known to the public as a vendor of overpriced beer in tacky themed bars, indicates that the list of eligible recipients is growing short. The great fear among tycoons who receive these medals, in particular, is the prospect of the awards’ future devaluation; a native of Zeman’s standing would ruffle feathers.

The Gold Bauhinia Star, the next rung down, went to an embarrassingly large number of senior civil servant-turned politicians (Edward Yau, Environment; Eva Cheng, Transport/Housing; Rita Lau, ex-Commerce) or plain bureaucrats (Christina Ting and Yvonne Choi), plus a pair of judges. This is partly because many of them may not be around in a year’s time when a new administration takes over, but it is mainly part of this overall trend; the government is running out of lackeys, and the pool of people to whom top medals can be awarded is being used up faster than it is being replenished.

Lawrence Lau is one of Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s second-tier shoe-shiners – not in the same league as Grade One flunkies like Ronald Arculli or Anthony Wu, but always useful for appointment to a board or committee to endorse whatever vacuous blather the administration is pushing that day. Jeffrey Lam is similar. Anna Wu is a government-friendly pro-democrat rehabilitated as an Executive Council member after being ejected as head of the Equal Opportunities Commission for humiliating the Tung administration years back.

Further down the list come various people who actually have some relevance to the Big Lychee’s population; a few have even made real contributions to the city through voluntary work and other activity, though they are scattered among at least as many United Front toadies being given a pat on the head for organizing day trips for old folk to pad out the numbers at tedious politically correct gatherings. Mostly, however, the people being honoured would have meant nothing to Friday’s marchers except insofar as they inspire disdain or perhaps pity.

One curious little feature of the big march on Friday: flags. The Republic of China banner often appears at pro-democracy demonstrations, thanks in some cases at least to pro-Kuomintang elements (I think some Falung Gong members sport them too). What is more unusual – though I do recall seeing it once or twice in the past – is the use of the colonial-era Hong Kong flag. Whatever message the people carrying them were trying to convey, I don’t think any Beijing officials monitoring the protest would have liked it.

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11 Responses to Protestors, patriots, puppets on parade

  1. Maugrim says:

    Good to see Manbo Mann and Rock get a guernsey along with good old Helios. Quite a few gweilos there but not many of our duskier Asian brothers and sisters. I’m slightly curious as to why.

    As to the protest, its going to be interesting to see how it pans out with Wong Yuk-man and his post-80’s accolytes and future protests. Civil disobedience for the sake of it? Its hard to say. I hope that antics dont get to the extent that they devalue real issues or alienate the wider groups of HK’ers who marched in 2004.

  2. Vile Traveller says:

    Nice to see “V” making an appearance, even if almost certainly inspired by the Anonymous internet phenomenon inspired by the rather questionable Hollywood version rather than the real thing in comic form. If the powers that be actually read a decent graphic novel from time to time, they might be worried.

  3. The use of the colonial flag has always confused me. Do they want a free and independent Hong Kong, or a Hong Kong ruled by Britain? Or is it the opinion that Hong Kong was better under British rule? But the UK won’t take it back. Surely the Hong Kong flag marks its independence, although I think the red might be the same shade as that within the Chinese flag. Maybe a green background instead, like the HK passport… Anything other than the colonial flag which represents Hong Kong under the rule of another country.

  4. Old Timer says:

    The colonial-era HK Flag has been getting more and more pole-time at July 1 marches in recent years. It’s perhaps the single most emotive symbol possible in Hong Kong other than a burning PRC flag. You can get them on for a fiver.

  5. Stephen says:

    Colonial-era flags ! The message ? Could it be a demand for competent governance which HK has sadly lacked since July 1997 ?

    Beijing officials may not like it but they are responsible for the system that allows them to pick incompetent administrators like Tung and Tsang and probably Henry to Horse next.

    Dr. Allen Semen GBM – Now that the award has been debased to this level surely we will now see people refusing to accept Bauhinia’s …

  6. Real Tax Payer says:

    I have no idea at all how the police, govt et al, calculate their numbers. But I can attest to the following : I joined the head of the main 3.00 “democracy” march as it passed Wanchai MTR station and stayed with it until it got to BOC building. Then I took a tram back to Causeway Bay, but the tram was held up both in Queensway for over one hour because it was blocked by the demonstration ( great fun blowing my whistle from the top and waving to all the demonstrators walking below below) and again at the Johnston Rod. Hennessy Road junction for another half and hour, so that it was about 17.30 before I arrived at Causeway Bay. There, to my astonishment I found THOUSANDS ( nay tens of thousands) still queuing in the side streets STILL waiting to join the tail end of the demonstration. By this time Hennessy Road was so thick with people that they were barely shuffling along packed like sardines in the westbound lane of Hennessy Road. I finally got back to Wanchai MTR station by about 19.00 PM where the whole line seemed to have stopped because presumably it was shoulder to shoulder all the way to Central from there on and people were just dispersing fast enough at Central . Finally the tail of the demonstration passed Wanchai MTR by about 20. 30 PM. A simple calculation shows that at 20 abreast , 1 meter apart all the 5 km from Causeway Bay to Central that = 100,000 people. Considering that the demonstration ran for 5 hours, enough time to walk the distance twice, that = 200,000, very close to the organizers’ estimates.

    I just hold that Donald the lame duck gets the message that a LOT of people are VERY angry about the total incompetence of his governance in this past year or two.

    And now they want to sell off Govt house to a private developer – the one patch of green left to us in Central.

    Mr D. Tsang: I only wished we had asked you what was the “job’ was you intended to “get done” as you campaigned for your second term


  7. Claw says:

    Maugrim: “As to the protest, its going to be interesting to see how it pans out with Wong Yuk-man and his post-80′s accolytes and future protests. Civil disobedience for the sake of it? Its hard to say. I hope that antics dont get to the extent that they devalue real issues or alienate the wider groups of HK’ers who marched in 2004.”

    Too late, I’m afraid, they’ve already done that.

  8. Walter De Havilland says:

    An independent survey by a professor and students from the HKU Social Work Department estimated the crowd attending on 1st July at about 60,000, which sorts of tallies with the Police figure. It’s interesting that the rally organisers are unwilling to explain how they calculate the crowd size. Either way, the turnout clearly rattled the administration which is now in a tactical retreat to buy time.

  9. Vile Traveller says:

    HKU Social Work Department? I think you meant to write “government shoe-shiners”. 😉

  10. Walter De Havilland says:

    You are obviously misinformed. The Social Work Department at HKU is populated by a bunch of tree hugging, herbal fag smoking pseudo- hippies. Maybe their dazed state made accurate head counting impossible.

  11. Real tax payer says:

    I stick by my estimate having done the walk, effectively , twice.

    I have a Ph D in mathematics

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