The annual gatherings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress begin in Beijing, and the world is riveted. For Hong Kong, the two-week-long snooze-fest guarantees a steady ooze of meaningless blather and waffle that will clog up radio waves, newsprint, TV channels and bandwidth until well beyond mid-March.
Former Chief Secretary Henry Tang, the nice-but-dim rich-kid who managed to lose a rigged election for Chief Executive of the Big Lychee last year, is a newcomer to the CPPCC. But he is a typical member: probably no longer of any use to the Communist regime, but warranting a pat on the head to save everyone a bit of face. To encourage continued loyalty and, most of all, the illusion, the system will dangle before him the prospect one day of a meaningless-but-prestigious higher position in the so-called ‘advisory body’. And there is always the threat of being dropped if he somehow disgraces himself sufficiently, or – more likely – speak or act out of sync with the United Front line.
This last consideration has a curious effect on Hong Kong’s delegates to the twin meetings in the nation’s capital at this time every year. Often happy enough at home to be garrulous, opinionated or plain frank, they suddenly adopt the otherworldly nonsense-speak of the Mainland official. CPPCC ‘spokesman’ Lu Xinhua apparently has the authority to decide who can or cannot be Hong Kong’s CE and said on Saturday that the job was for people who cared about the country and loved China and Hong Kong. Henry came across as cheerfully clueless about this abstract concept because he’s Henry.
But when asked for a specific detail, he reverted to United Front zombie-babble…
…Tang said he was pleased that CPPCC chairman Jia Qinglin’s work report, as in the past, had mentioned the 12th five-year plan, which he said could benefit Hong Kong.
…before turning to that reliable old standby, developing Hong Kong’s ‘Yuan business’ – the apple pie everyone can loudly agree is wonderful, however insubstantial or irrelevant it really is.
Other familiar faces in attendance are former CE Tung Chee-hwa, property tycoon Henry Cheng, Hospital Authority chairman and ancien regime stalwart Anthony Wu and property tycoon Li Ka-shing’s son Victor. It is natural for us to resent a system so warped that it plucks people who have exhibited in various ways such malevolence towards Hong Kong to serve on national bodies. If it is any consolation, the next 10 days or so will be a torture for them (apart from Tung, who seems to quite like this sort of thing). Accustomed to the Big Lychee’s speed and efficiency, they will be expected to attend idiotically purposeless meetings, pretend to find content-free speeches interesting, and waste hours while Mainland counterparts have their afternoon naps. Sneaking out for a phone call is OK, but getting back on the plane to Chek Lap Kok is, for most of them, a no-no.
Former senior civil servant Fanny Law, nurtured and mentored by the British colonial regime, is also up there. She probably signed up for the United Front after retirement because it’s the only way to go on ‘serving the community’ in any sort of official capacity. The only alternative way for ex-bureaucrats to satisfy their lust for high-profile interfering and nitpicking – they’re genuinely uninterested in power – is to go into political exile like former-CS Anson Chan.
The Hong Kong media, who presume the right to wander around sticking microphones in delegates’ faces, asked Law whether she felt the Big Lychee’s other political exiles in the pro-democracy camp qualified as patriotic enough to be CE under CPPCC spokesman Lu’s rules. Her response was that they would have to prove it through their deeds – which unfortunately comes across as rather mean-spirited, haughty and smug. Not only did she choose the ideological discipline of the United Front over the raucous Hong Kong values and infighting of the pan-dems, but she stuck her neck out and plumped for CY Leung rather than Henry Tang in the quasi-election for CE last year. The ability to detect when one is in danger of being insufferable was never among Hong Kong civil servants’ strong points. Clueless Henry guessed the majority of Hongkongers met the Lu test.
There’s days and days of this to come.
Left: a plastic cartoon chick in Mui Wo. I am shocked that such a potential menace to society is left out in the open in a park rather than kept under lock and key somewhere secure. And right: ‘milk tea champagne’, served on ice, at a branch of Tsui Wah restaurants. I was about to order it, but then thought: “Tsui Wah. Yellowish liquid in bottles. Maybe not.”