Euphemism, hype and spin welcome the reader to today’s South China Morning Post. It’s no different from most other days, or from most other newspapers, but for some reason today’s proprietorial, editorial and journalistic sins all seem to leap from the pages shouting for attention.
Starting on page 1, we learn that disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai’s trial starts on Thursday (and over by Friday lunchtime?). This is an area where the Hong Kong press could set the tone for broader international coverage. Indeed, it will be interesting to see how the world’s media balance the official fiction and the barely knowable reality. They will be invited to see a show trial (the Standard, unlike the SCMP, mentions that the political elite write the script). They will be told the accused is an aberration, and that he committed a number of offenses involving particular other people and sums of money or assets, all neatly leading to a widely supposed suspended death sentence.
By way of background, the overseas press will regale readers, for the hundredth time, with the stories of evil wife Gu Kailai, tedious-sounding murdered foreign fixer Neil Heywood and the police chief who fled to the US Consulate. What we will probably not hear about is the full extent of the body count and the confiscated assets. How many gangsters/businessmen did Bo’s Chongqing henchmen torture and/or kill? How many billions were stolen and granted to family and cronies or recycled into the municipal budget? And if one senior official can run his own kleptocratic, murderous fiefdom for years apparently unnoticed, how many more are there? And what are the repercussions for China and the world? If today’s report is anything to go by, the SCMP doesn’t look likely to be setting the pace on this.
Over in the local news, the paper offers a half-page feature on Lingnan University Professor Ho Lok-sang, leading member of the ‘Silent Majority’, the United Front’s latest and relatively wholesome-looking group against the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement. It is a portrait of a well-intentioned but timid – as in slightly petrified – hand-wringer.
The journeys that Hong Kong political and activist figures have taken from youthful idealism to their respective positions on the pro-Beijing-pro-Dem spectrum are guided by ambition, fear, greed, peer pressure and ideology (probably in that order). Pro-Beijing types are additionally influenced by vindictiveness, and pro-Dems by lust for martyrdom.
For an academic like Ho, the main considerations could be career and rivalry, but we are not told. All we learn is that his position is borderline namby-pamby. He would support Occupy Central, he says, if it adopted tactics that would have no impact. He accepts that Hong Kong has social problems but doesn’t think they justify ‘such a large-scale protest’. He once supported functional constituencies in the Legislative Council ‘to use professional knowledge for Hong Kong’s overall well-being’, but now he doesn’t. He believes in constitutionalism on the Mainland, but does not oppose one-party rule. This is so spineless you almost feel sorry for him.
The weirdest comment sounds like a mis-translation, but it can’t be because it gets highlighted: ‘Democracy – though not ideal at present – is not a pressing issue’. Is anything ‘not ideal at present’ pressing? Nothing springs to mind. Presumably it is a convoluted way of saying that Hong Kong’s current political system is working wonderfully well, without having to acknowledge the unavoidable fact that it isn’t.
We could go on (how about ‘Let’s stop arguing and pretend everything’s nice’, or ‘OK, Shanghai is a no-hope dump after all’). But let’s end with a touch of the exotic, as the SCMP reports how happy Hong Kong’s first-ever batch of Bangladeshi house servants are. And why should they not be glad to be here? They come from a country where a factory worker gets HK$500-700 a month; some of them previously served as maids in various Middle East hellholes. One has even been given her own spoon! But, digging down into the story, behind the smiles, we learn that not everything is going well. After just a few months, 10 of the 50 Bangladesh-ettes have been fired – some no doubt with recruiting agents’ debts to repay – after just a week or so (for reasons that remain mysterious). At this rate, the SCMP’s story this time next year will be ‘Last Bangladeshi domestic helper in town sacked’.
If you want to see a real show trial, watch the Bradley Manning reruns. At least Bo is a real criminal.
Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel! Ho Lok-sang looks like a frightened tortoise. You are really being too kind to call anyone at Lingnan an “academic”. Sweet of you.
