The Global Mayhem Index reading hits a suffocating high of 98 today, with hundreds dead in Pakistan factories, extremists killing the US ambassador to Libya and Hong Kong Police warning of men taking photographs up women’s skirts on MTR trains using intriguing-sounding ‘camera watches’. And the hunt for Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping continues.
The Daily Telegraph quotes a named and apparently sort-of authoritative source as saying the next President has had a heart attack. This does sound more probable than the more exotic theories flying around about his disappearance for over 10 days. However, the conspiratorial among us can console ourselves with the time-honoured riposte: Ah, but that’s what they want us to think. I like the idea that Xi is publicly refusing to endorse President Hu Jintao’s ‘scientific development’ theory as the greatest contribution to Sino-Marxism of the last 10 years, as he is planning to change course and usher in wonderful political reforms. (This blog at the finally revamped South China Morning Post website discusses it.) For the serially excitable, there are always comparisons with Lin Biao, the Vice-Premier whose plane mysteriously crashed over Mongolia in 1971.
The greatest intrigue we can conjure up in the Big Lychee is about newly appointed Environment Undersecretary Christine Loh. The insinuation is that the think-tank she founded accepted funds from China Light and Power, therefore, in return, she will let the electricity company off the hook over emissions in due course. This assumes the funding was underhand, when Civic Exchange has a policy of transparency and the Kadoorie family who own CLP are openly keen on green and similar issues, in their own tycoon-like way. It also assumes that Loh, after years of hard research and thankless lobbying, doesn’t really want to make any impact on air pollution and other problems, but just wants a semi-fancy job title so she can feel important.
In truth, she has been fobbed off with an insultingly junior position, probably to appease the many people who have reservations about her. There were mutterings that previous Chief Executive Donald Tsang would have liked to have her in government, but Beijing and/or its allies vetoed the idea. This was probably disingenuous; Donald and other bureaucrat-psychos obsessed with covering Hong Kong with concrete fear and loathe the likes of Loh, not least because she runs rings around them in terms of policy ideas and just plain intellect.
That’s not to say that Beijing and its loyalists like her. Her book on the Communist Party in Hong Kong (reviewed here) wouldn’t be a problem; she thinks it would help everyone if the CCP came out of the closet here. But she was appointed to the Legislative Council by Governor Chris Patten, the ‘sinner’ who defied China before 1997 and allowed us to vote in city-wide democratic functional constituencies, long before anyone had heard of Super-Seats. To reward someone tainted with such symbolically charged pro-democracy connections is insulting to the many patriots who, since the handover, have been left on the sidelines while tycoons and ex-colonial civil servants have been allowed to have control of the city. To them it’s tribal. Fortunately, they seem almost to enjoy being slapped in the face repeatedly, decade after decade, by their beloved party.
Loh became pretty much the only legislator before or since to get her own bill (on harbour protection) into the council and passed into law. Then she quit Legco because she couldn’t get much done. She doesn’t need this joke of a public position, let alone the money, and she knows from experience that vested interests and pestilential bureaucrats will oppose much of what needs to be done to clean the city up. So CY Leung knows full well that she will walk if she can’t change things, and he knows that would be a major humiliation for his administration – and yet he chased and hired her anyway. An approving article in China Daily last June set the tone. We can conclude this is good, if long-overdue, news.