The international media’s sudden interest in discontent brewing in the Big Lychee continues, with Bloomberg Business Week introducing poverty-stricken family du jour, Liu Yefen and kids, who live in a tiny and squalid apartment two miles north of the Kowloon Shangri-La – in other words, Sham Shui Po. It is broadly the same story as in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal and BBC reports, mentioning rising inflation and falling incomes, and concluding with a one-sentence summary that ends with the three ominous words “potential political crisis.”
Outbreaks of international media attention on specific Hong Kong issues used to be common in the days leading up to the 1997 handover. Organizations like the Government Information Service and the tycoon-funded Better HK Foundation would arrange for packs of journalists to interview business and other figures, who would recite the same upbeat message about the city’s stability and prosperity. A few days later, the big media outlets would all carry surprisingly similar reports quoting similar people saying similar things.
Of course, the news gatherers’ current interest in Sham Shui Po is damaging rather than boosting Asia’s World City’s public image. If it is the result of anyone’s PR plan it would be a group like Oxfam HK, who are pretty switched on when it comes to this sort of thing. Or maybe the reporters were all swopping ideas at the Foreign Correspondents Club and agreed to go off and do the story together. Or perhaps it’s just coincidence.
Over in the Fiddling-while-Rome-burns department, the government continues its tortuous attempt to ban by-elections for democratically elected Legislative Council seats. First, our visionary leaders tried to summarily impose the clunky, unprincipled, illogical and thus rather obviously ordered-by-Beijing measure without debate. Most administrations with a legislature rigged in such a way as to guarantee it a majority would get it through – but no, even many of the toadies and shoe-shiners in the assembly couldn’t bring themselves to vote for such a dumb idea so badly presented. So now we will have a full-blown public consultation, and in a new twist, the status quo will be included as one of the options.
It is the predictably dismal way officials handled the issue that the pro-government lawmakers found most objectionable. So the government will succeed in banning by-elections in such a way as to eliminate the dread possibility that it or, horror of horrors, Beijing could be held to account via a citywide poll, labeled a ‘referendum’, triggered by a legislator who resigns over a specific issue. Among the slightly less dumb possibilities are banning by-elections only when a lawmaker ‘abuses’ the system, not if one dies or is imprisoned; another is barring legislators who resign from running again during that term, though this would still leave the referendum ‘loophole’ open if a resigning legislator named an ally to run in his place.
Chief Secretary Henry Tang, or at least a scribe, has written an op-ed piece on this subject for the newspapers today. It seems that neither the South China Morning Post nor the Standard could bring themselves to print it, which suggests it must be really bad. And, over at China Daily, we find that indeed it is: a string of misleading, mendacious, oxymoronic falsehoods, lies and what linguists and rhetoricians term ‘bullshit’. The fundamental problem is that, far from being a loophole, an abuse or a waste of public funds, a deliberately triggered by-election is a legitimate democratic device. If the public feels it is unjustified, the guy loses his seat. But if he has a point, and the people agree with him that – for example – a particular government policy is wrong, they re-elect him, and those he opposes are dealt a nasty moral defeat. And that is unacceptable to the powers that be.
Meanwhile, the buses taking the world’s press on their familiarization tour of Sham Shui Po trundle back to Central. And what do we see on the side of one of them but an advertisement for i.uniQ Grand. Bill Gates’ Microsoft Word program puts a red zigzag under it, but it’s correct: i.uniQ Grand.
It is, of course, a property development, courtesy of Sun Hung Kai, for anyone who wants to spend (at the very lower end of the project’s range) HK$5.8 million for 326 (or ‘420’) square feet of livable space in luxurious and glamorous Shau Kei Wan. The Standard dutifully re-hashes what is simply a SHKP press release suggesting that demand and prices for the place will be firm, and we should all hurry, hurry, hurry to put down our HK$17,800 (minimum) per square foot. As we all know, when a developer claims that the market price for its latest product is high, it does not necessarily follow that it is strictly speaking the case.
To push the overpriced pile of tacky concrete and glass, Sun Hung Kai are producing a glossy i.uniQ Grand magazine. The appearance of the second edition warranted a press release in its own right (“entrance lobby with exceptional 11-metre ceiling, crystal chandeliers and golden dragon in cubes”). If you liked Henry’s piece in China Daily, you’ll love it.
