Occupy Central starts early, pro-dems fail to show

One of the Hongkong International Terminals contractors abruptly announces that it is shutting down, leaving hundreds of its striking port workers without an employer. The tactic is clearly designed to scare the strikers into accepting the pay offer currently on the table. The supposedly laid-off dockers say their skills make them irreplaceable. We all like to think we are.

Business seems to be accommodating any delays at the port with few problems, and shipments can always go through Shenzhen’s container terminals, which of course are also partly owned by HIL owner tycoon Li Ka-shing. So the employers clearly have the upper hand. The crane operators and stevedores, on the other hand, can claim to have a good case, and visiting Australian dock workers were shocked at their Hong Kong counterparts’ relatively poor pay and conditions. In an effort to exploit public opinion, strikers and their supporters have set up camp outside Li’s headquarters in Hong Kong’s central business district.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Ta Kung Pao sees this as a test-run for the pro-democracy camp’s Occupy Central campaign for universal suffrage. The pro-Beijing camp is understandably nervous about a potential alliance between labour, activist pro-dems and the usually passive and agnostic broader public, some of whom are happily donating cash to the strikers now conveniently situated at the end of Queens Road. If a few thousand people assembled outside Cheung Kong Center for a continuous National Education-style protest against Li’s property hegemony, it could cause a real shock to the system. Where would it leave the pro-Beijing Voice of Loving HK, now insisting on its credibility as a self-funded movement of common folk who support the status quo? In the same place it would leave Beijing and all its local lieutenants: forced more and more into a position where they side with plutocrats against the other 99%.

Fortunately for them, it almost certainly won’t happen. In a pointed analysis in Ming Pao, HK Polytechnic University’s Professor Pun Ngai complains that the pro-dems themselves will undermine any such alignment. As she puts it, they are into political democracy but not economic democracy; their worldview is so ‘conservative’ that they stay inside their own little bubble while broader civil society grows up in response to inequality, property hegemony and issues like heritage and infrastructure. The CTU labour federation supporting the dock workers is part of the pro-democracy milieu, but the pan-dems as a camp show little interest in grasping the opportunity that Ta Kung Pao sees.

A Marxist interpretation might be that this is simple class loyalties at work: the home-owning professionals of the Democratic and Civic Parties occupy privileged perches in the upper percentiles of our grotesquely distorted distribution of wealth. (The Aussie dockers must be on well over double their Hong Kong counterparts’ take-home pay – and for far fewer hours a month – yet Hong Kong has a higher per-capita GDP.) But if the pro-dems saw it that way, they wouldn’t be in politics; they’d join the Voice of Loving HK, and kick out its clerical-staff and small-trader useful idiots. We can only conclude, not for the first time, that they are in love with being an opposition without a hope.

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9 Responses to Occupy Central starts early, pro-dems fail to show

  1. maugrim says:

    Communism in essence is meant to be about the rights of the ‘worker’. So, we have a situation where Communist mouth pieces speak against those advocating protection for workers. Strangely, such ‘Communists’ are also supporting a billionaire who also owns and runs ports on ‘communist soil’ who, presumably is free to run whatever labour market practices he likes. As you say, for the Commos to lose the support of labour unions, its truly an own goal. Lets see how the Dems stuff it up eh?

  2. No, they are not an opposition without hope. All they have is hope.

    Remember what that comedian said: “I never felt better than when I gave up hope”.

    Woody Allen it may have been. Or John Pilger.

    As for Summer of Love Occupy Central, apparently anyone can join, even Mainland infiltrators.

    I think it’s time I went round and had a talk with them. All this 1960s nostalgia is right up my alley.

    I thought you might have mentioned the Powellesque headline in the SCMP today about how disease-ridden those nasty locusts have become. I ought to report them to the Equal Opportunities Commission or someone but it seems everyone laps up this kind of neo-racism nowadays.

  3. Property Developer says:

    I suppose the big question that nobody can answer is whether, in the face of the denial of democracy and economic inequality, social unrest will gradually become so widespread, or involving the middle class so much, as to provoke Peking into some reaction.

    This is the way needle matches happen here: you up the ante so slowly, increase the frog’s temperature so gradually, cut off the cars in the next lane so quickly, clear your throat to spit so imperceptibly, mention the special price so subliminally, let your dog growl so quietly, that the victim, temporarily distracted, must judge the moment when the inevitable spectators are likely to come on side — by which time it may be too late.

