Alpais Lam’s 15 minutes

Are the police starting to reap what they have been sowing as groups claiming to support them face off against opponents in Mongkok? This saga started a couple of weeks ago when teacher Alpais Lam saw the pro-communist militants known as the Hong Kong Youth Care Association hassling members of the loopy Falun Gong quasi-Buddhist cult in Mongkok. She remonstrated with the police, who she perceived to be turning a blind eye to the aggressors. (Video here; slightly bemused China Daily commentary on opposition elements’ use of foul language here.)

We would like to think that the police are impartial in these matters, even in the face of tiresome behaviour and insults, but there have been too many reports of small-scale bias, inflexibility and awkwardness directed at anti-establishment protestors in the last few years. It may be because the Police Commissioner himself has conservative and authoritarian leanings, or it could be that the government has encouraged it, perhaps to forestall criticism from Beijing officials about over-indulgence of spoilt Hongkongers’ disloyalty.

At the same time, loud and even obnoxious pro-government and pro-Beijing groups, apparently beyond direct control of the mainstream United Front, are sprouting up, mounting pro-government marches, covering Tsimshatsui in anti-Falun Gong banners, demanding National Education, and so on. They are half-clownish, half-menacing, and may have links with Mainland businesses. The hard core of members are not puppets; they seem to be as personally driven as the most dedicated activists in the pro-democracy camp.

These two trends added together are not a good combination. The more heated this sort of friction on the streets gets, the more important it is that the cops are seen to be as even-handed as possible. Partly because that is their role in a free society. But also for the more practical reason that when it comes to numbers, the pro-dem/opposition/skeptic/dissident/anti-locust/whatever camp will always be able to produce far more protestors than the pro-Beijing mob. The police would be trashing their own integrity if they picked sides.

While the valiant fuzz were trying to maintain order without fear or favour in Kowloon, their emergency services colleagues across the harbour were attending a traffic accident. The tangled wreckage they were pulling apart was an eloquent metaphor for Development Secretary Paul Chan’s political career. (Or should we read something into the fact that it was just a bump?)

Wits wonder whether his vehicular mishap was a suicide attempt. He could be forgiven for wanting to take the easy way out. As minister in charge of housing, he has endured the embarrassment of having a wife who is a slum landlord. Then her family is found to own land that will rocket in value if his plans for new towns go through. And now his Assistant Vice-Deputy Sub-Assistant Henry Ho resigns after failing to declare a family interest in a decrepit-looking chemical factory in the aforementioned area slated for development. Not least, the bid to end it all results in no more than a strained neck – exactly the sort of miserable failure we would expect from the man.

Alternatively, it could be that the Gods of Divine Vengeance, irate at the sight of yet another eight-seat luxury mega-van clogging up the busy streets of Causeway Bay, forced him into the path of a taxi driver without realizing it was in fact Chan at the wheel. We will probably never know.

What members of the HK Youth Care Association do in their spare time

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11 Responses to Alpais Lam’s 15 minutes

  1. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    It looked to me that the police were being totally impartial by separating these two groups to prevent a right ding dong.

  2. Only authors can understand events really. The leader writers, the journalists, the political analysts can’t. The psychologists have an inkling but they quickly fall into the data trap.

    There is a malaise in Hong Kong, greed engendering corruption engendering frustration engendering hopelessness – a tension in the streets. You can feel it or you can’t. The Grapes Of Wrath, you could call it. The Maotai Of The Philistines is better.

    The causes of the Mong Kok brouhaha are incidental. The steam pressure released is more interesting.

    Re-reading Graham Greene’s THE QUIET AMERICAN I was struck by his uncanny predictions of everything that happened in Vietnam the next twenty years. Napalm, Americans’ indifference to blood on their shoes if it serves a theory, the CIA, wishful thinking, ignorance, making the world safe for democracy, the real tears and sincerity and innocence of the American warmongers: It’s all there. The innocent are the most dangerous, of course. Always.

