Lok jaw

The letters page of the South China Morning Post is a menagerie of creatures driven insane by confinement. Some pace up and down their cages screeching that the Hungarian Tiddlywinks Finals weren’t shown on cable TV. Some rattle the bars in anger, clearly suffering the delusion that our city is run by people who think air should be clean or housing affordable. Many seem to have been tranquilized and just sit quietly in the corner, mumbling incoherently, leaving the viewer feeling drowsy himself after just a few seconds’ glance.

Occasionally, the organizers exhibit a specimen carefully selected to excite or repel visitors, just to get a bit of buzz going about the place. A recent one was a woman complaining that she was pushing her baby in a (no-doubt) 12-wheeler, duplex stroller past World Wide House in Central on a Sunday and was inconvenienced by the hundreds of Filipino maids wrapping up boxes of items on the sidewalk to send home. The idea was to provoke extreme responses and of course letters poured in demanding that migrant workers and brown people should all be locked up in pitch-black underground caverns on their days off, or saying that only a total idiot would be so inconsiderate and deranged as to bring a real, live baby into Central on any day of the week.

Then there are the nativists, nationalists, semi-racists and self-appointed guardians of the motherland, denouncing English-language schools, foreign-backed pro-democracy dissidents and barbarianism in general. This week’s is from Peter Lok.

On November 9, the SCMP published a diatribe by one Philip Fang denouncing Hongkongers as the ‘brat’ in the Chinese family. (The newspaper’s abominable on-line archive system denies any knowledge of the article, even if you want to pay for it. Fortunately, extracts were discussed on a Geoexpat thread.) Specifically, the writer claimed that the ‘Gang of Four’ pro-democrats recently demonized in the pro-Beijing press (the unlikely combination of Martin Lee, Anson Chan, Cardinal Zen and Jimmy Lai) would be somehow punished for sedition if Hong Kong’s Article 23 security laws were in place. This provoked several responses, helpfully quoted by one correspondent from the anti-revolutionary, reactionary hotbed that is Disco Bay. Lok is criticizing the letter from Professor Steve Tsang.

Lok’s letters are amusing for their bumptious and superior tone – a style painstakingly acquired by many senior civil servants of his generation (he was Director of Civil Aviation years ago). In picking on Tsang, however, he is up against a respected historian of Hong Kong, with fine books and research to his credit. Tsang is not the wisest choice of target at which to publicly hurl your ignorance.

If my reading of his verbally grotesque fourth paragraph is correct, Lok says two things that are wrong: Article 23 is aimed at Hong Kong’s ‘rabble-rousers’ (like Lee/Chan/Zen/Lai); and late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping insisted that the People’s Liberation Army be based here to be ‘against’ these elements.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the proposed national security law abandoned by the Hong Kong government in 2003, it was not aimed at silencing local malcontents or prohibiting them from meeting foreign contacts. Indeed, in its final form it arguably didn’t really ban anything that wasn’t already illegal; the problem was its ambiguous wording and the serious lack of public trust in the administration of the day, compounded by the hasty and almost panicky manner in which officials tried to introduce the law.

The replacement of UK forces in Hong Kong was a matter of great symbolic importance to the Chinese leadership ahead of the handover; they rebuffed suggestions that they base just token units on this side of the border (although you hardly see the troops today). However, they were happy to allow the Hong Kong law enforcement agencies to assume what remained of the UK forces’ local public-order role.

So how did Lok get the idea that Article 23 was/is aimed at local ‘rabble-rousers’? And where did he hear that Deng insisted the PLA be stationed here to counter dissenters (and why have the military not done it)? Or, to put it more succinctly: why does Lok talk such crap? Is he blithely churning it out secure in his own mind that whatever flows from a former senior bureaucrat’s pen must be inerrant? Or does he get some sort of perverse and sick thrill out of spouting garbage all over the SCMP letters page from time to time? Like those captive primates who fling their own dung at passers-by, it is pitiful, but it livens things up.

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13 Responses to Lok jaw

  1. Joe Blow says:

    It only livens things up if you read that crap.

    Here is an old geezer who once was a senior civil servant, and who now is a retired nobody without a platform. ( I actually saw Lok walking around CWB last week – as a senior CS he was a rather insignificant apparition, and now even more so). Upon retirement these guys fall in a deep black hole and you can have only so many wanks in one day: so they write letters to papers. Remember John Walden who served under Murray McLehose ? 20 years later he still wasn’t over it.

  2. Roger Maxims says:

    Hemlock old chap, send not to know for whom Article 23 tolls; it tolls, and it sadly only tolls, not (per Regina) for taxi drivers whose English skills start with the letter T and ends with the letter I, but for thee.

