The Donald Debate: Devotion Duels Diatribe

One of Hong Kong’s big property tycoons, Henry Cheng, coyly hints that he could live with CY Leung as Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive, even though he nominated Henry Tang. This looks like a throwaway bit of hedging rather than the start of the official abandonment of the one-time dead-cert (whose alleged love-child appears in print today). But if Beijing does indeed plump for CY, the sight of the plutocrats performing their crestfallen, crab-like shuffling in his direction, shoe-shining kits at the ready, will be a treasure to behold.

The epic battle between the two seems to have spread to the world of commercial branding. Following the launch of an obviously pro-Tang real estate development called The Henry, we now have a new restaurant in Upper Soho clearly aimed at countering the philandering, basement-building rich-kid: the Monogamous Chinese. ‘Sichuan and Peking’ cuisine, it says – in other words, no Shanghainese. (The eatery is right under the Mid-Levels Escalator just below Caine Road.)

Another clash pits supporters of Chief Executive Donald Tsang against detractors. Redoubtable old anti-corruption fighter Elsie Tu pens a heartfelt paean defending the good name of Sir Bow-Tie from the ‘cruel effort to destroy him’. Some highlights…

It is sad to see the last four months of the chief executive’s seven years of office being made a time of sorrow, rather than gratitude for an honest leader.

Behind the scenes, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has done much for Hong Kong, but the good he did has been buried in a cruel effort to destroy him…

I made acquaintance with Donald Tsang when he was a civil servant in the New Territories. I was representing a group of people whose homes were to be demolished. Donald was a young official in the case, and I found him very polite and sympathetic. In fact, he was quite popular with the people, until he was named successor to the post of chief executive and had to shake hands with leaders in Beijing…

…I would be sad if the Independent Commission Against Corruption were to weaken in its splendid work. On principle, one should not name a person as being corrupt until one has absolute proof … No one should speak of corruption in connection with Donald Tsang unless there is absolute proof that corruption was involved.

Donald is probably too clean-minded to think a joyride required a bribe.

The accusations against him are cruel. If they are found untrue, the accusers should themselves be accused of spreading false information.

That’s one way of looking at it, and one that quite a few people would broadly agree with, in an up-to-a-point sort of way. Until, perhaps, they read an open letter from former civil servant LK Shiu replying to the CE’s groveling apology to his fellow bureaucrats. A translation appeared here, then went away; the original Chinese version remains. Maybe the guy wasn’t totally satisfied with his English – he was an Administrative Officer. The cached version says “feel free to disseminate,” so here it is pretty much unedited. Some highlights…

…Owing to the ridiculous system of Hong Kong, you [Donald Tsang] have to kneel before Beijing’s mandarins and are often unreasonably assailed at home, until your will is eroded, your energy spent, and your popularity consumed. Frankly, what you have got is the least enviable job on earth. This I understand.

You have indeed passed the minimum wage law during your term of office. And the much overdue competition law is about to become reality. Notwithstanding its many defects, this is still progress.

But what has become of Hong Kong all these years? You alleged in the press statement that as the CE, you “had to get a full picture of what was happening in the community” and hence the need to maintain “contact with people from all walks of life”. In fact, you do not understand the life of 99% of Hong Kong people. Nay, it’s not just you but your entire governing team, so called.

For you are surrounded and escorted by the rich and powerful wherever you go. Your commissions and committees are inundated with like-minded friends and second-generation dandies. You read only newspaper cuttings well filtered, and bureaucratic papers amended and tailored to the palate of senior management. Your political shows at districts are all about fretting and strutting through well-dressed windows. The balls and parties you attend are filled with pleasant tones and lukewarm syllables, harmless but meaningless speeches. Have you ever noticed the soles of your top officials’ leather shoes? They are hardly worn out because they step on only limousines and red carpets. Have you ever noticed the collars of your shirts? They are barely stained by sweat because you only sit in well air-conditioned conference room.

Since you are the yes-man even in front of provincial Mainland officials, what could have your subordinates done? What more could we expect? After seven years of your reign, we couldn’t even hold our heads high in our own city. Our gini coefficient measuring rich-poor divide almost ranks the world’s highest. The so-called “sub-divided units” for ordinary folks cannot even measure up to pets’ dwellings in tycoons’ penthouses. Those living on speculation make it bigger and bigger and those down-to-earth hard-working people – be they running a Cha Chaan Teng or high-tech start-up – can barely see their future.

Faced with such grievance or indeed indignation, Your Excellency’s administration is only left with the broken device of conferring small favours year after year, which only serves to destroy our traditional work ethics…

…Your administration turns a blind eye to the monopoly of the property tycoons, whilst taking a tough hand on small peddlers and street hawkers selling egg waffles or polishing shoes, or indeed, any Hongkonger who is proud not to live on the dole that you use to bribe us into supporting your failed administration.