  4. aghast says:

    It’s pretty pointless castigating Democrat leaders for being home owners when most people in Hong Kong own their own homes. Including Hemlock, of course.

    And why make out out that there is some kind of choice between economics and politics? There will only be an opportunity for more economic fairness when there is a more equitable political system. CY will never be able to make any difference until he has political support, and he doesn’t.

  5. Stephen says:

    “in love with being an opposition without hope” Agreed. Sadly many of us have concluded this some time ago. I can remember long ago arguing with a Newfy whose gist seemed to be that Hong Kong can’t have democracy or Long Hair would be in power. Rather than, the more accurate, if legislature was elected fairly for and by the people, Long Hair wouldn’t have a snowballs chance in Hell of being elected.

    Unfortunately the CCP, having no mandate and only looking to preserve their leaders’ privilege and wealth, can’t risk opening the system meaning the opposition has many more years to enjoy being the opposition without hope, as you so correctly put it.

  6. KS Li says:

    The reason we use subcontractors is precisely so that we can get rid of them when they become irritants. To run a modern port, you need skilled crane operators; the rest of the work can be done by monkeys. So we’ve kept most of the crane guys on HIT salary (and made it clear to them that they can be replaced by cheaper staff brought in from my Shenzhen operations if they act up), and contracted the monkeys out.

    The only reason we haven’t fired all the monkeys immediately it because it would look bad. But make no mistake, unless they’re capable of escalating this into something a lot bigger than a dock strike (sans effective picket line), I’m not even slightly worried about it. The more containers that get diverted to Shenzhen, the quicker I can turn HK’s docks into residential land and really make money off of them.

    Thank-you for continuing to make me rich in everything you do in my town. If a humble plastic flower maker like me can become a billionaire here, anyone can. Well, could. Now that 5 or 6 families run the show and busily suck the lifeblood out of the place with our cozy property-based monopoly, you don’t have a chance.

  7. farm chairs says:

    Sorry, off topic, but I can’t help myself. Anyone seen the ad on the front page of today’s subStandard?

    I quote, errors and all:
    “Pool House.

    Immerse in the Heartbeat of the Ocean. A Refined Flair of Class.

    Border on the foreshore of Discovery Bay, Amalfi is crafted to be an exquisite architecture that echos the idyllic ocean waves. The prominent penthouse “Pool House” boasts deluxe rooftop Sky Pool and Sky Garden forming and exclusive heaven that rejuvenates your soul in the tranquil ambience.”

    “Embrace Myriads of Starlight. Atop celestial realm of Discovery Bay, Amalfi is encircled by the splendid Victoria Harbour and the surrounding greenery.”

    Sorry again, I have to interrupt here. DB is encircled by Victoria Harbour? Only in the sense that HKR’s marketing dept’s brains are encircled by Uranus.

    Now back to the advert:

    “Nestle in the Empyrean. Glittering myriads of moving stars in the privileged horizon, where the sapphire sea and sky becomes your private collection.”

    Even by the standards of HK real estate horseshit, this is in a class by itself.

    Translation: “It’s so unlikely that anyone who’s not a semi-illiterate corrupt locust would buy this overpriced piece of shit that it doesn’t matter if our copy transmits information in any known language”.

  8. Failed Alchemist says:

    The Pro-Demo’s are a sham. A dream boat heading no where. Now Lee Wing Tat is taking Anson’s and ahemm… Martin’s position which is fine with many of us. However, the dreamy so called leader of the free-world, Albert seems to try to close the stable doors after the horse has bolted. This is the problem with present HKers. Driving using the rear view mirror. Simple, if they wanted their utopian wet dream, why concede to the Duck without spelling out the terms. Occupy is another sham in the making to cover one’s stupidity or drama in the making or just a case of parents wasting good money on education for a PHd (permanent head damage) kid. Maybe these academics should join those centers that gauge what makes HKers depressed when shopping or should we be wishing them something which has association with kites…

  9. Regislea says:

    Farm Chairs:

    I suggest one of two things has happened.

    1. It’s written by a gwailo copywriter taking the mickey.

    2 It’s been written in “plain” Chinglish and then the writer has gone to the thesaurus and substituted the most obscure or attractive-sounding word he could find.

    Not that either is any excuse!

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