  3. Stephen says:

    Article 23 will become a reality in HK when one of the following happens;

    A. We have an articulate leader , who explains clearly, that we have nothing to fear in its provisions and handles the drafting in a calm, unhurried and open way allowing for plenty of debate and constructive amendments;
    B. The Pan–Democrats, do not learn from their recent DC election smiting, and get annihilated in the 2012 Legislative Council election meaning there is no opposition from within the chamber allowing a p*ss poor leader to pretty much do as he / she likes.

    My money is on B

  4. Big Al says:

    I object to the comparison between dung-throwing primates and a former senior civil servant, who has spent his lonely and largely pointless career diligently serving the community for no reward other than an enormous salary; gaining untold riches in air-conditioner allowances, overseas education allowances, etc; taking no responsibility and making no decisions; winning those amusing, morale-boosting civil service awards; and retiring on a substantial pension. It’s grossly unfair to the primates.

  5. Walter De Havilland says:

    I’ve got to agree with Stephen … and I suspect its Plan B given the fact that the pan-democratics can’t agree a common strategy and therefore have handed the game to the pro-government parties. Well done, Chaps.

    As regards Mr. Peter LOK, it says something about the SCMP letters page that he keeps getting published. Is no one writing to them these days?

  6. maugrim says:

    Firstly, you have to admire the courage of one who supports the Motherland in such a way from the safety of Hong Kong’s bosom and the various safety nets that exist.

    Secondly, the SCMP’s letter page seems to be used by teachers of English in various capacities as some sort of homework task. Usually the unusual name accompanied by the trite topic, the shortness of the letter and a little less confidence attest to this. For example, Pokari Hui writing about the injustice of say, needing women only carriages on the MTR. Mind you, I want to cut the balls off the do gooders calling for a resumption of the duty payable on wine simply because a few ‘gwai jai’ get drunk outside a Wanchai 7 11 as they have done for eons.

  7. Real Tax Payer says:

    Today’s Op-ed from Michael Chugani was dead – on, and supports Stepehn’s B scenario

    I know that some commentators don’t like Michael Chugani, so please don’t bother to write if all you can do is to attck the person. not what he writes these days

    I have no problem with Article 23 (as long as it does not shut down The Big Lychee)

    Let a 100 flowers boom and 100 thoughts contend

    Art 23 was not a matter of a BAD LAW . It was a matter of BAD LAW-MAKING

    If Queen Regina ever reads this : please ask yourself if you have learned your lesson on this point .

  8. Chris Maden says:

    No, Walter, no one else is writing to the SCMP these days. Because no one is buying it.

    I, too, suspect that Stephen’s Plan B will be the one that transpires. A shame. For all of his weaknesses as a letter writer, the civil servants of Peter Lok’s generation were more ready to listen than the current uncivil sycophants at the top.

  9. Iffy says:

    Anyone who thinks Article 23 is no big deal should think about the flagrant excesses regularly perpetrated by various mainland authorities in the name of “national security”. These kinds of laws are notoriously open to abuse, wholly unnecessary in HK (in a sociological sense) and retrograde in any place.

  10. Walter De Havilland says:

    RTP – Michael Chugani is a mixed blessing. Sometimes he is right on the money, and on other occasions his column sounds like the unqualified rant of sixth former who can’t get laid. He got his arse kicked when he accused some leading lawyer of allowing his dog to run wild on Bowen Road. Poor Michael did a fair bit of genuflecting and general grovelling to avoid a tasty lawsuit. Having said that … he probably is one of the most interesting things in what is rapidly becoming a very dull SCMP.

  11. Probably says:

    Apologies for not being in HK when Article 23 first raised it’s oh so contentious head and as such I my not be as fully conversant with it as the rest of the illuminati here but surely, as with MPV’s outside of Prince’s Building, what actually matters is how it is policed.
    If any statute is operated within the “rule of law” that operates on legal precedant and tests of reasonableness rather than by one persons diktak than it should produce no more prosecutions than those which could already be brought to the courts under existing legislation (as I believe our host here alludes to).
    Unless of course (in the words of Esther Rantzen) you know different…………………

  12. rupert says:

    Lok’s letter drips with sarcasm.

  13. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Chugani and Kammerer have both been showing signs of strain recently, linked, as Hemlock so elegantly puts it, to confined conditions, themselves related to housing prices. One must have considerable sympathy for them, as they are brave enough to — occasionally — stick their head above the parapet. By a similar logic, the Regine-as of this world are themselves battling, in their own way, the likes of vicious but slimy Philip Fang. So I wonder, like Rupert, what exactly Peter Lok is up to, esoecially with his There are HK people, and there are HK people: indigenous villagers and the rest? 4th-generation emigrants and recent arrivals from across the border?

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