City freaks as man of action makes decision

Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying hits the ground running with a nice easy bit of populism: a zero quota in private hospitals for deliveries by pregnant Mainland women who are not married to a local resident. He is also hinting that such mothers who still find ways of giving birth here – typically by turning up at a public-sector emergency facility at the last minute – will still not get their kid a Hong Kong ID card.

The contrast with the style and substance of the current administration is noticeable. CE Donald Tsang’s officials would balk at such a radical move on the grounds that there is ‘no consensus’. They would tremble in fear of vested interests coming up with the inevitable whining – already audible – about private hospitals having to close. Not least, they would be incapable of conceiving such a measure because it contradicts one of their most cherished tiresome non-ideas, that health care services are one of the Big Lychee’s key future industries.

This will be worth a few percentage points in CY’s unimpressive public approval ratings. The warning that women who sneak in to deliver may still not get their offspring residency rights may be hard to enforce in practice, but will no doubt be reported widely on the other side of the border, where smuggling mothers-to-be has been a big business. The private hospitals’ complaints can be rejected: we have a serious shortage of medical staff and facilities, and, like property developers abusing the investment migrant scheme, they have made big money handing out free ID cards – and future potential taxpayers’ liabilities – with every transaction.

A bigger test of his resolve and commitment to principle will be the issue of unauthorized building works in the New Territories. Many indigenous villagers north of Boundary Street have illegal extra floors on their houses. Their mafia-like representative group, the Heung Yee Kuk, sees its constituents as above the law, as part of the trade-off under which the Qing Dynasty leased the region to the British for 99 years starting 1898. (Yes, I know it’s the 21st Century now.) After switching their bloc vote to Leung in the quasi-election last month, they now expect a cozy deal to let them keep their illegal structures.

For the next few months, this will be the outgoing administration’s problem. But, of course, Donald’s people will not be bold enough to resolve the mess before CY takes over. At some point, barring a neat judicial solution, the new CE will have to choose one of three approaches: letting New Territories residents keep their illegal structures but continuing to go after such offenders in the urban areas; imposing the rule of law equally in both regions and forcing NT folk to remove illicit extra floors; or being equally more flexible about non-dangerous illegal structures in both regions.

The Heung Yee Kuk wants and expects the first option, on the grounds that they are special. This would enrage the rest of the population, already angry at the aboriginal inhabitants’ other privileges. The second means at least as much trouble, given the volatile and uppity, not to mention lawless, nature of some villagers. The third diminishes rule of law, though as a property expert, CY could claim that past governments’ demented housing policies were at fault, being designed in effect to force people to live in under-sized homes. Given the proliferation of unauthorized construction, the issue is partly symbolic – but nonetheless important. What would his fellow solver of baby-related problems King Solomon do?

Mouth-frothing scourge of ‘dissidents’ and early Leung supporter Lau Nai-keung asks rhetorically how CY will be able to run Hong Kong when reconciliation with the tycoons’ pro-Henry Tang faction is not realistic, whatever people say in public. (The amusing example he gives is that of the Liberal Party’s Miriam Lau, who did not attend a harmonious dinner CY threw for Henry’s supporters but instead ate pork chop at a Café de Coral and wrote about it on her Facebook page.)

NK Lau predicts that CY will appeal directly to the Hong Kong people for support, and this will enable him to bypass the Legislative Council. Constitutionally, of course, the executive branch relies on the legislature for funds and passage of bills. And CY does seem to be making very good friends indeed with the pro-Beijing DAB/FTU bloc – the Communist Party’s local front, though it is probably not a sufficient source of political talent for the new administration, nor does it deliver broad public popularity. The pro-democrats are too suspicious or unimaginative to spy an opening, and the feeling is probably mutual.

NK Lau cannot say openly that a populist Leung will be able to push lawmakers and vested interests around thanks to the moral force provided by (still theoretical at this stage) overwhelming public support. As a loyal Communist, the China Daily columnist cannot acknowledge any role in governance – or any sovereign function – for the Hong Kong people. So he describes it thus:

Once lawmakers find out they have lost the monopoly on public opinion, they are powerless. They will find out very soon who is really in charge here. It is the central government and the appointed chief executive, and nobody else.

Some refer to populism as a ‘rehearsal for fascism’; I prefer Margaret Thatcher’s comment along the lines that ‘consensus is an absence of leadership’. It is still hard to believe that the old do-nothing days are drawing to a close; it would be encouraging if CY told the private hospital lobby they can drop dead.

Click to hear the Rolling Stones’ ‘Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?’!


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10 Responses to City freaks as man of action makes decision

  1. Che Guevara says:

    The revolution is coming. has begun!

