New administration hits ground stumbling

CY Leung becomes Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. A significantly above-average-size crowd turns out for the annual July 1 march, with CY (and the not-unrelated Beijing) being the most prominent of protestors’ many and varied targets and demands. CY, on a folksy, meet-the-people trip to Tuen Mun, is ambushed by young activists denouncing the visit as a sham. The world’s media, doing their annual post-1997 story, report an alarming gap between rich and poor, expectations of reduced press freedom and a new leadership’s integrity in tatters – inexplicably but irreparably – over the trellis in his garden. Welcome to political crisis.

The careful cultivation of his public image would strike CY as a trivial distraction, so by default throughout the two decades or so he has been in the public eye he has come across as enigmatic and sinister. Now he is at the top, anything he does – from having a roof over his car port to speaking Mandarin in the presence of China’s president – is interpreted as indicating that he poses a threat towards his home town. He has few friends, hardly any natural allies in the legislature or bureaucracy, and a high proportion of enemies among Hong Kong’s traditional movers and shakers. Former Chief Secretary Anson Chan can’t resist offering catty but vacuous advice; CY was a key advisor to our first CE Tung Chee-hwa, who basically kicked Dame Conscience out for disloyalty.

By going around groveling and humbly apologizing for such sins as trellis-ownership, CY is feeding the frenzy. Ideally he would quickly sweep this ‘crisis’ aside with some big and exciting announcements. Legalization of residential units in old industrial and commercial buildings; zoning, land premium, building and other nonsense rules to be turned upside down in order to maximize supply of cheap homes. A speedy 30% increase in health care spending funded by income from the reserves to eradicate backlogs and waiting lists, using overseas staff or services as required. Abolition of the New Territories ‘small house’ scheme with immediate effect. It would be CY and the people versus the tycoons, democrats and other vested interests.

The chances of this happening are of course next to zero. Hong Kong needs serious reform, but it must have – on President Hu’s own orders on Sunday – harmony and stability and all that.

It would be surprising if a new CE’s choice of non-official Executive Council members were to inspire hopes of decisive and radical action, and sure enough this one doesn’t. Several members are holdovers from the last Council, and the best we can say is that it could be worse. Several new members stand out.

One, Lam Woon-kwong, is also boss of the Equal Opportunities Commission (a predecessor, Anna Wu, is also on board, giving the Council an unexpected dash of human rights-type expertise). Under other circumstances, many thinking people would welcome Lam’s presence as providing our top policymaking body with the input of someone genuinely interested in subjects like ethnic minorities’ and gay rights. But so perverse is the mood that these people are instead frothing at the mouth about Lam having a conflict of interest (the theory presumably being that he will weaken the EOC’s oversight of the public sector).

Another new member of ExCo is a familiar face: academic and surgeon Arthur Li. As Education Secretary under Tung, he was by Hong Kong standards refreshingly outspoken and actually had an original policy idea in the form of kindergarten vouchers, which went on to become one of that administration’s few successes.

Of the other newcomers, one of the less well-known but more interesting is Franklin Lam. He doesn’t sound exactly fascinating, but his little think-tank, HKGolden 50, has come up with dangerously freakish thoughts (from page 89) proposing solutions to such problems as…

Tuesday being ExCo day, they should all be meeting as we speak. ‘Crisis’ management is no doubt on the agenda.


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15 Responses to New administration hits ground stumbling

  1. Smarmy Git says:

    “Beijing Fuck Off”

    Presumably the designer of this placard has a bit of Yorkshire blood in him/her.

  2. Real Tax Payer says:

    Someone said that the definition of a dilemma is that you are up to your neck in a barrel of shit, then someone throws a buck of snot over you : do you duck or not?

    I doubt if the march was much over 100,000 , having watched most of it. There was obviously a 6 -lane crowd in Causeway Bay as they got started , but by the time the march got to Wanchai it was just the westbound half of Hennessy Road , and very slow, thin and straggly .But even so, the scale of the march surprised me, even though the tone of the march was a lot quieter than last year

    Well let’s see what CY does. When you are thrown in at the deep end you either sink or swim , regardless of what is in the pool: water or worse.

  3. Slow? Of course it was slow. The police started w/ only two lanes in CWB, but were shoved to six because it wasn’t allowing anyone to leave Victoria Park. And then you take six lanes and squeeze them down to two and voila, things get slow. If we’d been cars, the HK govt would have started a reclamation project to build us a flyover and tunnel to keep us moving.

    And by the time I got to Wan Chai, which was like 6 or 6:30pm due to the police incompetence, all lanes of traffic on Hennesy Rd were once again open. And even then most of the traffic was on the west lanes and the smell was definitely dense packed until Southorn Stadium. Didn’t face a lane closure again until the Garden Rd flyover and in the end there was the logjam trying to breach the Govt HQs moat. Thank God, the last administration had a surveyor on hand to advise them on pedestrian access to the new HQ and make it so convenient.

