In short: British-trained bureaucrats still running everything

Although nothing is official yet, Chief Executive-elect CY Leung’s administration is starting to materialize in the form of rumour and anonymous sources (in print here and here). It seems to be the inevitable way of things in Hong Kong. The government-in-waiting has to clear top-level appointments with Beijing, and any appointees with foreign passports will have to ditch their barbarian citizenship. Assuming the unattributed mutterings are true…

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam will be Chief Secretary. She was also tipped for the post before CY’s rival Henry Tang fell from grace with the celestial authorities, reflecting the universal acceptability of a Type O negative, capable technocrat and civil servant. She is also popular with the public; no real reason – she just doesn’t irritate people as much as most of her peer group.

One of Carrie’s big moments was a couple of years ago. CE Donald Tsang had no policies to put in his policy address, and she proposed preserving several older buildings around Central (Central Market, the old Hollywood Road police barracks, etc). Sir Bow-Tie thought the idea was deranged; the whole purpose of the Hong Kong government, after all, is to enlarge its financial reserves by selling land for development. But it was the nearest thing to a policy he could find, and the rest is history – in stone.

Financial Secretary John Tsang will be… Financial Secretary. Millions of people dance with joy in the streets of Hong Kong this morning on the realization that they will still be getting their annual fiscal entertainment: the mind-bogglingly inaccurate government surplus/deficit forecasts and the absurd one-off handouts scattered around to everyone at budget time every year, for want of anything else to do with all the cash. Or will that change? It will be interesting to see what difference a new big boss makes.

In theory, this symbol of continuity is supposed to help the process of ‘reconciliation’ between the tycoon-supported Donald Tsang faction and the uppity populist outsiders who comprise the new regime. Personally, I think the less reconciliation takes place, the more fun we will have. The FS’s number-one job now will be fixing the housing problem, which could offer an interesting test of reconciliation with property barons. The SCMP article makes a fuss over how John Tsang is a major free-markets freak. There is no evidence for this in practice. The division of one commerce bureau (under the FS) into two focusing on specific sectors like technology and tourism looks like a precursor to a more interventionist approach. Maybe John will not last out the whole five-year term.

(A subject for another time is the bigger context: a trend in the developed world toward mercantilism-as-ideologically-acceptable in response to growing wealth gaps and the statism/corporatism of emerging economies. This would support CY’s presumed intention to try to pick winners and to lobby Beijing for privileged local access to the Mainland economy.)

The Deputy CS will be Lam Woon-kwong, who for a former civil servant is quite an interesting guy, and not just because of his seen-with-woman-at-hotel-in-Tokyo problem years back. Eyes rolled when he parachuted in as boss of the Equal Opportunities Commission because he was obviously a government yes-man aiming to curb the trouble-making body. Instead, he suddenly got into ethnic minorities and gay rights. His portfolio is likely to include labour, education, culture and population policy, which offer lots of opportunities for a pro-underdog, liberal do-gooder. Maybe he is CY’s token non-jackboot-authoritarian. At least those crumbling schools full of Nepalese kids might get a lick of paint.

The Deputy FS will be Ceajer, or Professor KC, Chan. He is currently a joint number-two to the FS anyway, and probably a highly qualified and indeed endlessly fascinating person. (Is it a misspelling of Caesar? Interestingly, CY has an aide called Kaizer (Lau Ping-cheung of ‘triad dinner’ fame). The German word ‘Kaiser’ is of course descended from the Latin ‘Caesar’, and so is the Russian ‘Czar/Tsar’, so will CY hire someone called, say, ‘Tzar’ to make the trio complete? Just wondering.)

The Standard says Justice Secretary Wong Yan-lung will be replaced, because of his opposition to ‘interpretation’ by Beijing of the Basic Law, by pro-Beijing former Bar Association chairman Rimsky Yuen SC. The implication is that Yuen has no qualms about the bizarre process whereby Beijing amends Hong Kong’s constitution by declaring the wording to have new and hitherto hidden meanings. The method must have Leninist origins, and Rimsky is of course a Russian name (as in composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov), which is all rather ominous. On a brighter note, maybe he knows someone called ‘Tzar’.

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12 Responses to In short: British-trained bureaucrats still running everything

  1. Bela Lugosi says:

    All revolutions must move slowly at times. They will all be sacked in due course, those that is who are not on dialysis or having a heart operation.

    At the highest stage of capitalism, the most necessary revolution appears as the most unlikely one. (Marcuse)

    The only way to understand CY Leung is to stop reading the Economist and the Spectator and all those American books on your shelf, I think.

