With Snake Year – like all years – bound to continue and end as it begins, this is the time for us to get our lives and affairs in order. Home owners will give their properties their annual clean-up and overhaul, hence the Hong Kong government’s recent publicity campaign on window-inspection. Debtors will do whatever it takes to repay their loans. Enemies will try to put the past behind them and become friends. Aging statesman Sir David Akers-Jones will release a pamphlet called The Legislative Council: What’s Gone Wrong to remind us of his unceasing sprightliness*. Come February 10, everything will be set for 12 months of happiness, prosperity and safety.
But not for pro-Beijing businessman and politician Lew (normally rendered ‘Lau’) Mon-hung. He is ending the Year of the Water Dragon under Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation, and on a PR crusade against Chief Executive CY Leung, whom he accuses of lying about having professionals examine his home for illegal structures. Media lacking empathy for the CE – which is to say most of the press – are especially relishing the trellis side of the story. The Standard has all the dirt here, here and here, and suggests that Lew is telling CY “Let’s die together.”
It’s a mess. Lew (or ‘Dr Lew’ to you), an earthy, self-made type with a bit of maverick about him, stuck his neck out by supporting CY when obedient patriots assumed they were supposed to be backing Henry Tang as the new CE. He says he subsequently expected a reward in the form of an Executive Council seat or at least appointment to the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference talking shop, but ended up with CY not answering his calls. He and another director of his Pearl Oriental Oil were arrested and released on bail by the ICAC a few weeks back; the company’s auditors resigned citing ‘professional risk associated with the audit’. Then he starts making the accusations about CY fabricating the story about three experts conducting a trellis hunt – a claim Leung’s buddy Barry Cheung strongly denies.
If you change the order in which the above happened, you get a story where Lew threatens to reveal CY as a liar, CY turns the ICAC on him, and Lew spills the beans in self-defence. But not even the fiercest enemies of the Wolf suggest such a thing. What we have here is a gruff, opportunistic, auditor-repelling operator finding the shit hitting the fan, and his supposed friends don’t want to know, so he loses it. Not that anyone’s paying attention, but the pan-democrats further damage both Lew and themselves by basically siding with him.
Mainland emissaries in the Liaison Office must be wondering what they have done to deserve the job of monitoring and guiding people who, at best, act like teenage schoolgirls massacring each other on Facebook, and at worst threaten civic chaos and mayhem where we’re supposed to have all that lovey-dovey harmony and cooperation. This goes right to the heart of the whole United Front system. The Communist Party is institutionally paranoid. China doesn’t trust most Hongkongers. It would be easier to be nicer, more open and more trusting, and attract support from a broader base of normal and decent local people, but clearly that’s not how the Leninist mind works. In order to build up influence and networks, Beijing sometimes resorts to unreliable and even shady characters, including the erratic, friendless and desperate.
Not a great way for Lew, CY, Beijing et al to start a new year, but an intriguing note on which to declare the weekend open.
* Probably not available at all good bookstores. The little treatise, which quotes Sir SY Chung** in the second paragraph, notes the plethora of candidates and parties at last September’s election and recommends more, “smaller, but not too small” constituencies, broadened (but presumably not too broadened) functional constituencies and a proportional representation system called the Single Transferable Vote, which is explained in rivetting detail. Having completed that last sentence, you may consider yourself to have read the pamphlet.
** Whaddya mean “Who?”