The Wrath of Wang, Part 2

These are unusual times. Hong Kong scientists – they apparently exist – determine that time travel is impossible, and the world’s media report it as if it was something we didn’t already know. And many right-thinking people find themselves having a pang of sympathy and even a feeling of defensiveness towards some of the most overpaid wastes of space in the history of human civilization. Yes, we’re actually feeling sorry, at least a bit, for the Big Lychee’s civil servants.

The reason is egg tart-eater and director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Wang Guangya, who, in a meeting with visiting students on Tuesday, appeared to blame the bureaucrats for Hong Kong’s problems, accusing them of failing to formulate long-term strategies and deal with important problems. At least that is how a lot of people have interpreted the remarks.

It is an unjust thing to say because, although they are undeniably over-remunerated, devoid of imagination, arrogant and robotic, what we strictly speaking call ‘civil servants’ are purely implementers of policy.  The spotty folk who wear sleeveless knitted jerseys and process applications, fill forms, tick boxes and count paperclips cannot be blamed for the Big Lychee’s lousy governance. Indeed, to the extent that Hong Kong is well-administered but badly governed, as someone once put it, the myopic followers of procedures at all costs could even deserve a very slight pat on the back, except that at the salaries they are on with full pension and job security, it’s actually the least we should be able to expect. Dame Anson ‘Conscience’ Chan, former top civil servant back in the days when the senior bureaucrats did have a hand in policymaking, flies off the handle near the end of the Standard story at the unfairness of Wang’s charge.

However, it is clear from his other reported remarks (“They are their own bosses but do not know how to behave as such”) that Wang is not speaking about civil servants at all, but the people at the very top who are politicians and who make policy. That he uses the phrase suggests he is for some reason omitting the small number of ministers not previously in the public service (like Chief Secretary Henry Tang and Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-sing). That means he is zeroing in on those that officially resigned from the civil service in order to take top-level positions. In other words, people like Financial Secretary John Tsang and Transport and Housing Secretary Eva Cheng. And of course, Chief Executive Donald Tsang.

These three are good examples of the reason Hong Kong seems to be slowly descending into an angrier, more disjointed and even volatile state. John Tsang is the genius who made a great show of asking for public suggestions ahead of the 2011-12 Budget, promptly threw all the ideas in the trash without looking at them and delivered even stupider spending plans than his previous efforts, with the result that he had to scuttle away promising to throw HK$6,000 at everyone to shut them up. Eva, as her job title suggests, could have spent some of the last four years sorting out tunnel tolls, preparing for road congestion charging and rationalizing bus services. And she could have spent the rest of the time planning measures like subsidized rental or for-sale apartments for the lower middle class in advance of the property bubble she was already being warned would come as a result of the government’s earlier decision to end regular land auctions after the previous crash. But she didn’t.

Of course, it may be that both these ex-civil servants wanted to push policies that were more creative and more in line with what people want and need, but their boss, Sir Bow-Tie overruled them. It’s unlikely, but if they had, we can be pretty sure he would have. He is the ultimate jumped-up former bureaucrat who can’t think up new policies and can’t abide anyone with the capacity to suggest any.

Wang’s criticism suddenly seems far more appropriate. These people, “civil servants” as he styles them, have screwed up and left him with a mess he shouldn’t have to sort out. As a relatively plain-speaking and candid Chinese official, he could have been speaking off-the-cuff to the young visitors, leading everyone to read too much into the comments, but of course this is not the first time. It was less than two months ago on a visit here that he said: “I believe the government must put greater effort into caring about ordinary people, especially the underprivileged, and their housing problems.”

