As the Hong Kong Legislative Council’s pro-democracy camp emerges from its filibuster mire, it prepares for its next battle with whoever happens to be in charge over whatever he happens to be doing. The joys of a system where the people can’t elect the government but can elect the opposition!
That battle looks set to be with Chief Executive-elect CY Leung over his proposed government reorganization. The last restructuring of policy bureaus several years back was a routine bit of bureaucratic plumbing work, of little consequence to the public at large. And I don’t recall the pro-democrats taking much interest in it, either. But this time, the pan-dems have decided to insist with all their might and devotion to principle on a public consultation.
What exactly they hope to achieve by making an enemy of CY Leung before he even takes office is hard to say. The process by which he won the quasi-election may have stank, but less than on previous occasions when popular opinion had no influence over the outcome. He hates the bureaucrats and the property tycoons, which can only be a good thing. And although it’s probably just PR, he has invited applications from all-comers for assistant-type posts in government, which is a refreshing break from the overt cronyism of the outgoing regime (I’ve heard that 70 people have written in wanting to be ministers’ flunkeys).
The main part of the restructuring involves the appointment of deputy Chief and Financial Secretaries and a consolidation of responsibilities for land and housing. It looks like a way of sidelining uppity civil servants; former CS Anson Chan hates it; most of all, it’s too complicated for most people to understand or care about.
If the pro-dems don’t want to look like idiots, they might be advised to focus on the proposed Culture Bureau, which looks like an ideal teacup in search of a storm. The first name to be mentioned as our first high-level arts and media czar was lawyer and longstanding arts enthusiast Ada Wong. This would have been a minor but impressive dash of inclusiveness. Then word came that pro-Beijing elements objected to Ada because she had voted with pro-dems long ago on Wanchai District Council, and so a civil servant at Home Affairs called Florence Hui might get the job. Rather predictably, bureaucrat Florence attracted criticism from the ‘arts community’ for never going to concerts or galleries. She is commenting that, along with arts professionals, “…the cultural sector [needs] other talents who can organize resources…” Hey – do you think the Sistine Chapel came about without someone organizing resources?
The pro-dems have an opportunity to loudly demand whether a religious test will apply to government posts, designed to bar people who have, for example, failed to vote along United Front lines on district councils. They can also allege that such discrimination suggests the new Bureau will in fact be about propaganda. In fact, the pro-Beijing folks’ objections to Ada Wong are almost certainly due simply to spite (they are still seething at being largely sidelined since the handover). And measures that look sort-of like precursors to propaganda, like National Education in schools, often also look like measures designed just to appear that way to mollify Beijing. But it’s an attention-grabbing charge, and too good for the pro-dems to miss.
Then they can also join in the chorus of criticism about poor Florence, a no-doubt harmless and well-intentioned administrative officer who is about to find out the hard way why only a fool would even think about crossing that line marked ‘political appointment’. (The South China Morning Post story mentions that Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan “is also a stage actress.” Anyone who has seen her flouncing around on the Mid-Levels Escalator during election time will wonder if there’s ever a time she isn’t a stage actress.)
This way, the pro-dems could create a stir over the government restructuring that might just achieve something. But they won’t. They’ll fuss about the cost and bore everyone to death and do whatever else they can to persuade us to stay at home on Legco election day in September.