The present system stinks, though its not as if there has suddenly been an influx of poor people in areas such as Sham Shui Po living in ratty flats ,only after 1997.
Whilst I hope that HK people begin to speak up, I also hope that protests are not diluted by the antics of the LoSD and some of its younger members. The biggest July 1st protest was so meaningful not just because of the sheer numbers of those who protested but by the way in which they expressed thier anger in a very dignified way. To me, that made their statements even more powerful.
I thought that if both the SCMP and the Standard refused to print Henry’s horse-shit it must have been BAD
I just checked the link and read it
It was even worse than I thought it could be
Shau Kei Wan has some great restaurants, particularly one of the northern-style dumpling cancantings on the right side of the road as you head towards the harbour, on the same street as the more famous On Lei restaurant. You can recognise On Lei by the large queues of Cantonese diners waiting to get a table, which usually means it’s not that palatable to other people.
Hopefully these dining establishments will not be driven out by rising rents, so middle class people like me can occasionally grace the restauranteurs with my presence and pay less than HK$100 for fantastic food.
Just a few musings on this whole “loophole” thing:
(i) Govt claims that the public are clamouring for this loophole to be plugged – just who, exactly, is clamouring? I haven’t seen hoardes of people clamouring to get it plugged (bus loads of old people from the new territories turning up for a bag of free rice don’t count, I’m afraid);
(ii) second, they claim that the voting rate was only 17% therefore indicating that the public didn’t give a shit – since Donald’s approval rating is heading in this direction, they may want to re-think this bit;
(iii) they claim it’s a waste of public resources – so are civil servants, but I don’t see govt doing anything about them (other than dishing out an inflation-busting 7% pay rise); and
(iv) they failed to address the most obvious way to prevent this from happening again – stop being such a bunch of nob-ends when it comes to public policy
Glad to get that off my chest. As Hemlock is wont to say, “I declare the weekend open” …
i) Beijing are clamouring; For all Raymond “Mad Dog” faults this was a bullseye and threw the Administration, Beijing and Pro-Government parties into a panic;
ii) It was only 17% as Beijing decreed that its should be boycotted – So why bother vote they are the only candidate;
iii) We have an enormous overpaid Government in Hong Kong whose bureau’s and departments are involved in areas best suited to the private sector but, to my memory, these are never shut down, even if they have long lost their reason for being e.g. The TDC – organiser of trade fairs; and
iv) Unfortunately the CCP will not allow any real democracy here so this will continue for as long as the CCP remains the ruling party in China.
What HK has sadly lost good governance and will “need to grow a pair” in its dealings with Beijing if it want to get back on track.
Now what was that about the weekend …
Lo and behold, the conversation in Cantonese at the lunch table today was the very subject of squalid conditions in Sham Shui Po and the issue of high land/rent costs. The answer I got was that people, in particular young people, are very pissed off at present.
One more point to add to Big Al’s (excellent) list: the voter turnout in the by-elections would have been considerably higher (on both sides of the political fence) if the pro-Beijing parties hadn’t toed the party line and boycotted it.
It was this petulant official response, not the purported unconstitutionality of a by-election-cum-referendum (puh-lease), that made the exercise more or less futile.
For the govt to now claim that this proves the public want the ‘loophole’ plugged, when in fact people simply didn’t bother themselves to participate in a non-contest, is pathetic and dishonest and displays the administration’s usual contempt for the public’s intelligence.
Stephen, looks like we were typing at the same time; hear hear!
I think the reason why the voter turnout was so low was indeed that people did not give a Sh1t about that issue -whatever it was, I even forget ( and/ or that they knew the recumbants would be safely returned )
If so , that’s GREAT ! The plebs didn’t give a Sh1t . Ergo storm in a teacup. The plebs have a right not to vote as well as to vote
But , just imagine … the horse is elected as next CEO and and just one legco member resigns as a test case of whether we like the horse, and there’s a 90% turnout and the answer is resoudingly NO !
Now that’s what I think is the root of the problem .
I pay a lot of tax……. ( a few HK$ hundered thousands, hence my name on this blog) I’m seriously thinking of witholding $6K x the number of big tycoons I can think of and tell IR I refuse to pay tax to give superman, Lee SK, Kwoks etc @ $6K per person and so I decided to give that number of persons x $6K to charity, so I deduct it from my tax bill.
Then let IRD take me to court….
INTERESTING TEST CASE ?