The Bangladeshis are not quite the cheapest slaves available on the world market. Togo, Malawi and Spanish Sahara are untapped resources for Hong Kong’s middle class. It is amazing how people here willingly spend five times a maid’s monthly salary on club memberships and car parking. Primary care and English language from the world’s poor and wretched but a Prada handbag proudly in the hand. That’s Hong Kong.
I had a terrible thought this morning. If CY Leung were Mountain Master of the Sun Yee On, everything suddenly makes sense. I need a lie down.
I can’t believe anyone would lose patience and fly off the handle here.
I have serious reservations about where HK is headed. I’m not hand wringing and crying about “why can’t we all get along?” I think our Government is a little too Machiavellian by half and over egg almost everything they do. We are getting to the point where the HK version of Maslow’s hierachy of needs involves an Alphard, a domestic helper who is paid as lowly as possible, a child at an International school and as much ‘power/influence’ over others as possible.
Hemmers : I am still totally fazed as to how you manage to rise on Monday mornings and write such deep stuff. (Are you teetotal?)
My own comment this morning is that if we are faced with a choice of one loud-mouthed primary school teacher and several hundred dead, I would choose the former.
Personally I am preparing some rotten eggs to throw at the Occupy Central groupies – that’s if they even group.
HK – world city – is not all it makes out to be, but it’s still a helluva better place than most of this world.
All you who say “Neah” fuck off
“Neah”. I’ll get my coat …
RTP save your eggs for the wolves in sheep’s clothing who don’t have the guts to come out and say who is really pulling their strings
“My own comment this morning is that if we are faced with a choice of one loud-mouthed primary school teacher and several hundred dead, I would choose the former.”
That makes absolutely no sense to me. But then, I’m a bear of little brain.
And who are these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” to whom maugrim refers, who are, he contends, too gutless to say who is really “pulling their strings” (by “their” he is presumably referring to the Occupy Central chappies)?
Is it …
The New World Order
The Disney Corporation
We have a right to know!
Comments section a bunch of gibberish today. You guys have a good weekend? Not that I have anything intelligent to add myself.
The headline writers at the PCMP must be twisted, tortured creatures from the murky depths — yet another reason to try the Sub-Standard instead.
Since the British Consul-G and the BBC are also running scared of big bad China, and Beijing Cream has visbly been nobbled, Hemlock and The Atlantic are about the only ones left standing.
Sojourner, you presumed incorrectly. Try the other side.
maugrim, I am glad I presumed incorrectly. I did worry about you for a while back there. 🙂
Every time I read the words ‘show trial’ I think of 1930s cabaret, and Bo Xilai in a top hat. Then the SCMP brings me back down to earth with an ad for a watch I couldn’t possibly afford in my lifetime.
“And if one senior official can run his own kleptocratic, murderous fiefdom for years apparently unnoticed, how many more are there?”
This one at least is fairly easy to calculate. The Chinese Communist Party has a membership of 60 million people.
Old Mao once came up with an interesting concept: Permanent Revolution.
Of course, within the context of Mao’s general thinking, it made no sense, because communism is an inherently flawed system. But the idea itself should not be discarded: every once in a while you open the gates of the stables, flush out the muck with a river of blood and start anew with the fresh, crisp smell of napalm in the morning.
All in favor say ‘ay’.
Change of topic: Can someone please explain the whole “cross-border pupils” business for those of us who’ve not been paying attention? Thousands of children from non-HK-resident families are permitted to cross the border to attend HK schools. Um, why? And what fees do they pay? How is this in HK’s interest?
Xiaoyao, Aren’t these children born in HK to (mostly) mainland families, so counted as full HK citizens?
There’s currently a plan to reverse the flow: let HK children attend school in China, presumably in the foreign schools or in a new category, local foreign schools, and so paying foreign local yuan to do so.
@ Joe Blow