    The unexpected is always upon us. But that’s Beckett.

    Watch the steam, not the pot.

    PS: Paul Chan transferred the minivan to his wife moments before the accident.. He is totally innocent.

    PPS: But it’s not a triple dog pram.

  3. Stephen says:

    Paul Chan is a walking (driving) example of what is wrong with politics in this town – All sides know it, but what to do about it?

    Are the Police being even handed ? Generally yes. But even they must be getting sick to the back teeth of the continuous inept governance that causes – Annual 1 July Protest (recurring), 4 June Tiananmen Square Massacre Rally (recurring), Ad-Hoc Blow ups – Patriotic Education, Mainland Bigwig visits, WTO Korean farmers, Numerous corrupt Government officials, etc etc ad nauseum. Now we have to throw Occupy Central into the mix. You can’t blame anyone (Police included) for shouting at both Governments to fix it.

    I’m still looking and waiting for that shining light moderate Pro-Dem candidate to reveal him/herself and start making soothing noises to the central Government that all will be well in 2017 and some of the above are fixable?

  4. Maugrim says:

    The “parent” group who initiated the escalation is a front that have other ends in mind. Groups such as that are tolerated and possibly encouraged by the Government as a means of encouraging others to do a little bit of dirty work here and there. The trail in such matters invariably leads back to the occasional pro-govt lawmaker

  5. NENT PropertyDeveloper says:

    One of Paul Chan’s brake-lights may be broken: I demand that it be investigated whether he’s getting special treatment.

    On balance, I’d say he must a priori if not prima facie bear more of the consequences, since he seems to have been cutting into the taxi-driver’s lane (queue de poisson). In any case, he can’t be made of very stern stuff if a minor side-on bump puts him on a stretcher.

    Bela is right: journalists and academics have too much at stake in the system to see the wood for the political and social trees. It takes a rank outsider with sensitive antennae to fully pick up the increasingly neurotic behaviour of our co-citizens.

  6. David Webb says:

    Apparently these traffic accidents are contagious – hence the need for a face mask.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    I too believe that the ‘car accident’ was an act of desperation on the part of Paul. Was he on the way to Damascus ?

    The sad thing -or just the thing- with these ueber-ambitious people is that they spend all their lives scheming, conniving and elbowing their way to the top. In the middle of the night they are sharpening knives that they can stick in their colleagues’ backs at the 10 AM staff meeting. Up, up they go. And then, suddenly and out of nowhere, the unexpected happens. And that’s about the only thing they are not prepared for. It hits them like a cement truck. Or in Paul’s case, a taxi.

    “My wife did it !” (Henry)
    “I have found Jesus !” (Tony aka Peter)
    “My wife’s family did it ! Ich habe es nicht gewusst !”

    *clash bang….there goes the Alphard*

  8. Grog says:

    Don’t you love how the press jumped on “P-Plategate” in a frantic attempt to turn it into something else Chan could be asked to resign over.

    Maybe he also uses training wheels on his bicycle despite being quite able to ride on two wheels. Gasp!

  9. Regislea says:

    I have long held the theory that the escalation of i) numbers of demonstrations, ii) the force that the demonstrators exert, and iii) the force with which the police respond is all a part of a cunning plan that culminates when the PLA are invited on to the streets to restore order.

    Watch this for a more detailed exposition of the technique involved:

  10. Spud says:

    If you have ever had any kind if bump in HK, the hospital visit is standard procedure for any kind of accident, you are at a major disadvantage if you do not have any kind of report even if it says they combed your hair.

  11. Bangkok Lurker says:

    “The more heated this sort of friction on the streets gets, the more important it is that the cops are seen to be as even-handed as possible. Partly because that is their role in a free society.”

    Ah, but Hong Kong is not a free society, is it? You’re not even allowed to vote for who governs you.

    Here in Thailand, everyone can vote for their choice of government, but end up electing corrupt populist dictators.

    Whither so-called democracy?

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