The personal, not to say bitchy, mud-slinging between heart surgeon Yu Cheuk-man and management/colleagues at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Shatin starts to calm down as government health authorities send some boys round to slap them about a bit and bring them to their senses. At the same time, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce’s workshop on Dealing With Difficult People becomes fully booked. Coincidence? I hardly think so.
The Hong Kong government, in its usual forthright and confident fashion, anonymously leaks vague plans for a public consultation on constitutional reform to begin (probably, perhaps) in around six months’ time. Compared with such exercises in the past, which were blatantly and embarrassingly rigged to lead nowhere, this one looks set to cautiously prepare for some sort of change. We will hear lots of blather about the need for consensus and the supposed difficulties of overhauling small-circle functional constituencies in the Legislative Council and the nomination system for Chief Executive. But the real issue, and the final authority, is a Chinese Communist Party that is petrified at the thought of allowing a citizenry to freely and collectively choose its own local leadership, yet is unable to figure out any other way to quell widespread dissatisfaction in Hong Kong. Beijing is tormenting itself by exaggerating both these supposed dangers, but that comes with the whole insecure, paranoid, one-party territory.
Chinese officials’ desperate and uppity lecture to the new US Consul-General in Hong Kong about non-interference in local politics is the latest manifestation of this fear. At least some credit for prodding Beijing towards a tipping point must go to the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement. In the Communist mind, this is a conspiracy to usurp control, and it must inspire the most demonic imagery – from the Party’s own revolutionary origins, to Martin Luther King’s speech 50 years ago, to Tiananmen Square in 1989. Occupy Central is also forcing at least a modicum of unity and discipline onto the hopelessly split pro-democracy camp, which left to its own devices will bicker over irrelevant symbolism or air-headed posturing. Not bad for a bunch of people talking about sitting in the street.
Enjoy the next few consultation-free months while they last.