Secretary for Development Carrie Lam rules out using unsold government land to build public housing, ‘saying it would be a waste of a precious resource … pointing out that (land) sales last year swelled the government’s coffers by some HK$80 billion’. In other words, the Hong Kong government thinks its role is to accumulate revenue for itself – on top of its existing HK$1.2 trillion in reserves – at the expense of letting the population have affordable homes in their own city; the government is a separate entity that competes with the people for space and money, and it must win. To distill her comments to their essence: homes are a waste.
This may seem perverse to some, when rents are idiotic and people live in sub-divided squalor. However, we are talking about a system where Carrie’s ‘precious resource’ is shared with certain interests firstly via development of luxury real estate and secondly via recycling of revenues into huge pointless infrastructure projects. To those interests, the government has further good news: the system won’t be changing anytime soon.
Anonymous officials respond to anonymous – presumably fictitious – press enquiries in order to state that Chief Executive candidate CY Leung is a lying evil scumbag because in 2002 he failed to declare a conflict of interest (though he says it wasn’t one and he had no knowledge of it at the time). And, in case you are too slow-minded to get the full message, the government also announces that CY’s rival for top job Henry Tang is as saintly, noble and virtuous as a newborn and conflict-free despite, when Financial Secretary, lifting importation duties on expensive wines, of which he owned a valuable collection offshore.
Whose fingerprints are on this? It would be comforting to think that CE Donald Tsang, Carrie Lam and other top officials are simply pumping this stuff out on their own rather childish initiative to give their tycoon buddy Henry a helping hand. But dabbling in the selection of Hong Kong’s leader is strictly the job of our ultimate masters in Beijing. Officially, the Chinese government is not taking sides in the supposed race between Henry and CY, but with pro-Beijing labour leaders muttering, in effect, about not backing the pre-determined Henry, it seems the imperial court’s local emissaries decided a small, if rather desperate and heavy-handed, script-change is in order.
Reading perhaps too much between the lines, the reticence of the wording of the two press releases suggests that someone within the Big Lychee’s administration is not entirely comfortable with this shabby stunt, either because it has the potential to backfire or it is (hey, you never know) unethical.
So, anyway, tough luck. Now we’ve got that clear – homes are and will remain a waste – let’s get ready to let mainlanders drive cars into Hong Kong in order to justify more road- and bridge-building…