    It’s a SOCIALIST government, allied to China’s New Left, not a neo-liberal one.

    The horror, the horror….

  2. Joe Blow says:

    Rimsky ?????

    He must know a thing or 2 about ‘kissing up’.

  3. maugrim says:

    Sorry, the names say it all. Donald (nerd), Audrey (anglophile, solid and practical. Good at Hockey), Carrie (possibly a Chinese homophone, practical), Jasper (was beaten up at school). Rimsky and Ceajar are going too far. How long before HK will have Apple Wu and Darth Chan as Government Ministers? Personally I hope Kinky Ho gets a go.

  4. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Ceajer will go Byzantine and hire a Basil.

  5. PropertyDeveloper says:

    It looks as though CY is already beginning to duck and weave, to mollify opinion by compromising and delaying, hoping to be able to strike hard at a later stage.

    Carrie of course proposed the action-plan on NT illegal structures, which she must have been hoping would not crash back into her lap come crunch time in October.

    Lam Woon-kwong couldn’t have been more of a drip as spokesperson for the CE, but surprised people, as Hemlock says, by pretending to take the EOC job seriously.

    But if the SJ, who amongst other things directs the DPP, is to be a Pekingese, all the rest is mere window-dressing. The few remaining institutions with some integrity left had better start building underground bunkers.

  6. Real Tax Payer says:

    This is classic HK management style : promote people to their level of incompetency and then when they (invariably) fail FIRE THEM

    Next time John O’ the Whisker’s Tsang get’s his ( to 3 decimal places) forecast surplus wrong by 50% he’s OUT. And good riddance . Idiot that he is .

    ( Or backstage him to predicting/ writing ( same – same) Mainland GDP and inflation indexes, which are also in the realm of Harry Potter)

    I am betting my last dollar that CY is on the right track. Sure, he attracted some controversial and not-so-popular figures to support him ( e.g. Fanny Law ) but “controversial” only because they had the guts to stand up to buck the trend in the past. That way you make few friends, and only get the attention of the REALLY clever.

    THINK ! Why did CY pick Fanny to run his CE-election campaign ? Simple answer : he trusted Fanny and all that she stood for in truth and honesty . No vested interests. JUST truth and honesty.

    Let me ask you : from whom would you prefer to buy a 2nd hand car : Dr Sir David blah blah Li (KMCG / Froggie cross etc) or Fanny Law ?

    Now it’s time for hardball, and God knows a huge number of HK people want some big changes. But My Take is that CY will play softlee softlee in the greater interest of the the long-term big picture.

    If you want a parallel look at Mainland China for the past 20 years, where some VERY savvy leaders have been running things

    Meanwhile in GREAT late breaking news:

    “Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as a member of parliament on Wednesday, opening a new chapter in the Nobel laureate’s near quarter-century struggle against oppression.
    The 66-year-old stood to read the parliamentary oath in unison with 33 other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party who were elected to the lower house in April.

    The signing of the oath marks a dramatic transformation in the fortunes of Suu Kyi, who was held under house arrest for much of the past 20 years but is now central to the nation’s tentative transition to democracy”

    EVERYTHING can change…..

    @ BL : SHUT UP !

  7. Joe Blow says:

    @RTP: “SHUT UP’ ??

    That is not very democratic. You are free to write (and C&P) your endless insights, day after day, and so should BL. Maybe you have spent too much time in China.

  8. Bela Lugosi says:


    Have sympathy. The bourgeoisie are in retreat. The death rattles are painful and laboured.

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ JB : I humbly take back my comment at BL

    I have indeed spent a lot of time in China, but even more time in HK and I’m dying for some real changes

  10. PDC says:

    W.K. Lam is a certified liar of the “I don’t recall if the subject came up during our discussion” school. A very bad sign.

  11. Real Tax Payer says:

    From today’s SCMP on-line

    “The city’s narrow tax base means 80 per cent of salaries tax was paid by the highest-paid 200,000 people in the city last year. About 91,000 firms, or 10 per cent of the city’s companies, were required to pay profits tax”

    Put me in that 200,000 people who pay 80% of HK’s salaries tax

    Also put the company I run in the 91,000 who pay the full % in HK (even though most of what we sell goes to China, so we could possibly evade tax legally… maybe .. but we don’t )

    Guess that gives me a vote in HK and its associated forums like the BL

  12. Tony in BKK says:

    Your headline, “In short: British-trained bureaucrats still running everything” clearly contains a typographical error.

    It should read, “In short: British-trained bureaucrats still ruining everything.”

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