While most of us have to work like slaves for only a few square feet in order to live with basic decency, those in your cabinet – those who have already gleaned the last scraps of housing benefits funded by taxpayers – are knowingly, unlawfully and stealthily constructing their own Versailles. Obviously, you could not rein in such improprieties – to put it mildly – owing to your own implication. However skilful you are in acquitting yourselves by exploiting the smallest loopholes in our law books, it is undeniable that Hong Kong is close to the tipping point where the “poor has no place to stick an awl”, as our ancestors put it.

Of course, all of your corrupt behaviours are technically lawful, for you people know the law and regulations … like those property developers [who] “lick to the last drop of gravy”. However, the authority and morality of you and your team are both on the verge of collapse…

Finally, I hope that the ICAC would save itself the trouble of that useless investigation. What good can be done with a Commissioner appointed by Your Excellency? I sincerely hope that this institution – the pride of Hong Kong and possibly the last bulwark standing between us and the mainland – would not have its reputation, hard earned on forty years of toils, sunk for the sake of a single person’s unspeakable petty advantages…

We tend to look down on the cream-of-the-civil-service AOs, if only because (as the second paragraph of the full letter makes clear) that’s how they feel about us. But their arrogance springs from a genuine belief in their institution’s moral superiority, and this letter reflects a deep sense of betrayal that, from what I hear, has affected the whole administrative caste.

Where have I heard that tone of outraged and grievous bitterness, notably in the third paragraph above, before? Yes it’s in the Declaration of Independence, where the founding fathers list the ways the King has infringed their rights – rights as Englishmen – and conclude that they have no choice but to make the ultimate, once unthinkable, break.

None of this helps us answer the question of what the hell is going on. But whoever or whatever started the plethora of leaks must be wondering what they have unleashed in terms of division and disillusion. And there are still 16 weeks to go before the new CE takes office.

For a bit of light relief: a hilarious, rhyming love letter in Hong Kong car licence plates.

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23 Responses to The Donald Debate: Devotion Duels Diatribe

  1. Alan Freeman says:

    Greetings, pop pickers!!!!

    Good on yer, Lisa!

    Tammy Wynette Stood By Her Man too..

    All FIVE of them!!!

    By Euple Byrd (married 1959–divorced 1966);
    By Don Chapel, born Lloyd Franklin Amburgey, (married 1967–annulled 1968);
    By George Jones( married 1969–divorced 1975);
    By Michael Tomlin (married 1976–annulled 1976);
    and finally By singer/songwriter George Richey (married 1978–her death 1998).

    Take the hint, Lisa? You never know a man until you’ve divorced him. Wake up and smell the Merlot, honey!!!!


    Fluff XXXX

  2. Just Curious says:

    “None of this helps us answer the question of what the hell is going on.”

    You are not thinking hard enough Hemmers – I give it 10 minutes before RTP starts having a crack or five.

  3. Real Tax Payer says:

    Well……… what a splendid letter by L.K Shiu:

    “Your administration turns a blind eye to the monopoly of the property tycoons, whilst taking a tough hand on small peddlers and street hawkers selling egg waffles or polishing shoes, or indeed, any Hongkonger who is proud not to live on the dole that you use to bribe us into supporting your failed administration”

    I think that just about sums it up. Compare how this govt treated the poor old egg waffle man vs what the police are doing after a 2 year “investigation” into henderson’s disgusting affair of 39 Conduit Road ( remember the $88,000/ sq foot flats thing? )

    Yup : times there are a-changing, and about time too.

    Hemmers : you are really hitting the nail on the head these days. Full marks. Thanks

  4. Bigot says:

    … the poor egg waffle man …
    And the poor shop-owner who sold thinner-than-regulation plastic chess board?

  5. FB3 says:

    loving this quote.

    property developers [who] “lick to the last drop of gravy”

  6. DaSiuYan says:

    Despite the odd phrases and clunky Chinese-to-English grammar twists, this is one of the most beautifully written letters I’ve read in some time. It’s not perfect English, but perhaps more compelling because it isn’t.

  7. Walter De Havilland says:

    Something on a Chinese radio chat show this morning about alleged dodgy dealings over the Harrow School land grant. Did not get the all details, but is sounds like Harrow were granted favors and Donald’s son is involved somehow. Probably hit the English press tomorrow.

