Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung’s second town-hall meeting ends in the same sort of chaos as the first one. Governor Chris Patten did one or two public Q&A sessions like this to great acclaim, but he was a pro and perhaps they were more innocent times. Given the lack of substance in these forums, and the scuffling outside by protestors demanding his resignation, Leung must be wondering whether it is worth bothering with such laborious PR-driven gestures. Or just do them on air. (Or use focus groups and surveys, if you really want to research district-level problems.)
The impression from the media – most of which have a bias of some sort against the new administration – is that CY is chased out of the neighbourhood by a local mob each time he goes through one of these performances. The reality is that it is the same familiar group of radicals, accompanied by equally rabid camera crews. Small, informal (and statistically meaningless) polls around the office water-cooler suggest that a silent majority of the public wish the new regime well. But that was the case with Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang. The difference is that while its predecessors took months if not years to go into terminal decline, this government is starting to look like it’s floundering after just days in office.
While they could be unveiling exciting, controversial and popular initiatives, officials are reacting to events. CY apologizes endlessly for his wretched trellis, top Executive Council member WK Lam agonizes over far-fetched allegations of a conflict of interest, and half a dozen more squirm over such outrages as an illicit washing line sticking out of an apartment. Among the trivia are signs of some genuine potential problems.
First, there are Director of Audit David Sun Tak-kei and new Independent Commission Against Corruption boss Simon Peh Yun-lu. The former was a close supporter of CY’s campaign, while the latter met with CY and other appointees shortly before the new government was formed. Under normal circumstances, these might not matter too much, but in these times, in the immortal words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, “It’s always something – if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.” Right now, if it’s not integrity (failure to publicly confess one’s garden ornamentation) it’s credibility (already knowing someone).
Pessimists already have grounds to oppose the pair. Sun isn’t a civil servant (if he was, presumably they’d complain about that) and has some sort of past issue too tedious to imagine concerning Ernst and Whitney. Peh was Director of Immigration, and therefore had to enforce Beijing’s edicts to turn away Falun Gong and other counterrevolutionary elements at the airport.
The real concern is that the audit and anti-corruption functions are highly sensitive and must be seen to be independent and impartial. In theory, the ICAC may have to drag CY himself into the dungeons for interrogation over his plant-frame. More worryingly, both agencies may have to go after parties that hate CY. If they do it, there will be claims that it is personal; if they don’t, people who might deserve attention won’t get it.
Second, there’s new Development Secretary Mak Chai-kwong’s civil service housing scam back in the 1980s. If your employer was dumb enough to pay your rent if you lived in a property legally owned by someone else, you’d do this too. And if it had been a private-sector employer, no-one would care. But he worked for the government, and we the taxpayers were paying the rent he put in his own pocket, so it stinks. The law apparently let him cheat taxpayers. And he did. His only hope is that amid all the mayhem as the lynch-all-trellis-owners brigade rampages around the place, people will forget it or not mull over it too much. Otherwise, Mak’s quite possibly a goner.
Third, we have the new administration backtracking on a pledge to tighten up the sale of local homes to Mainlanders. In the grand scheme of things, this probably won’t make much difference to the overall plan to boost affordable housing; that will depend on earmarking land for ‘subsidized’ homes (ie ones without inflated government revenues and developers’ profit margins built into the price). But to the extent that Mainlanders will continue to buy luxury real estate here, a clampdown would hurt the developers. Maybe President Hu had a word with CY last weekend about creating harmony with tycoons; that big North Point seafront site won’t be auctioned with awkward conditions attached.
These are, or are not, big deals – according to taste. But added together, in the absence of some quick and inspirational policy announcements, they have a flavour of 1999-era Tung or second-term Donald. After one week in power.
Did Tung’s administration really take 18 months to become as crap as this? E.g. I thought the Sally Aw non-prosecution was back in 1998.
And, lest brains are becoming gradually washed, a gentle reminder that CY Leung had many more illegal structures than just a trellis … perhaps we can do a ‘search and replace’ in future Hemlock blogs, replacing the word ‘trellis’ with ‘trellis and car-port and metal gate and garage enclosure and basement and glass house and store room’. [Cumbersome and awkward words, yes; so, a bit like the structures themselves!]
Keep an eye on new Education “Minister” Eddie Ng as an early casualty of the new administration. He is supremely unqualified for the role and is in way over his head. It’s just a matter of time before he steps in it big time and is made to walk the plank.
PCC, I think it will be for something he says rather than does. Just a hunch.
