The modern-day industrial relations problems of Krupp, the one-time exploiter of lice-ridden, starved slave labour in Nazi Germany, start to bite, as Hong Kong’s middle class have to resort to walking – walking! – down the hill to Central after part of the Mid-Levels Escalator grinds to a halt. We might as well move to Shatin if this goes on. On a brighter note, if it stopped functioning altogether, at least no tourists would clog it up.
This cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face way of thinking is not entirely illogical. There comes a point where the influx of leisure travellers in the neighbourhood, waving their arms around wildly on crowded sidewalks and loudly expecting the Epsilons working in 7-Eleven to speak English and Mandarin, becomes too much to bear. Sacrificing the world’s most amazing bit of urban transport infrastructure would be a small price to pay for some peace and quiet. It could be the lesser of two evils.
Which brings us to today’s ruminations on the battle to be Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive: mild mannered, personable, rich-kid airhead Chief Secretary Henry Tang, or dynamic, thrusting, sly and sinister despot CY Leung?
China Daily carries a piece by Lingnan University’s Ho Lok-sang describing the qualities a successful CE (assuming we ever find such a thing) must have. Without wishing to sound opinionated, I think I can fairly say that the article is so unremittingly tedious and insipid that it will send most readers running to the archive of Financial Secretary John Tsang’s overseas speeches for some serious, intellectually stimulating substance. Ho and/or his editors are desperate not to express a preference for either presumed candidate, and the result is 700 words of ‘why bother?’
Over at the South China Morning Post, it’s time for yet another of Albert Cheng’s thrice-weekly space-fillers. Taipan’s loyalties are already well-known, and he has faced up to and incurred the (life-threatening) wrath of far more loathsome individuals than the Hong Kong Executive Council could ever throw at you. So he fearlessly lays down his cards and says that we would be better off going with… Henry Tang.
There follows much damning with barely discernable praise. Henry “has no obvious political achievements but… he wouldn’t give us the best, but… and we would carry on as usual.” Since ‘usual’ can only mean ‘the incompetence we’ve been putting up with for years now’, the alternative must be pretty bad.
But Taipan’s objections to CY are pretty so-so. The man is “cunning”; so are most people who get anywhere in life. “He is not running because he wants to do something for Hong Kong” – an accusation that demands better proof than “we don’t really understand his real motives.” Worst of all, “we can’t be sure whether he can deliver” on his promises. Unlike with all the other politicians on this planet.
Albert Cheng is of course a close buddy of Donald Tsang, and he therefore finds himself on the more outspoken, slightly roguish wing of the expansive pro-establishment (ie pro-Henry) camp, which sprawls across the spectrum of our self-styled elite from tycoons, to bureaucrats, to opportunistic sycophants to obedient Communist loyalists dutifully backing the British-trained, Catholic Sir Bow-Tie who represents everything they hated about the old colonial regime. You’d be surprised how many people think ‘we would just carry on as usual’ sounds really compelling. CY has friends in the power structure, too, but you’ve still got several fingers left on your second hand after you count them.
In the interests of balance, the SCMP will no doubt be looking for someone to write a column on why we would be better off with CY Leung as CE. It may take them a while.