Allen Lee – on to something

The South China Morning Post reports that former Politburo member and municipality party secretary Bo Xilai is to be tried for taking RMB20 million in bribes and – one of those extra details that add authenticity – embezzling a further RMB5 million. If true, it is a grotesque whitewash. All the signs are that Bo’s reign of terror in Chongqing involved torture, murder and the illegal sequestration of billions’ worth of assets. China’s tightly controlled media and judicial systems are turning the emergence of a murderous princeling-warlord in the top tiers of government into an average, if high-profile, corruption case, like just another vice-mayor with a dozen mistresses or a police chief with 50 apartments.

In Hong Kong, it’s the other way round. A senior official found with an illegal structure on his property is hounded down like a serial criminal. Appointment to Body A of someone already sitting on Body B provokes screeches of ‘conflict of interest’ where there is zero linkage to be found. In the case of Development Secretary Paul Chan, drearily predictable, lawful money-grubbing real-estate investments on his wife’s part make him guilty of fraud, sleaze and gross abuse of power. (If the figures are to be believed, two Paul Chans at around HK$17 million = one Bo Xilai.)

This is a good thing. How lucky we are not to be on the other side of the border, where they bury crashed trains in the ground, and officials’ kids get away with running people over and rape. But is it so good? Could it be that the constant nitpicking over every real or perceived infraction of the rules diverts attention from an overall rottenness that is our real problem?

RTHK Radio 3 invited former politician Allen Lee to speak, presumably to advise that Chief Executive CY Leung remove Paul Chan from the government. Instead, the ex-Liberal Party boss made an anguished plea to the heavens to put Hong Kong’s political structure out of its misery (more or less – start at 09.30 here). Getting quite emotional, he complained that it wasn’t just top officials, but education and the environment, along with CY’s own poor appointments and lack of friends and credibility. Beijing, he concluded, should be “terribly worried,” go for a “total overhaul” and “allow party politics” here because this system “just doesn’t work.” He was angry.

He barely hinted at what he meant when he used the word ‘rotten’, but we can make some suggestions. Families are living in tiny, fetid subdivided slums; the best public schools have been semi-privatized so only the rich can get in; the government is awash with money, yet makes the elderly poor queue all night to see a public dentist; and so on, and so on. Meanwhile, people froth at the mouth because Paul Chan’s wife was a slum landlord, and they bicker over whether one more school should join the direct subsidy scheme. The government’s number-two has just decreed that the stash of guilt-money known as the Community Care Fund should not be given to people so poor that they are forced to live in illegal housing because… they are living in illegal housing. You would have thought people might get worked up about such bureaucratic perversity, but they’re too busy stampeding to the Independent Commission Against Corruption because Paul Chan rented (or didn’t rent?) a fruit orchard to a farmer in the 1990s. Talk about ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees’.

On a lighter (to put it mildly) note, Allen Lee’s successor as Liberal party boss, James Tien, writes to the SCMP today to plead with Occupy Central not to occupy Central, citing along the way: Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Central the robust and innocent heart’, The Bank of China’s watchful eye, the guilt of the CY Leung administration, cruelty to horses, jihadi terrorists plotting in a Lan Kwai Fong pub, our hardline police commissioner, the People’s Liberation Army, and his own valiant role in pulling the plug on Article 23 10 years ago. We must take pleasure where we can find it, and who can fail to be amused by such a glorious, rambling, almost but sadly not-quite hallucinogenic progression of half-wittedness? 

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17 Responses to Allen Lee – on to something

  1. You’ve forgotten the major difference between a villain like Bo Xilai and our ‘Enry Tang. Bo had ability and charm.

    Paul Chan appears to be just a traditional Hong Kong grafter – he ought to get a grant for adhering to all the Hong Kong norms for getting on in life: above all else, employing the family as front men and always having an eye on his bank balance. He is part of our heritage.

    James Tien following Allen Lee…Ken Dodd following Les Dawson? Just too much.

    Hong Kong is still Comedy Capital Of The World. But it hardly ever gets credit for it. We are a comedy hub. Let’s build a centre and apply for Government funds.

  2. Failed Alchemist says:

    Sadly but true, HKers can’t rule HK. Are we trying to say that worms will not crawl out of the woodwork if Henry dearest was CE? Maybe he would be better at keeping scandals in basements depending on Apple Daily’s appetite at any given time. Albert Ho? Let not start the joke of the century.