In many respects, the current brouhaha is Tsang’s present to the present administration. He started the fire. I do hope that amongst some of the banal infringements alleged, that the biggies dont go unnoticed.
PCC is spot on about Eddie Ng. But then Michael Suen snoozed through that role for a number of years and no-one seemed to mind / notice.
CY will be fine.
For some gratuitous pleasure I watched ole Mike Chugani last night interviewing two of the Legislators who are going to skin CY alive when he comes before them on the 16 July – err not.
The Blue Finned Starry Lee (has HK ever had a more vacuous directly elected Legislator?) will do exactly as her CCP paymasters tell her party and do nothing. Then there is the Quiffed Al Leong blathering on about integrity but, if he discovers that CY has none, what then? Well nothing, Al doesn’t know, so move along.
Soon there will be Legislative elections where HK really does need its opposition. Because in 5 years’ time The CCP is going to make sure the CE Elections are going to be as rigged as the last one. Meaning we get another leader with his cast of inadequates blundering their way forth. A Pro Dem landslide may throw a spanner in the CCP plans. Fat chance.
I watched that, too, and thought it was interesting that Starry Lee, despite being one of CY’s ExCo, declined to say that she trusted CY.
So far as policy initiatives go, CY stated in answer to a question last week that he would not do anything to harm property prices. So he is obviously going to do precisely nothing! (Surprise, surprise!)
We live in interesting times……..
My bet is that as the going gets tough, CY will get tougher
(Force Long- hair to do his 2 months in prison and have his hair cut !)
But on a happier note – the sky is blue and the air is crystal clear. One can see all the way from the Pokfulam to Tai Mo Shan. So I think this does prove that a lot of our air pollution really does originate up north ( I cannot remember when I last saw blue sky in GZ : some time in 1988 ? Or was it 87? )
On the subject of mainland money coming into the HK residential property market, some might wonder why no-one appears to have been arrested or charged with money laundering. Reliable information has it that in 2011 something between a third and 40% of all money being invested was from China, where the law limits expatriating money to RMB20,000.
How is it then that droves of mainlanders were buying new Mercedes cars with huge wads of cash at Ocean Terminal and, according to a property lawyer, one entered the office with a bag containing HK$10m? The lawyer told him to get a banker’s draft, which he did. That’s still money laundering requiring compulsory reporting to OSCB. There are obviously banks and other financial institutions willing to wash the money. One contact informed me that boats carrying huge sums of cash were coming into Sai Kung Waterfront at night and local thugs hired to guard it were telling the local police where NOT to patrol. As a long time resident of the area I can well believe that.
So why is the law not being enforced? Is it that the people who benefit from such a huge flow of wealth didn’t want the tap to run dry? This was the very essence of Donald Tsang’s/Henry Tang’s administration.
@PCC – I think that being “supremely unqualified for the role” is actually a leading qualification for most roles in government, these days….
Re Money laundering :
Tom Holland, Jake, even Laisee ( Howard Winn) have all written at length on the total duplicity/ hypocrisy of the HK Govt re the hundreds of billions / trillions of mainland money that is white-washed via HK ( and usually via the BVI en route : SUCH an honest and transparent source of money)
Yet, I humble honest real tax payer, while trying to find a better way to deposit short-term a mere HK$1 Million in currency X , which gets only 0.01% interest at HXXC , am asked by International bank Y (in addition to asking for my ID card # , proof of address e.g. utility bill / credit card statement – heck why do I need a credit card if I have so much in disposable funds ? / BS + BS squared info / name of dog and cat / birth date of grandparents/ name of mistress ) to show HOW I came by such ill-gotten funds ?
Yeah Bank Y : I “smuggled drugs and/ or was bribed by a Macau junket dealer or even better a Macao casino owner” .
So what ? Does that make me any different from many of your other clients
What total BS ! *
So … international banks like Y take it out on us little people with honest gains while they quietly launder hundreds of billions in totally and obviously illicit funds , whitewashed via HK before re-investing in the PRC
Keeps their conscience clean , I guess
* actually it was a totally legit AAA Bank bond coupon if the ICAC is listening in. Arrest me at YOUR peril . I will make this the court case of the Millennium !
Life is too short to watch Chugani. What a useless tit.
Re: Real Tax Payer and Blue skies.
He is correct to say that much of Hong Kong’s pollution comes from the PRD.
But if he looks at the the government’s API he will see that despite the blue sky roadside pollution is ‘high.” This means it is significantly higher than the WHO guidelines. The pollution that affects us most is roadside pollution and the government if it had the will could do something about that.