Regina’s contortions

A lot of people in Hong Kong think then-Security Secretary Regina Ip fled government in disgrace in 2003 after her attempt to introduce ‘Article 23’ national security laws horribly failed in the face of public opposition. This isn’t true; the widowed mother had already planned to resign in order to accompany her daughter when the latter went to school in the US.

Regina took the opportunity to return to studies herself at Stanford, where she penned an MA dissertation called Hong Kong: A Case Study in Democratic Development in Transitional Societies. You can probably get beyond the catalogue entries if you have access to the tightly guarded troves that keep prying eyes away from academic contributions to humanity’s body of knowledge; a summary crops up here. While the paper could be read as embracing democracy, it also accepted Beijing’s ‘gradual and orderly blah blah’ barriers to reform, leading one commentator to give it a D grade.

On return to the Big Lychee Regina dedicated herself to satisfying her lust for political standing. Accompanied by locally born Stanford science grads, she started the Savantas ‘think tank’, and later, with textiles scion Michael Tien, the New People’s Party. After losing a by-election against former Chief Secretary Anson Chan, she won a seat in the Legislative Council and later joined the Executive Council as a non-official.

In terms of policy, she has pushed outdated high-tech economic planning a la 1960s Japan, along with methodically chosen livelihood issues like opposition to a levy on foreign maids, designed to appeal to an aspirational but politically docile ‘middle class’. Such a constituency exists, but her party’s ranking in fourth place (among all the splintered pro-dem and other groups) in the 2008 Legco election suggests its limitations as a power base.

If she has core principles, they are those of the old-style and increasingly discredited British-trained bureaucrat-elitist. Her hands are meanwhile tied by her perhaps rash decision to join the Executive Council of Chief Executive CY Leung, who has been ambushed by detractors across the spectrum and simultaneously made himself unlikeable among most everyone else. Finding herself in this position, with an unquenchable thirst for power, and at age 63 having only the 2017 election as a chance to slake it, she is bound to be a bit panicky and confused. One minute, she needs to be the voice of at least a decent chunk of the people, the next minute she has to scrabble to reassure local conservative forces and/or Beijing that she shares their misgivings about representative government.

In her column in yesterday’s South China Morning Post she presents herself as an unabashed reactionary. She chooses a rather narrow range of ills to lament. She feels bitter about the decision to give handouts to poor inhabitants of illegal dwellings, a view shared by bureaucrats who see such people as law-breakers rather than victims of appalling government housing policies (next stop, indoor relief). She tut-tuts about populist sentiment against golf courses and (more seriously) elite schools that in practice keep the poor out. She frets over anti-rich and anti-Mainland feeling.

Most interesting is her analysis of why this is all happening. She allows that a housing problem and the wealth gap exist, but she stresses the bigger context so much it sounds like she is railing against the modern world itself. The voice of the people has grown louder; we have constitutionalism and lawsuits; officials have had to become (or appear) more responsive to popular needs; “Hong Kong people have lost their sense of decency, respect for hard work and professional standards”; even “the expansion of education contributed to the souring of the mood.” Bring back hanging, and ban votes for women while you’re at it.

Some people might think she simply is reactionary, but I doubt she is this illiberal at heart. She seems to be joining, in her own way, Beijing officials’ contrived panic about how Hong Kong is tearing itself to bits because of radicalism, disaffection, etc. (We can guess she wrote the piece a week or so before publication; the United Front seems to have told its loyal followers to turn the volume down in recent days.)

Her basic thesis, that Hong Kong is in trouble because weak government panders to vested interests, is beyond dispute. But only an ignoramus believes deep down that Beijing is not the basic problem. She is writing this stuff because she is afraid of what might happen if she expresses more sensible opinions, and what it would mean for her dream of riding to our rescue a few years down the road. People who would prefer someone else to do our rescuing in due course might want to cut out and keep this SCMP piece for future reference.

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16 Responses to Regina’s contortions

  1. Joe Blow says:

    In the top picture she looks like one of those Japanese-style cosplay Lolita’s you see in Causeway Bay on Sundays.

  2. I’ve described Regina as living in a strange sado-masochist world in an article on NTSCMP, as she is always taking a sadistic stance, as she did towards Snowden, in order to elicit public revulsion, which must in turn satisfy her fundamental masochism. I think it’s the skeleton key to everything she does or says.