    British rule was clear cut – an administrative rule (the balance between business & the admistration, the place of expats vs locals, immigration & population policies etc). Being British, they knew how to do this well. HK was never groomed for politics, let alone self-rule esp with the pure greed instinct in place (ie. wheeling & dealing whether its a Paul, Mary or Li). Post 1997, the new experient started – intervention under the guise of laissez faire. Now its a multi headed hydra and sadly any appointment made by CY or Henry would have ended with the same results. The rot begun when the shackles of integrity and dignity in one’s service was no longer there. And what better person to personify this than The Duck. Today, its one’s view of the degrees of murder.

  3. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Without the joyful zing that sometimes permeates your musings, but as usual masterfully wise.

    Things must be changing if Michael Tien’s brother evokes PLA intervention, Allen Lee complains about “the system” — and Dr Dong’s contribution is entirely pertinent.

  4. Worm Flu Patient Zero says:

    I once lobbied James Tien about one of his proposals for rent control on flats rented out at HK$5,000 a month or less (no I’m not a slum landlord but I had rented out a brand new NT flat for HK$3,000 per month during the dark days after SARS). To my surprise, and his credit, he phoned me back. He said my investment was a commercial decision which involved risk – I countered by saying I already provided cheap housing through my taxation. To wrap up this riveting conversation I said, “By the way, thanks for all your help with Article 23.” He then got extremely embarrassed, ummed and erred, and fumbled his words before saying goodbye and hanging up.

  5. Funboy3 says:

    As a long time resident of Hong Kong, I read this post with despair.

    What a complete clusterf*ck Hong Kong is becoming!

  6. Stephen says:

    Allen Lee, that former all purpose, British lackey, turned leader of the awful Liberal Party seems, in his latter years, to be talking some sense and this is not the first time it’s been noticed. Unfortunately nobody is listening (And no Chiverton that is not a dig at you).

    There is a refreshing whiff of rebellion in the air with occupy central planned for next year and the post ‘80’s getting themselves rightly miffed at the continuous crap non representative governance, greed and the cosy collusion which is still rife.

    Does CY care? Probably not he knows he one term only, Does the liaison office, I think they do and it’s a tough ask – Improve Governance, Pretend it’s Democratic, get the public to buy in to it and keep lying through our teeth so we retain power in China.

  7. Chris Maden says:

    Let’s face it. Hong Kong is heading fast towards becoming a combined retirement village and holiday camp for China’s elite. Bo Xilai will probably retire here after serving 3 months of a suspended two-year sentence, (and his wife will invite me over for a nice glass of whisky for having written this), and join the host of other princelings with their holiday homes on the Peak.

    And, when it all becomes so unbearable that even the Allen Lee’s and Tien’s can’t stand it, they will elbow us aside in their rush to use their foreign passports.

    I’m all for direct rule by Beijing. It’s not much of an alternative, but it could hardly be worse than what we have.

  8. colonelkurtz says:

    I won’t defend the quality of many legco members or govt ministers. But to retreat into the tedious line that HKers can’t govern HK and the British were better at it just paints this comment forum in the manner that many try to. I doubt that the author shares the views that those who post dafter comments on this forum do. I never see him stray into this theme or any of the more overtly “dumb locals” lines that some posters do. I also don’t see a lot of political genius in most Western countries at the moment either on any side of politics. Obama, Cameron, Hollande, Rudd, etc are all disappointing or disastorous and their oppositions as bad if not worse. HK’s had 15 years of trainer wheel politics where the system is rigged to favour the cleptocracy, they can’t pass any real legislation, just amend or oppose it and never get administrative power and so never learn fiscal responsibility and those gerry mandered to stay in power are contrained by patriotism and the lack of electoral competition to select the leaders and their cabinet from a small, self-interested pool of mainly incompetents, business midgets or ideological zealots. Would any other self-governing jurisdiction do any better with such handicaps. Few of any talent will go into politics or govt in HK while this remains the case.

  9. Failed Alchemist says:

    @Colonel. Definition of a “dumb” local:

    – when the pan-demo, Liberals (as a number of pro-BJers) posses a hubric presumption that they can self-rule, do a better job than CY, Tung Chee Hwa or even the Brits or Beijing put together!

    – when we insist CY to step down immediately and to be replace by a lesser idiot.

    – when an upstart professor can even now lead the revolution!

    – when radicalized students are asking for one man one vote for university positions!! This is how far we have fallen.

    – when people like Paul Chan were part of the Legco system, then now in a governing position.

    – when we allowed the Duck to fester more “Paulism” from the police, to ICAC, RTHK, privacy commission, MPF, Monetary authority, even the HK Observatory. Rafael is a prime example besides all these cases in CY’s team that are a carry over from the post-handover era.

