Forget the Japanese occupation, the 1960s riots or SARS. Chief Executive CY Leung declares that Hong Kong has never been in such a crisis as this – the filibustering of the 2013-14 Budget in the Legislative Council. The consequences if the budget isn’t passed will be dire and irreversible. What will happen? Will public hospitals turn dying patients away? Will schools close forever? Will senior civil servants have to take the bus rather than their chauffeur-driven cars? No, the worst thing CY can think up in response to a pro-Beijing legislator’s loaded question is damage to something called our ‘global reputation’. ‘Huge’ damage, no less.
Oddly enough, this is the same fate that we are told befalls us if the Occupy Central movement goes ahead and does its sit-down thing on the streets next year. As well as reputational harm, such a protest will also cause huge economic losses, and some extremely important people known as ‘investors’ will run away.
The stock market’s response is to start the day up 24 points.
The demonization of radicals and pro-democrats through exaggerated and often plainly false claims of the supposed damage they do is not new. A few years back, officials and pro-government media successfully convinced much of the public that lawmakers who resigned in order to force by-elections were wasting vast public wealth. If there is a silent majority, it may well be the part of the community that is receptive to the notion of opposition as disruption or vandalism rather than opposition as promotion of better ideas and policies.
One reason is that the political structure (and the colonial mentality of the bureaucracy) gives opponents few choices other than to be obstructive and loud. Another is that the pro-democrats are not too hot on better ideas and policies. The filibustering radicals like ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung are demanding a universal pension – a bad policy that lacks overwhelming public support. And pro-dems seem to find it hard to articulate rebuttals to smears about them hurting Hong Kong. The Occupy Central people could make a case (because it’s true) that their civil disobedience could be huge symbolically but of little consequence to the economy. Worst-case scenario: commuters downtown have clean air for a few days. But they don’t.
For every po-faced official who gets away with portraying the pro-democrats as naughty children costing the taxpayer money and imperiling civilization, there’s one who seems determined to undermine the government’s credibility at every opportunity. And usually, that’s Police Commissioner Andy Tsang, whose valiant boys in blue have just arrested a semi-obscure activist called Melody Chan on a two-year-old charge – not long after she raised her minor public profile working with Occupy Central. Several other radicals have also been charged with offences dating from the 2011 protest. Now it’s the pro-dems’ turn to fling mud, typically in the form of the phrase ‘white terror’.
The police chief swears that this isn’t a politically motivated crackdown. I’m inclined to believe him: if the idea is to marginalize or intimidate dissidents, this is an extraordinarily humiliating, and anyway inept, way of doing it. Even the Standard’s ‘Mary Ma’ editorial rolls its eyes in exasperation at the cops’ claim that it took them all this time to track down vicious 26-year-old trainee-lawyer Melody. Just as Occupy Central is starting to look a bit directionless, along comes Andy Tsang to declare the weekend open by delivering the movement a boost in public sympathy and credibility.
“Universal pension – lacks public support”. So I suppose everyone sent their HK$ 6,000 handout back. Have you been using the renowned HKIEd phone questionnaire? Basic human rights always have public support.
Putting dissidents in jail is perfect. We need a rallying point. Never underestimate the police’s capacity to play both ends.
The police are presently going round seeing who has guns. The rest of the time they are guarding banks and jewellers or standing around demanding identity documents as usual.
When all is said and done, they are just glorified clerks and will run a mile when it gets heavy. Nothing to fear. The PLA troops will probably mutiny and start the big collapse on the Mainland.
I heard Tsang speak recently, lets just say, and I was incredulous, when he appeared to be the voice of relative calm and reason. One guy was foaming in indignation at the possibility of a Central sit in and encouraged the use of batons etc. (In fact, for Flashman fans, it reminded me of old Morrison asking that troops be called in to quel strikers). Tsang’s response was actually quite measured.
Personally, I hope Hong Kong does go off a fiscal cliff (or perhaps, a pecuniary molehill). I’d love to see civil servants not getting paid their air conditioning allowances – imagine how that would hurt morale!
Don’t hold your breath, old boy. You appear to have overlooked the following declaration of the Govenment’s priorities:
From the Sub – Standard today: “If the budget is still not passed by Wednesday, the government will activate contingency measures and grant funds only for urgent matters such as civil servants’ payrolls and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.”
@Big Al. I think you will find the air-conditioning allowance went over a decade ago. In any case, civil servants will be paid from supplementary provision. The failure to pass the budget will mainly hit those new provisions such as tax relief and extra money for old folks.
Fan the flames of revolution, yeah baby lets get this thing ON!!!
Oneleg does not understand why the two biggest nincompoops (both surnamed Tsang after the colony’s biggest criminal) are still employed.
Paul Zimmerman has just cited Hemmers on Facebook. For all you fogeys not yet on FB:
“Hk Hemlock is so excited with the Police Commissioner’s support for radicals fighting for democracy, he forgets to declare the weekend open ..”
My browser (I hope, anyway) told me China Daily was a “security risk”, and I would have to bear the consequences of any temerarious action, or words to that effect.
Melody, says the sub-Standard, deserves all she gets, as she is, through her employment, consorting with evil devils, a capital offence in a country not far away from here, or at least that’s how I read the piece.
If I may dot the theoretical i’s on your down-to-earth analysis, long experience in the horse-trading business — plus reading Chinese Psychology for Absolute Beginners — has taught me that you can remonstrate or demonstrate till you’re blue in the face, but attention will only be got when the magical word, dollar, first appears, after which you don’t have time to blink. So how will snake-eyes CY escape this time… (to be ctd).
Dream Bear, For aircon allowance, read New Territories Allowance, which was awarded for hardship postings in Tsing Yi, Choi Hung, Kowloon Tong, etc.
That travel allowance was stopped in the 90s. Keep up.
Are all these colonial-era allowances ending. Tsk tsk.
aghast, You shouldn’t read these flippant examples, which were already no longer fit for purpose in your heyday, too literally.
It’s more useful to consider them as symbols of obsolescence and insulation from the concerns of people and the general lack of common sense that are still only too prevalent amongst the closed-blind, blinkered-view, jobs-for-life brigade you seem to sympathise with.
If there’s one thing I hate more than greedy tycoons, illegal tycoon-mobile parking and inept ( and sometimes crooked) civil servants call tsang it’s FB .
I guess the next thing the pro-dems will cook up will be that we all vote off-line for the new CE ( or the process whereby to elect the next CE) by voting on FB
PS: I bumped into Paul Z the other day. I thought I somehow recognized him from somewhere and at first blush I thought he was Jake vd Kamp with a face lift. Anyway, if someone as intelligent as PZ reads the BL that does give us some kudos !
On which flippant note : I must say that what Hemmers wrote today was indeed very intelligent and well thought -out. I just wonder what time he goes to bed ( 19.00 PM? ) in order to be able to get up early enough just to think out – let alone pen – his daily blog.
@ Real Tax Payer
I agree that FBH is ghastly, but it’s unfortunately the most effective way to keep in touch with my sprogs back in Blighty (who think that even emails are so last century).
But after a while, corruption inevitably seeps in, and before you know it you start posting pictures of cute cats just like everyone else.
FB, I mean …