Business community, ordered to talk piffle, obeys

It would be surprising if the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1861, were not pro-establishment. In many ways, it is the establishment, or at least a major traditional pillar of it. But during the journey from, say, 1970s colony to 2010s Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong’s ruling class was transformed. The Westerners who once dominated the hierarchy were largely displaced by local Chinese, while pro-British tycoons and officials had to awkwardly – not always convincingly – reinvent themselves as having been patriotic sons and daughters of the dragon all along. (The one constant has been the status of the devout local Communist Party loyalists, who have been social outcasts all along, though now tolerated in small doses for symbolic reasons. Mainland officials, conversely, have gone from public enemy/security risk status to demigods worshiped unconditionally by the great and good.)

At the same time, relations between business and government have gone from correct, detached and sometimes mutually suspicious to almost so intertwined as to become one vested interest pitted against the rest of the population. Hardly a coincidence, needless to say.

So in the case of the HKGCC, it has been bye-bye Sir Jimmy MacGregor (ex-military Brit 50s-60s civil servant who fought corruption and became Chamber director), hello Lily Chiang (tycoon’s daughter who became Chamber chairman in 2007 before getting imprisoned for fraud). OK – this might be a bit unfair: a better comparison would be with the current Chamber chief executive, ex-bureaucrat Shirley Yuen, but we need to spice the story up. We can see the transition taking place in a letter from tycoon’s kid James Tien, today of the Liberal Party, disowning MacGregor as the Chamber’s man in the Legislative Council in the early 90s. (We’re not trying to get dewy-eyed and nostalgic here; it’s a jolt to remember that colonial-style rule continued so long and thus became so anachronistic.)

So it’s no surprise to find the HKGCC today dutifully joining in the pro-Beijing United Front effort to smear the organizers of the harmless and well-intentioned, if naïve, Occupy Central movement. The strongest outburst comes from the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, which will endorse anything China’s local officials ask it to; a few years back, it mounted a turgid public education campaign on the evils of the Falun Gong. The line it is pushing this time is that a bunch of people sitting in the street singing We Shall Overcome will mysteriously shut down the stock exchange, which in turn will mysteriously cause the economy so much harm that we will never recover. HKGCC members silently endorse this twaddle without a murmur, but then their gutsier forebears had fought the Japanese, the Communists and corrupt cops.

Not that it hugely matters: when was the last time anyone took any notice of the HKGCC? The American Chamber, presumably because many of its members are expats being rotated through town, is less interested in politically correct shoe-shining and more outspoken on things like air pollution.

What is interesting is the Occupy Central people’s reaction to this contrived and laughable attack. They should mock the business groups for being used as puppets and spouting ridiculous slogans about extremism and economic damage. Instead, they respond on their poodle-critics’ own idiotic terms – terms calculated to alarm passing members of the public – and are reduced to claims not to be anarchists. A battle between an alliance of Communist cadres, selfish bureaucrats, inherited wealth and shoe-shining hangers-on on the one hand, and nice, polite, middle-class academics and lawyers on the other was never going to be pretty.


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8 Responses to Business community, ordered to talk piffle, obeys

  1. Nice piece. Occupy Central is not pretty, it’s far-out man. Think 1968, flower power, free love, tune out and turn on. They just don’t have a Timothy Leary and that’s why they’re even funnier. Like Les Dawson at the opera. Or Ken Dodd at a literary soirée.

    Its all part of the rich comedy which is Hong Kong. Where else would you live? It’s laughs galore.

    Strange though that people come for the money, or the food, or the girls, or the shops when it is still Comedy Capital Of The World.

    And we still do not have an official Rainy Season either. Biggest laugh of all.

  2. Failed Alchemist says:

    In life, there is hindsight, insight and foresight. As for JamesTien & his brood, there is neither – they are all certified blind. Reading his comments on MacGregor puts one to shame – viva lah ING, Manulife, AIA etc and others who sucks the very last dime from the Big Lychee.

    As for the HKGCC, one feels truly depressed visiting any of their offices & dealing with staff there. The offices looks like & acts like a mortuary – undertaker and all. Today, declarations can be done online and commissions to them are heideous amounts. HKGCC has outlived is pass due date except to collect stupid statistics & incorrect data for HK government.

  3. maugrim says:

    The response by the HKGCC is just the same old ‘wah’ of ‘wah, we will lose money if ……… (insert, we make passengers wear a belt, stop drivers speeding through red lights, dont allow passengers to use unlicensed taxis, etc). Its also funny to see the same old popping up, wearing different hats, spouting the same line. James Tien, now that is a surprise. /sarc.

  4. Jason90 says:

    HK Standard: An Occupy Central member, University of Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, played down concerns.

    “I believe our action to strive for true democracy may in the long run help economic development as a chief executive so elected will be able to enjoy the much-needed legitimate authority to lead Hong Kong out of the governance impasse that has haunted us for years,” Tai said.

  5. Two a' Breast says:

    How can Hong Kong possibly have true democracy with a one-party state in charge? Someone throw Prof Benny a biscuit and send him back to his temple of learning.

    And why doesn’t the Occupy movement go and do something useful. The police need to know how to arrest a woman without fondling her breasts, and the HK Observatory needs someone to physically restrain its weather warning guy.

  6. Oneleggoalie says:

    Oneleg feels that the people in government and politics are about the same standard as those who play soccer in the local professional leagues…regardless of how much money or education is invested, these simpletons just aren’t good enough.

  7. Sojourner says:

    “A battle between an alliance of Communist cadres, selfish bureaucrats, inherited wealth and shoe-shining hangers-on on the one hand, and nice, polite, middle-class academics and lawyers on the other was never going to be pretty.”

    The horror! The horror!

    It’s like watching a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor.

    There is only one possible solution for the Great and the Good. They must learn from the luminaries of history. Between them a reactionary German Junker and a fiery English lady of refined bourgeoisie stock light the path for our brave revolutionaries:

    “The great questions of the day will not be settled by speeches or majority votes — that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849 — but by blood and iron.” — Bismarck

    “The argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument of modern politics.” — Emmeline Pankhurst

  8. rubber duque says:

    If we’re going to quote Pankhurst, I prefer:
    “There is something that Governments care for far more than human life, and that is the security of property, and so it is through property that we shall strike the enemy. Be militant each in your own way. I incite this meeting to rebellion.”

    Or maybe we’ll all just go back to wanking to our iFads and lining up for Hello Twitty dolls instead. It’s rather hard to imagine HK’s milquetoast millennials hurling Molotov cocktails, much as that might amuse.

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