    – when we believed that the Duck will make things better and allowed him to be appointed for a second term compared to CY from his first day in office.

    – when the Legco members who we elected sit there, collect a nice salary & wave their wands or bananas.

    – when the pan-demos especially Democratic party agreed to horse trading for the 5 super seats which is meaningless and we believe in the horse

    – when they now suggest the selection committe for CE to include them, not the utopic one man one vote (which leave us out but gives them self importance of “doing” something democratic)

    The dumb will get dumber when we allow the dumbest to convince us.

  10. maugrim says:

    Some good comments above. I will say that in recent days the ‘wah’ that Li Ka Shing may be leaving HK showed how little people understand about how oligopolies can inflate prices. As to the gift that is occupy Central, I get the feeling that post occupation, its going to be blamed as the cause for any subsequent misfortune befalling the SAR. As an example, ‘the flu was caused by having so many in close proximity’. Mind you, if the PLA are really called in, it will be a mistake in the longer term and make June 4th rallies in Victoria Park all the more larger and more significant.

  11. Nury O'Vines says:

    James Tien didn’t write that. His token resident-gwailo writer wrote that. We all know the sort.

    Talking about ‘rotten’: why were my posts deleted yesterday, Mr. Hemlock ?

  12. PropertyDeveloper says:

    I do wonder sometimes if one aim of Occupy Central is to escalate things so as for the PLA to be brought in. But I’m not sure if anyone amongst the PDs has any real, practical experience of political violence or regime change. And the PLA would have the legal and even moral right to parade down Connaught Road and land extra troops from the Harbour if called upon by the CE. Occupy Central might only win over international opinion if there was considerable violence — which is perhaps an if too far.

  13. maugrim says:

    Nury, those i’ve met mainly have Chinese writers, though im sure the gweilos are out there.
    PD, occupy Central will play out very nicely for the foreign media, which is part of the plan. However, whilst as you said, the PLA can have the right to parade etc, I think it will be a long remembered act amongst the locals, far longer than any collective memory via CNN.

  14. colonelkurtz says:

    Nothing stated still justifies the arrogant and racist assertions that HKers can’t govern themselves. The system is fucked and produces fucked outcomes. Beijing has no interest in fixing the system because they have to rely on client groups that benefit from the system. The pro-communist loyalists do what they’re told. The average HKer suffers because they’re offered little or no choice in how to change the system. Most HKers I talk to professional, middle class or working class are pragmatic and sensible about things, but the system is out of their hands. The British did nothing about high land prices, oligopolies or the yawning wealth gap either. The failure to address them now is because of the fucked political system that disregards the interests of most HK people and monopolises power among a small coterie and leaves a smug unimaginative civil service unanswerable to the population. We’re talking about the superior governance genius of the same post colonial UK govts that presided over a near collapse of the UK banking system are we?

  15. Joe Blow says:

    Tell me who your friends are…….

    Well well: Kevin Egan, Phil Whelan (aka the Cliff Richard of Hong Kong)…. and more

  16. Failed Alchemist says:

    @ Colonel. On both comments noted. How can one be a racist against one’s own race? Self criticism perhaps?

    Why is the situation out of the hands of professions, middle class etc? Why allow the so called coterie of dumb pro-Demos (& Liberals) lead the public & political discourse and radicalize our youth instead of making them think for themselves?

    Why allow the pro-BJ’s advance go unchalleged? Why does so called professionals in the pan-demos like Civic party run stupid election strategies that allowed Audrey & Tania to exit Legco, then say “oops”, whereas DAB taps the system to gain more ground? Why, did we not “lynch” the Duck instead of allowing him leeway – just because he wore a bowtie & tweed jacket, spoke impecable English and prayed his sins away? We instead bray for CY’s & Paul’s blood (who are equally cupable)

    The whys can go on. However, HK & her inhabitants now need to ask “how”? Especially how to stop the tide of idiocracy especially in a tide of Mainland arrivals in our midst and bring us back to sanity (soon we may not even have enough locals to label stupid even if we wanted to). But are our so called political leaders (mini Gandhi’s & Mendala’s) in LEGCO sincere or just good students of the divide & rule colonial masters as you expressed correctly? If the latter, then we are not ready to rule ourselves but continue to flow with the tide of time & China’s place in history.

  17. Jon Dica says:

    Jihadi terrorists in Lan Kwai Fong! Missiles headed towards Moscow! I’m not wearing any pants!

    Film at 11.

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