A couple of Hong Kong syndromes break out in our fair city today. First sufferer is former senior civil servant, now half-convincing Beijing loyalist and Executive Councilor Fanny Law. She makes a moderately interesting contribution to the Big Lychee’s not-yet-started-but-underway debate on political reform by opposing the screening of Chief Executive candidates, and suggesting an instant runoff vote to ensure the winner has a majority.
Nothing very thrilling, perhaps. But in a discourse in which reptilian self-appointed business elites and sinister pro-Communists mutter darkly about the evils of representative government, we must be grateful for every modest helping of common sense that comes along. Sadly, Fanny lapses at one point into Non-Sequitur Syndrome. Specifically, she proposes that the number of Chief Executive candidates on the ballot be limited to three because otherwise “…it would be difficult for voters to understand their platforms.” She doesn’t say why an increase in the number of platforms should lead to a decrease in their comprehensibility – probably because there is no such correlation. She may have good cause to believe the ballot should be limited to three, but this isn’t it.
Non-reasons are hardly unique to Hong Kong, and everyone talks crap sometimes. The problem is that sloppy thinking goes unchallenged too often. One small example… We could sort out a lot of Hong Kong’s problems by slapping a big sales tax on luxury goods and barring non-residents from buying homes here. Any such suggestion provokes howls of protest – from otherwise benevolent and objective people as well as vested interests – that such a move would ‘damage Hong Kong’s reputation as a free port/shoppers’ paradise’. It goes unquestioned. No-one stops to examine why this should be a bad thing. No-one sticks their hand up to ask: if maintaining this ‘reputation’ damages local people’s quality of life, why not shred it?
Second, we have a severe case of Bitchy Eye-Scratching Schoolgirl Freak-Out Syndrome. This unedifying phenomenon is stereotypically associated with thespians. In Hong Kong it breaks out regularly in education; most lawmakers and top officials have received a bulging dossier from some mentally deranged lecturer Who Has To Be Right detailing the injustices behind his decade-old feud with his department head and fellow academics. But it is shocking to find it breaking out among the medical profession.
A heart surgeon is suspended after his hospital detects a pattern of complications among his patients. I would have thought the professional thing to do in these circumstances is to cooperate with the investigation. An exceptionally skilled specialist could have an above-average failure rate because he gets all the toughest cases. Alternatively, a practitioner might be over-reaching himself, in which case, given lives are at stake, it is essential that he and everyone else face up to it – that’s why these guys get paid more than real-estate agents. What you don’t do is hold a press conference, dispute allegations line-by-line, wave your qualifications around for maximum face-loss and declare it all a conspiracy. (If it really is a conspiracy, you are better off leaving quietly; nice people, amazingly, rarely inspire universal dislike among their colleagues.)
We really don’t need to know any of this, do we? But then again… if the newspapers insist on thrusting it into our faces, I suppose we have to look. It’s not exactly Dead Ringers, but would we want this guy hovering over us, gripping his scalpel tighter and tighter as he ponders legal action against all the other doctors who want to become famous with their fancy overseas training and who are out to get him? The public has a right to incessant prurient gratification know. And once you start looking, it’s quite compelling. Ambitious parents don’t dream of their little kid becoming a college lecturer.