What is Wang playing at? Watching Donald and Co getting a good public kicking from on high provides us with some badly needed entertainment, and humiliation of lowlier officials is part of China’s traditional management style. But it’s a bit late to expect a sudden improvement in governance; even if they weren’t clueless, our top officials would be hard-pressed to adopt radical new ideas when the administration has less than a year to go. Of course, the transition of power in mid-2012 is, or will be, planned, so it could be that some policy secretaries will remain in place and are expected to buck their ideas up, starting right now. Alternatively, Wang could be sending a clear message to Sir Bow-Tie’s successor, and to the whole of Hong Kong, that Beijing’s expectations of the city’s next leadership is going to be higher. (At long last: it is, let us not forget, the Central People’s Government that chooses and appoints these people.)

Or maybe he’s just as pissed off and exasperated with this rabble as the rest of us.

Click to hear ‘Government Administrator’ by the Eggs!

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13 Responses to The Wrath of Wang, Part 2

  1. Claw says:

    Now, just remind me: who was it who apppointed Sir Donald and his ministers?

  2. Real Tax Payer says:


    They had this coming to them.

    Laughed myself silly last night when this news was posted in the SCMP at near midnight

  3. Sir Crispin says:

    While Wang certainly has a point about our inept local government, perhaps someone should remind him that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones as hourly disruptions to mainland harmony so impudently arise…the latest being high-speed trains. Better check the time and see what new disaster has just happened that needs some lame coverup attempt.

  4. Probably says:

    Or is Wang Guangya launching a side swipe at his predecessors and even (dare say it) some elements of Beijing leadership as a prelude to his own journey to the uppermost echelons of power? Maybe he could be China’s own Gorbachev? (or am I hoping just a little too much).

  5. Stephen says:

    Well put Claw and who has proved the main roadblock to any meaningful political reform? Why the same CCP that Wang Guangya belong too.
    Guess what Mr. Wang expect more of the same if, as all the signs point too, you appoint Henry the Horse as the next CE…

  6. truthier says:

    the lesson here, that you run up to but avoid in the last instance is this: ppl like Wang G or even Wen freaking Jiabo, are much more humane and democratic and progressive than the higher-level douchebags like bowtie, Henry T and etc. And more competent.

    dont get me wrong– these “mainlanders” are culpable for the same sad state of afairs in HK as the posters above aptly point out. I mean realtively speaking, would that HK were actually run by these type of people as opposed to the charlatans we actually have.

  7. Sir Crispin says:

    I am reminded of the saying “when you point fingers, remember that 3 of them point back at you.”

  8. Walter De Havilland says:

    Perhaps Hemlock should consult the elegant Administrative Officer Winky Ip to get the inside track on Mr. WANG’s comments.

  9. Patrick says:

    In response to Mr. Wang’s comment on Hong Kong housing problem Sir Donald Tsang has already run a show by riding a helicopter around Hong Kong to find any place to develop to build Home Ownership Scheme building. The administration confirmed that it should take at least seven years to start it. Moreover no bureaucrat under his rule quits the job when blunder is made. They reluctantly said that they had learnt a lesson. Even in our home country many government officials resigned whenthey made mistakes.

  10. Real Tax Payer says:

    Hey everyone :

    “listen to the boss” but that they still “don’t know how to be a boss and how to be a master”.

    This is serious stuff , and the meat of some serious potential reforms in HK govt

    Let’s encourage Mr Wang . I certainly do .

    BigLychee / aka Hemlock today’s musings could have been written by me personally ( though not as eruditely) , BUT ALSO ABOUT 50% OF HK IN THEIR OWN WORDS BUT THE SAME GENERAL MEANING.

    Donald bow-tie duck and his cohorts have just LOST IT ( and I simply cannot understand why John Tsang does not resign : I mean – the 2011/12 budget was a farce – there are so many better ways to spend HK$40 Billion ! )

    And who paid to build up that HK$40 Billion “give-away” surplus ? Well obviously the rich and well-paid who have zero need of HK$6K ( me included, still less superman Li )

    But could/ should HK’s “rich and well-paid” vote for that HK$40 Billion to be given to much more deserving causes ( e.g air pollution, education. more nurses , a sensible X- harbor tunnel toll rationale etc) ?