  2. Jason90 says:

    There was obviously huge political risk for private hospitals which ramped up maternity services for mainlanders.
    Hospitals which did not, such as Matilda, or which are at over 100% capacity anyway, such as the Sanatorium, will not suffer.
    In fact there is a real shortage of capacity in the private sector, so when the mainland mums leave the hospitals will be able to provide medical services which Hong Kong people and (the small number of) genuine medical tourists actually need, to to the benefit of all.
    Medicine relies on volume, so the medical tourists by increasing volume, generally improve capacity.
    To a certain extent this was also true of mainland mothers – an obstetric unit should ideally perform over 3,000 deliveries a year to be at the top of the game – so by doubling the numbers of deliveries standards of care should rise – as long as the system is not swamped – which it looks like it probably was….

  3. maugrim says:

    Its interesting to see such commonsense, much missed in HK, making an appearance. I hope that with a possible move towards solving some of our populist based quality of life/equality issues, the Dems get an idea of the things most likely to truly matter to the average resident.

  4. Probably says:

    I realise I am probably living in a fantsy world where compromise forms part of politics but why not allow an illegal structures amnesty for an end to the small house policy? Then all NT planning can be bought under control once more. And in the interests of fairness the same amnesty should apply to urban dwellings (otherwise I might lose my conservatory).

    As for private hospitals why not just have a priority for HK citizens policy and any spare beds left over can be sold to the rest of the world, China or wherever?

    There 2 problems solved already and it’s not even lunchtime. Take note CY.

  5. Jonathan Stanley says:

    Curious minds need to know… if now said sprogs will/may not automagically get a Hong Kong ID card as of next year… is the rule retroactive and apply to those since handover/whenever-pregant-mainland-mothers-started-coming-over till 31st December 2012?

  6. gunlaw says:

    My lot were all born at home and no probs except that the Registrar of B D and M wanted to prosecute me forgetting to register the last one within the 40 days limit.

    At age 18, the last one got her PID which was not permanent because she needed to re-apply at 21 and there were no guarantees unless I produced my “tax return” which itself made the Immigration officer ask me if I was a comedian by profession.

    I like the birth reporting form: it includes “open space” as one of the alternatives of birth location.

  7. George Galloway says:

    Penny still not dropping, poor Hemlock lad. Floundering, floundering…

    You still haven’t got it. You’re still living in the past.

    In order to know what’s going on, stop harking past to your past frameworks of reference and ask yourself this question only:

    What would socialists do?

    Remember them?

  8. Joe Blow says:

    I always had a soft spot for those uni-lateral disarmament types. Their ‘birds’ refused to shave their armpits to show solidarity with their suppressed sisters in [fill in hotspot du jour, circa 1978].

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Maugrim ( but also at all) : I agree !

    ( Actually, Maugrim, I often find we agree. It’s nice to know I’m not entirely alone)

    No matter how much the various forces of law and injured parties bleat, moan and wail, the first thought that sprang to mind when when I read the news at CY’s decision on mainland mums was:


    Sh1T – I don’t pay taxes to subsidize mainland mums , still less to subsidise their offsprings’ PIDs and the extra load that puts on our educational and social services. I’ve nothing in the world against mainland mums who have HK dads ( nor vice versa) , nor their offspring.

    Any HK PID holder is free to marry anyone in the world and we should welcome all spouses to become HK citizens and give them the right to raise their kids here. HK is not a racial society. ( And I am in a mixed marriage)

    So full marks to CY on this first step

    As to the horrible HYK….. now that will be real test of CY’s leadership.

    I look with great interest to see how CY will handle this, but my guess is that he will bide his time to see what donald the duck-out ( now currently promoting enry tang – sorry I meant HK – as a wine market to Chile … ) will do before his innings has drawn to its dismal close.

    (Maybe an amnesty is the only practical way given the decades of non-enforcement, but coupled with a huge extra land premium charge and / or fine. But I run ahead of myself )

  10. Real Tax Payer says:

    In late-breaking evening news for those who don’t get the SCMP on-line:

    “Carrie Lam says NO amnesty in the NT because this would compromise the rule of law and make enforcement against illegal structures in the urban areas impossible”

    Seems Carrie is out to make sure enery does fill in his cellar, even if it means blood and tear gas in the NT.

    So tears for the HYK and even more tears for enery (and lisa).

    Well, there’s one Tsang-bred bureaucrat with more balls than most if not all of her current ministerial colleagues, and seeing that all such colleagues are men and Carrie was born a woman, that doesn’t say much for her ministerial colleagues (I mean their balls, of course , as if I would dare to malign their competency as ministers )

    Donald, he only has one ball
    Henry, has two but rather small
    John Tsang. is very high-hung
    But Carrie has more balls than all

    ( Sorry, I could not resist that ” shorts and briefs” related digression )

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