  4. maugrim says:

    Its true, there aren’t a lot of friends out there for CY at present, however, one thing to ponder is to connect the dots between some of the appointments. If we could liken them to football players, many are being played ‘out of position’ with little of any experience. Worse still, there is an interesting temperment common to some ‘players’ that I would describe as being less concilliatory in nature. i’m not sure that the game plan is, but in any event, we are going to be in for an interesting game.

  5. And Franklin Lam as saviour? His solution to insufficient space? 2 million sq. foot mall underneath the new Cultural District in W. Kowloon? How ’bout this:

    :::We have argued that the most important economic policy for
    Hong Kong for the next decade should not be the dollar-peg,
    Rmb policy or global financial performance, but rather, how
    to promote the freedom for mainland customers, talents and
    capital to choose and use Hong Kong services.:::

    Goes on to argue that asset inflation due to upped rents and property values due to more mainland tourists will domino in to greater wealth for all of us, and what’s slowed HK down is that increased retail sales have not been matched by increased retail shop space. (Think 2 million sq. feet morlock shopping paradise where no one has to worry about there melanin being stimulated and 11m sq foot Gateway To The World in Tung Chung on the site of the Airport Golf Course, which is even less convenient to access than the new Govt HQ) Just Brilliant!

  6. delboy says:

    Avoided the whole “15th anniversary of the surrender of HK” like the plague….as I usually do. However, delivering a member of my family to the airport on the glorious 1st, I was disgusted to see hordes of teenage girls dressed in fake little ‘young pioneer’ outfits so loved by the commies back in the 60’s.

    Can you believe that they must have bussed and planed them into the territory for Hu’s visit so that there were enough waving, smiling minnions to reassure the commie bosses the place was indeed, full of china patriots.

    Shades of the cultural revolution making their re-appearance? A frightening thought.

  7. Walter De Havilland says:

    I was watching events unfold on the TV in the company of a group of young graduates; a mixed bunch of overseas educated and the product of local universities. The sentiment was mild amusement at some of the antics during the march, but a sense that they have been let down by LegCo members who are distracted and focused on the illegal structures saga instead of real issues. The majority appeared willing to give CY a chance. It was interesting that most of their strongest vitriol was reserved for the media, who they felt were deliberately inciting trouble for their own purposes.

  8. Old Timer says:

    I know there’s usually a few to be spotted every July, but someone was doing an especially brisk trade in Colonial HK flags this year.

  9. Walter De Havilland says:

    @Tom. In the process of taking the whole road the marchers blocked the emergency access lane for the fire services and ambulances. If something had gone wrong any rescue attempt would have been delayed. No doubt if your family member was injured or in need of assistance you’d be pointing the finger at the police for not keeping a lane open.

    But I’ve got to say the marchers showed their true colours when they prevented a group of housewives expressing support for CY from joining the march. Freedom of speech?

  10. Stephen says:

    @Old Timer

    Think one of the chinese language papers (Apple?) had an article on the reasons for the old HK Colonial flag making an increased appearance at these demonstrations.

    I was on about the sixth beer of the day when it was being translated to me so I forget the gist of the story – but there was one.

    As for EXCO it looks dreadful – Arthur and Fanny dug up from the past, The clever MTR bloke – give me land and I will sell it to developers, K11 Baz, Preservation but prickly Bernard and the ever faithful (except to his wife) Lam Woon Kwong …

  11. Spud says:

    I thought I would raise the tone a bit and investigate what we are all thinking…

    Starry Lee may look all cutesy and passable in her legco photo, but a click onto her official website reveals a rather harsh, more Regina Yip look on her homepage.

    And then this gem from the fountain of truth Wikipedia

    “In 2010 DAB legislator Starry Lee said she will not sign a petition to help ban import of highly endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna to Hong Kong, because her daughter loves sashimi and she does not want her daughter to get mad at her.”

  12. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Spud

    Wow. That really does raise the bar a few notches ( but how is it possible that Starry Starry Lee has daughter old enough to eat tuna sashimi ? )

  13. Headache says:

    Spud, factoid of the week! I momentarily choked on my coffee.

  14. Incredulous says:

    “In 2010 DAB legislator Starry Lee said she will not sign a petition to help ban import of highly endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna to Hong Kong, because her daughter loves sashimi and she does not want her daughter to get mad at her.”

    So Hong Kong REALLY is being run by children!

  15. cnut says:

    “Former Chief Secretary Anson Chan can’t resist offering catty but
    vacuous advice…”

    That’s why Xu Chongde, one of Beijing’s legal experts and a member of the erstwhile Basic Law Drafting Committee, once compared the former bureaucrat to the proverbial “blooming sprig of crimson almond” “burst[ing] forth over the garden wall” (lines from a well-known Tang poem) for her irrepressible craving for the limelight.

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