    Yes they should ! But did they ?

    Mr K.S. Li : did I hear you personally speak out to say that that this is about THE most idiotic budget ever made in 150 years in HK ? No ! ( Of course NO as a fully paid-up member of club-collusion c/o Tamar base new govt HQ … if they ever finish it on time)

    Well Mr K.S. Li : here’s one REAL TAX PAYER who would much rather see his HK$6K go to much more worthy causes if only this IDIOT govt would use the extra money more sensibly

    So all I can do is donate it to a worthy charity ( which I will do, if/ when I ever get my HK$6K )

  11. Real Tax Payer says:

    Truthier : You wrote

    “Wang G or even Wen freaking Jiabo, are much more humane and democratic and progressive than the higher-level douchebags like bowtie, Henry T and etc. And more competent.”

    I could not agree more .

    Sure Chinese leaders make some *&%$# awful mistakes from time to time, but they are dealing with a nation of 1.3 Billion and handling some of the biggest economic problems in the world , not to mention the dilemna of how /when to introduce a measure of democracy to a nation that has never had a democratically elected leader in 5,000 years.

    We have one of the – if not THE – best-trained civil service in Asia, we only have 7 million people who are very peaceful and whose idea of a “angry” demonstration is to take an afternoon walk along Hennessy road blowing whistles. AND we have an accumulated budget suplus of HK$1 Trillion ( or is it 3 Trillion ? ) .

    Yet, even with that huge head start donald bow-tie duck et al can’t even put together a few sensible policies to make life a little bit better for us using all the money we gave them.

    If I was Mr Wang Guangya I would have told DD and co far more bluntly what I thought of their p*ss awful performance of late.

  12. Bigot says:

    This might sound tendentious. I seldom agree to any remarks made on HK by any official from the despotic ruler. This time around, when I read Wang’s comments on our “best in the world” civil servants, I was ecstatic!

    One of the most candid descriptions of our efficient, one-of-a-kind civil servants. Who are we kidding? This has been the biggest lie Patton left us with. The sad thing is, China took the bait, the civil servants and friends the gravy and we the commoners the shites.

    Fresh air? Anyone?

    P.S. Wonder if those HKU boys had any permission to record, not to mention reveal a supposedly private conversation? Or is it a ploy to get DD?

  13. Real Tax Payer says:


    I take the benign view.

    Big brother wants the best for HK.

    After all, keeping HK “independent” helped China through all sorts of sh1t during the past 60 years ( I am now 2/3 way through ” Mao’s Great Famine” by Frank Dikoetter : a more depressing and horrifying book you cannot imagine : beats 9/11 and the Iraq invasion 1000 x times over for pure horror ,even beats the holocaust if I dare to introduce the most horrific excesses we “humans” have recently inflicted on each other)

    I now suddenly begin to understand DD’s platform for his re -“election” : “I will get the job done”

    DD is as died-in-the-wool civil servant who only knows HOW TO GET THE JOB DONE .

    He never had any training regarding how to DEFINE THE JOB THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE ( neither do any of his accolyte stooges)

    The horse knows neither how to get the job done, not what the job is

    Give me Rita or CYL anyday

  14. truthier says:

    thanks RTP, I also agree with what you are saying above here.

    can the surplus be 3 trillion? But even 1 billion is a disgrace when you think of what they do NOT do. I am convinced that the minders up the road are fully aware of how incompetent they all are (the HK politicos) and would like them to get their act together a little bit at least. Stability, and all that.

    All the moral handwringing over “suffrage” is wasted effort. “Beijing” is part of the problem, absolutely, but only one part I am afraid and arguably not even the main one. I just cant believe how stupid some of, nay most of the political class is here. I thought the US had a monopoly on that.

    I dont mind Regina IP too much, I’d take her over DD any day as well. BUt damn HK has a long way to go imho.

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