    Sado-masochists love contortions I believe.

    Freud never analyzed politicians in psychoanalytic terms, as far as I know. I guess we have to. It’s part of our human bondage.

  3. Sir Crispin says:

    There are cosplay Lolita’s in CWB on Sunday? Hmmmmm.

    I wonder, am I the only one who thinks a Singapore-style benign dictator would be good for HK?

  4. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Beautiful hatchet job, or rather death by a dozen cuts.

    The tragedy of the would-be Rex-ette Imperatrice is her wish to bridge the unbridgeable gap between an advanced, at least by HK standards, liberal foreign-devil education and the patriotic Tiananmen butchers, between carrying out the unspeakably filthy work as instructed by Tung and Leung and striking an independent-seeming pose, between patiently biding her time and building up to one ultimate last attempt to again wield the glorious whip. The comedy lies in her craven TV appearances, all darting eyes and evanescent attempts to smile, crusty make-up and semi-bouffant waves.

    But seriously, she must in her heart realise the reason for all of Hong Kong’s melees and malaise (nothing to do with the hordes of Malays). Nothing to do either with compensating squatters, which, despite what she claims, has been going on for decades, although involving the NT people, thus making it all right. She just has to look at the (deleted) responses to the barbarian Gold-Mountain Consul’s question as to what HKers really want, a long Latinate word beginning with i and ending in e.

    Bring back Philip Bowring! He has more patriotism in his little finger than all the cronies of Exco combined.

  5. Grog says:

    Come now, Sir Crispin. You are really wondering what Regina Ip looks like under those power suits.

  6. maugrim says:

    Bela, having met Ms. Ip, I can confirm she gives off such a vibe.

    HK is a small place and its easy to meet politicians from time to time, from the most stupid such as the ‘Rodent Queen’ to those, owing to ambition and cunning, that are not to be messed with. Ms. Ip comes in at the latter part of that spectrum. I was at a wedding recently. Regina may not have, from what I could see, come into the church and take part in the service as a number of large potatoes did. Rather, fully dressed in white, she seemingly set up camp outside the church and was seen waving to and saying goodbye to those leaving as if she was either the mother of the bride or a Japanese flight attendant. I thought to myself, who comes to a wedding and behaves as if its election time and they are on a street corner wearing a sash waving at passing traffic? I think we have the answer.

  7. Bela Baffled says:


    RTHK joins the politically motivated harassment of teachers in Hong Kong.

    FOUR people have “petitioned” “the school in Fanling where primary teacher Alpais Lam works, demanding she be suspended until she apologises to the police officers she verbally abused.”

    In what way do four people protesting amount to a “petition” and why does it rate as a local news item in the sparse English news of Radio Television Hong Kong?

  8. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Joe Blow,

    Not a cosplay character, but more like one of the reasome ladies ladies in the Dilbert cartoons

  9. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Bela, It’s like the 3-hour hunger strike with snacks permitted or the 3-year time capsule with a peek halfway: trivia exaggerated a hundredfold are in the Basic Law as a fundamental human right with Chinese characteristics.

  10. Sir Crispin says:

    Grog, not wondering what Regina looks like. But maybe the PM of Thailand.

  11. G. Hova says:

    Ah, Yingluk – rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  12. Chris Maden says:

    I found her article prolix, boring and vapid. All it amounted to was old-folks’ grumbles about the youth-of-today from which she drew the conclusion that democracy is not the answer to all problems. Yeah, and….?

  13. Chris Maden says:

    @G Hova,

    She’s known as “cup cakes” in Thai…

  14. G. Hova says:


  15. Sir Crispin, I wish I could answer “yes” to your question, but I fear not.

    Among all the analysis of Hong Kong’s ills recently, no one seems to have pointed out that Hong Kong people endured hardship and disparity of wealth in the 1960s and 1970s because they knew that with a little hard work and luck they could rise out of poverty and join the elite, or at least the comfortable middle class – as many did. Today the social structure is so firmly cemented that those at the bottom of the ladder no longer have any chance to climb it. Their only option, therefore, is to throw it down and build a new structure, hence the higher level of discontent.

  16. Oneleggoalie says:

    She is the most sensible and realistic candidate we have…CY to weed out the crap…and RY to steer the ship through the one-party morons.
    Oneleg humbly submits…

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