Many, many years ago, as a boy, I used to regularly dress up in special clothes and take part in a gathering in which, at one point, a large number of people would watch as I rang a bell, and another participant lifted an object into the air for all to see. It was the moment during Mass of transubstantiation, when Catholics believe bread is turned into the body, and wine into the blood, of Christ. On one such occasion, I experienced a vivid flash of enlightenment as the bell rang. It’s still wine in that chalice, I thought – what the heck am I doing? As Christopher Hitchens said, you don’t become an atheist, you just realize you are one. (Typically. the Holy Romans have an intellectually robust explanation for it all. It’s more like sherry, by the way.)
Here in Hong Kong, we have a small group of people who take part in similarly strange rituals involving the suspension of rational common sense and belief in a sort of supernatural. A prime example is former Justice Secretary Elsie Leung, who over the years has taken part in such ceremonies as the Guangdong Provincial People’s Congress and the National People’s Congress. Many delegates (like more than a few Catholics on Sundays) go along with these things for the sake of form, but Elsie and some others genuinely, devoutly believe. Their faith that a humane, fair, benevolent and most of all legitimate political process is taking place is total.
Obviously, it’s not just Catholics and Communists who can embrace non-reality. You still have a few days to book a past-life reading with this guy; I recently heard of an apparently sane and educated pregnant woman who wanted moxibustion and/or accupuncture to move her baby out of its breech position; and I am surrounded by people who do things like putting small triangles of carpet at doorways to prevent wealth from leaving the room. But the believers in the sanctity of the Chinese Communist Party are different from the ordinary delusional: they have a real possibility of influencing governance.
Normally, they are the only people who would pay attention when someone mentions the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, or CCPPPPPCCCC for short. The CPPCC is a talking shop. A single post on Weibo can have a hundred times as much impact on the nation. We can judge how important it is from the fact that the deaf and barbarians are allowed to know what’s going on. Membership is a pat on the head for loyalty, especially for the sort of loyalty tested by endurance, sacrifice and humiliation. Its uselessness is plain to all but those who live the fiction.
Nonetheless, we find ourselves sitting up and taking notice when the new Hong Kong members of the CPPCC Standing Committee are announced.
The great shoe-shining Sing Tao/Standard laud the new appointees as having attained some sort of pinnacle in the nation’s power structure. Which is exactly what the CPPCC is for: the grandiose granting of face to those who have eaten their bitterness uncomplainingly.
The five new Hongkongers in the CPPCC’s upper tier are hardly members of the truly faithful. Adulterer rich-kid Henry Tang cruelly had the office of CE handed to him on a plate and snatched away at the last second after trying to dump basement-related misdeeds on his wife. Peter Lee is the number-one son of Henderson Land’s Lee Shau-kee and bachelor father of the famed designer-label test-tube triplets.
So far, so embarrassing, you might think, but Sun Hung Kai’s Walter Kwok and former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui – both looking at corruption charges – are being dropped from the CPPCC, so on a net basis, this is an improvement in average quality and integrity of the Hong Kong delegation. That said, Henry is also being investigated for possible criminal activity concerning the omission (or not) of that basement from building plans. Are the people who pick the top CPPCC members confident that nothing will come of that? More likely, given their charitable view towards other members’ conduct, they just don’t see it as a major problem. They had no choice, anyway.
Anthony Wu is (or was) a stalwart of the Donald Tsang bureaucrat-tycoon establishment that expected to ride to power on Henry’s coattails. A pat not just on the head but on his tummy, for being a good boy during a disappointing year! SC Lam seems to be filling the space vacated by the previous chairman of the HK United Federation of Fujianese Associations of Organizations. Liu Changle is boss of patriotic Phoenix TV, which, unlike ATV, has never erroneously announced the death of a former Party General Secretary.
What we really want to know is: who has been dropped, or simply not appointed, simply as a plain, good old-fashioned kick in the teeth? One, inevitably – a bit regrettably, too – is Lew Mon-hung, whose attempts to take CY out while the Independent Commission Against Corruption poked around his company have brightened up our lives so much over the last 10 days or so. Another is the man the Standard’s Mary Ma column finally has the good taste to call ‘Sir Bowtie’.
‘Mary Ma’ wistfully imagines that Beijing has something bigger and better in mind for Donald. First Chinese on the moon, perhaps. Commentators offended by the way he hobnobbed with tycoons like to see his absence from the list as a snub, though by CPPCC standards, a yacht-ride is surely a very minor blemish indeed. Crowds of insiders crop up in the media this morning mumbling about how Beijing doesn’t want to set a precedent; just because first CE Tung Chee-hwa was elevated to a noble position in the nation’s top ‘advisory’ body, it doesn’t mean they must all be. The devout believers are among those who think so. Most of us will consider this, and nod in broad agreement with this solemn reasoning. Until it dawns on us that the whole thing’s a bunch of twaddle.
Probably, they just don’t like him.