Thanks for the link! Stupefyingly dull, convoluted, self-serving, obsessed with procedure, and driven by a non-existent issue, “Some Fundamental Issues in Replacement System Review” gives a priceless look into the minds of the HK ruling class and their minions. There’s no way Henry wrote it, of course—nor can we be sure he even fully understands it—but it probably does accurately represent what he and his cohort consider well-reasoned political discourse. Idiots.
actually, I am refreshing this idea…make a change…don’t do any business with any organization that are part of the real estate tycoon conglormoates…
buy your groceries from wet markets. avoid shopping at wellcome and/or Park’n’Shop or their affilaites (360)…if you haven’t do so, don’t buy property from the real estate tycoons, don’t use PWCC…(avoiding HK Electric or China Electric is hard…) don’t ride MTR [you get the concept…]
(idea courtesy of the HongkieTown.)
I tried that once… but where else can you buy good stilton cheese except Olivers ?
nulle, I discovered today that you also have to avoid travelling on KMB buses (owned by Sun Hung Kai).
The government has allowed the city’s entire economy to be sewn up by the property tycoons.
have friends ship them to you en masse if the cheese doesn’t require refrigeration…cheese is something the big boys in hk have cornd the market…
Sometimes one must read the fine print in Hemlock’s musings and Friday’s issue was no exception. The H. Tang blurb-spiel was bad enough to deter one from reading any more links. But in a moment of extreme boredom and depression I decided to try the very last one at the end about i.uniQ Grand. It was sickenly and pathetically funny, but when I went back to read it again I found that Henry or one of his staff had hacked into it ( Henry always was an old hack) and what came out was obviously a draft of his top-secret election platform :
GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING : Reading this will make you either laugh or puke yourself to death. Either way you’re doomed.
“Hon Con Gov is distributing the second issue of its trend-setting i.gov.U magazine for the i.gov.U concept government series today, with a much larger print run due to popular demand. The magazine offers the latest information about the WORK | LIVE | PAY lifestyle of i.gov.U Grand Gov Project and features five sky-high aspects of the uniquely constrained WE.GOV.U political lifestyle in Hong Kong : Club-Collusion exclusive membership Club, sky-high residence prices,
floor-low voting entrance doors, exceptionally high entrance qualification standard for CE ( IQ must exceed KCR internal bus temperature) , and UniQ Business Lobby.
Hon Con Gov Public Relations Agency Project Director-Sales Stephey Lam said: “The first issue of the i.gov.U magazine was exceptionally popular, so the second issue out today to promote the i.gov.U Grand Gov Project has more content and a 60% bigger print run of over 20,000. Our i.gov.U ambassadors were handing out copies to young urbanites in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon today, and there will be more copies available when our new i.gov.U offices are open for Club Collusion and the UniQ Business Lobby (viewing by private invitation)
We believe that introducing the Grand Gov Concept in a magazine is more in keeping with the habits of young urbanites and will effectively prevent them getting any real perspective of all the real disadvantages of what WE.GOV.U means for them
The cover story of the second i.gov.U magazine is titled We Work, We Live, We Pay. It follows the i.gov.U Grand WORK | LIVE | PAY ethos of five young people who understand what it means to enjoy working hard all day, going back to shoe boxes at night , and paying taxes (but not voting) and gives an introduction to the political hot spots in Hong Kong where Longhair can often be seen live in action.
The magazine also explores the New Urbanism concept, relating the advantages and investment potential of URA developments in Kowloon, including Queens Cube in Wanchai ( still 70% vacancy : apply now for space and bring your own magnifying glass ) and Kings Cube in Sham Shui Po (1000 % over-subscribed) , to much better development models in New York and New Huangpu in Shanghai
Our Mission Statement at i.gov.U : “You pay more so you get less”
This issue features design tips for one to three future CE candidates to maximize their fabulous con-gov-potential and highlights the diverse choice of candidates in i.gov.U Grand Gov Project , plus information about the stand-above-it-all attitude and duck-out evasion qualities required of all candidates. It also introduces Club-Collusion UniQ Star Property Development/Transport/ Supermarket/Chemist/ Convenience Store/Electricity/Telecom ALL-inclUsive Management service and the innovative, non-interactive don’t-call-Us-we-call-U-Phone app for Blossom Living in the Great Con-Hon-Con Living Environment.
LIVE ! WORK WORK ! and PAY PAY PAY”
This should do the trick, just add warmer water.