    As regards Elsie TU … I thought she was dead. A bit rich her suggesting ” no one should speak of corruption without absolute proof” when she made a career out of accusing people of corruption. Any examination of the record will show she was right in a few instances, but very wrong in others. Perhaps it’s worth remembering the finding of the 1981 enquiry into the MacLennan case, when the credility of Elsie’s evidence was called into question and found wanting. People have such short memories in this town.

  8. Old Timer says:

    Dotty old Elsie has done a complete about-face on most matters, or so it seems to me, since her halcyon days as a woman of the people. Someone must have put somthing in her tea. Lovely letter from LK Shiu.

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    We don’t need ET any more for the 2 horse race

    There’s an automatic version of him now available in 3 colors : metallic grey, gold and in peach ( metallic grey lo-cost version illustrated )

    Not so tall and thin as ET , but a lot more intelligent ( and certainly with much bigger balls) ….. AND he can sing !

    ( or check Youtube :” Titan Robot Canary Wharf Motor Expo 2011 “)

  10. maugrim says:

    LK Shiu, wow, what a great piece.

  11. Sir Crispin says:

    Ditto Maugrim. Exactly what I was going to say. It’s a shame this letter would have been shielded from Donald too.

  12. Stephen says:

    A coy hint from Henry Cheng probably means the they have been told. Just wish someone would tell Tobacco Charles…

    Concur with all on the excellent letter written by LK Shiu wonder if Tobacco Charles can free up some space in the Sub Standard for him to write a regular column.

  13. isomoliu says:

    beautifully written, letter to shanice.

  14. oddsox says:

    The English is a bit old fashioned in spots to my ear, but he writes quite elegantly. More importantly, you can tell he’s writing with genuine feeling. I can’t fault his grammar except trivially – no more frequent errors than most people inadvertently make when writing. I know I often unwittingly screw up my grammar when writing. I dare others to do as well.

  15. Adrian says:

    Is LK Shiu the missing political talent that HK so desperately needs and fails to “elect”/select?

  16. Old Timer says:

    #oddsox –
    Five adverbs in three lines . . . hmmm. That last sentence is a bit off, too.

  17. Real Tax Payer says:

    ….And in late-breaking news this afternoon, just what we all wanted to hear after Mr Shiu’s damning indictment of donald ( guess it should me shame-duck now, not lame-duck) and all that he has allowed to happen in his 7 glorious years of power : LI KA SHING HAS REGAINED THE RICHEST MAN IN ASIA MANTLE

    Boom boom !

    PS : please let’s forget about Mr Shiu’s english … (how is our Chinese on this column ?) What he wrote was so much from the heart that I would rate if one of the best “op-ed” pieces I have read for ages. Methinks I will get a copy of it to CY’s

  18. Chopped Onions says:

    “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer — except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.”
    Thanks to Mr Orwell

  19. Old Timer says:

    RTP, I wasn’t referring to Mr Shiu.

  20. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Chopped Onions : Pigs = tycoons ( which includes ET) . Dogs = top civil servants and their acolytes – I could not agree more

    @ Just Curious : I’m curious to get your take on all this . I’m interested in all points of view.

    But I see that SCMP Laisee today is touting one conspiracy theory that has already been suggested by Hemlock

    Quote: “We hear from one of the passengers who flew back on Dragonair from Beijing ( my comment : was it first class, business or economy I wonder ?) on Tuesday evening with our embattled Chief Executive Donald Tsang, who had been visiting HQ. Tsang, according to our source, looked somewhat distant and stressed. We can report that he had a glass of pinot grigio. No, we are not saying there was anything wrong in that. Presumably, this was one of his less comfortable visits to Beijing, coming in the wake of revelations about his cosiness with mainland tycoons. It has been suggested that these revelations were orchestrated by the Liaison Office to send Tsang into retirement with a flea in his ear on account of being less than helpful to the central government at certain sensitive moments. Another apparent black mark against him is the attempt by Hong Kong government officials to smear Leung Chun-ying with suggestions, so far unsupported, that he was guilty of a conflict of interest with respect to the design contest for the West Kowloon arts hub more than a decade ago. The thinking is that this wouldn’t have happened without Tsang’s knowledge. So he had much to brood on during his flight. …”

  21. Walter De Havilland says:

    You can’t make this stuff up … a character called ” Shanghai Boy” has now entered the melee.

  22. Maugrim says:

    WDH, my thoughts exactly. It would be a great name for a racehorse.

  23. stefano4459 says:

    Perfect!! Thanks Hemmie. I stopped writing to the SCMP (Self Censored Moronic Publications) a long time ago when it was apparent that they censored and discreetly changed wordings and phrases of my letters (and probably most other political letters) which altered the actual meaning. A monopolistic rag owned by an authoritarian billionaire publisher ought to be a good expose. Keep up the shenanigans!!

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