Let us now praise moderate moderates

The South China Morning Post holds a debate on democracy. Although the event yields a full-page report and page-one story, the choice of participants suggests extreme caution on the part of the organizers, as if the audience comprised victims of post-traumatic stress disorder and serious heart conditions.

SCMP staff must have been too numb to groan when someone inevitably suggested Ronald Arculli GBM, GBS, CVO (don’t ask), OBE, JP. The all-purpose, pro-government, pro-tycoon lawyer is a member of so many property developers’ boards and public bodies, that it’s amazing he found the time. Sitting on, for example, the Justices of the Peace Selection Committee really eats into your day. Most dazzling and profound contribution to the discussion: “We the community should not be totally consumed by the [political reform] issue. The economy and employment are also very important.”

Next up was Dame Conscience herself, former Chief Secretary Anson Chan. Her basic position, though she wouldn’t exactly put it this way, is that Hong Kong should never have ceased being a British colony, with her in charge, naturally. “We have been waiting … for 28 years since the [first] direct election to the district councils, yet we are still waiting [for universal suffrage],” she said yesterday. This is a bit rich from someone who, in her time as a pre- and post-1997 senior official, would have played her part in delaying and denying democracy. “If I can’t run the place as an autocrat, no-one else should be able to,” might be a bit closer to the mark.

There’s an old Chinese saying – I think – about how if you see someone once, after many year years’ absence, you soon see them again. And lo, after encountering entrepreneur, etc, etc David Tang for the first time in ages just yesterday, he makes another appearance. He has strong opinions on many things, but restricted himself to the obvious in this debate. Sample comment: “We cannot rely on [Chief Executives] for leadership – that is why we have endless consultation.” Which should lead to a “therefore…”, but doesn’t (or at least not one that makes it into the story).

The only person likely to be worth listening to out of this lot would be Tsang Yok-sing, Legislative Council President and leading figure in the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment Etc of Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party’s de facto local front. Like others born into the quasi-religion, he has remained loyal even as Beijing has pointedly kept colonial-era capitalists and bureaucrats of the Arculli-Chan variety running the city under the Motherland’s sovereignty. But he has recently shown some exasperation with the current political structure, and probably calculates that the patriotic camp would have a better chance of exercising power with universal suffrage than without. “Standing still” will mean “disappointment and resentment,” he said, after “16 years of … very serious flaws in governance.” Under the system, that is, insisted upon by Deng Xiaoping and his equally venerated comrades and heirs.

Last comes an SCMP columnist called Alice Wu, who stirred things up by declaring: “We have to praise the moderates for being moderate.” Our problems solved.

On an equally exciting note, Pacific Coffee this morning was handing out free copies of China Daily. (If this is how they attract customers, what would they do to repel them?) No mention of yesterday’s alleged/apparent Xinjiang suicide bombing in Tiananmen Square, but, as always, the propaganda sheet devotes a lot of space to items about tourism.

It’s a safe, largely neutral subject. It offers opportunities to stress Chinese people’s growing individual freedom and prosperity, shopping in Paris and snorkeling in the Maldives. It has undertones of international friendship, as happy smiling people visit each other’s countries and enjoy all that deep and meaningful cultural exchange.

Maybe they will pick up on a recent piece from the New York Times. A British sociology professor says that Chinese (and Indian) tourists should be free to spit when travelling overseas, and foreign hosts should stop imposing their racist, anti-phlegm cultural colonialism (OK, not in those exact words) on them by insisting they hold it back or do it discreetly in a tissue (ditto).

Then again, maybe it’s not so much a tourism story as one about sociologists.

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20 Responses to Let us now praise moderate moderates

  1. Joe Blow says:

    The last time I bought a print copy of a paper ($ 6-, I think) was circa 2001, and I refuse to touch the free dailies that the MTR grannies keep pushing in my face.

    How long, do you reckon, before the very last printed newspaper will come off the press ?

  2. Sojourner says:

    When I hear the words “sociology professor” I reach for my water pistol, fill it with dog pee, and squirt in in said professor’s face.

    It’s a hallowed traditional custom in the Black Country of the West Midlands, and should be tolerated in the name of cultural diversity.

  3. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    Hemmers, well done! You have put into words my exact sentiments regarding Anson. I’m told that for many years Anson prominently displayed a picture of Mother Teresa in her office. Anson, like Mother Teresa, perpetuates a false image of caring, whilst working for self-interest. Who can forget her fleeting appearance on a pro-dem matches before nipping away to get her hair done. That’s real commitment.

  4. Grog says:

    I thought Alex Lo made a good point this morning. Would anyone in HK give a stuff about democracy if they could have affordable housing, decent (and affordable) education, better medical and pension schemes, permission to road race in country parks, etc? Probably not, except the only way to get that is through good governance, and while HK isn’t exactly awash with competent politicians, at least universal suffrage will get rid of the idiots in charge.

    More importantly, am I getting old or does Alice Wu look like a babe?

  5. Gumshoe says:

    w/r/t the NY Times piece: “Do not force tourists to conform to your standards. It not their culture!” When visiting another country: “You need to conform to their culture! It’s their country!”

    I’m all for cultural exchange and learning, but this just seems like a really weird concept that I hear a lot. Where’s the middle ground?

  6. maugrim says:

    Many a true word is said in jest in Hemlock’s posts. Without disagreeing about what was said, which isn’t far from another thought that if you put a white man in charge of HK, doing pretty much (or as little) as CY and his band of elves are, there would be more acceptance. My point, HK under the British, as exemplified by the Thatcherian Mrs. Chan, weren’t always better. However, that said, just as India was led by generations of mem sahibs, we could do worse than to mobilise the legions of convent educated, well dressed and spoken colonial-Chinese tai tai’s who would soon bring common sense to how HK is governed. My point is, it was the Ansons who believed in planning, in goals and in caring for HK. Something that we have lost along the way.

  7. reductio says:

    I want what The Ronster is on. The guy’s a stallion!

  8. Henry says:

    I’m all for cultural exchange and learning too, but I draw the line at letting your kiddie take a dump on the MTR.

  9. phonus balonus says:

    David Tang looks as if he has recently rolled his sleeves up to his armpits and tucked into a tray of mooncakes. Doesn’t he have any dress sense?’ Oh wait……

  10. Oneleggoalie says:

    Jasper is the only one you could listen to…if you had to…
    Regina is good…sometimes…on Sunday Post…which doesn’t get mentioned here…
    …Anson thinks she is still of any significance…
    rats in an alley are more alive.

  11. henry says:

    I recall the silky-smooth Ronald in action a few years ago on the BBC’s Hardtalk. The interviewer kept returning to the point that HK had been changed by the steady interventions of Govt since the handover. It was no longer a place for vigorous enterprise. Ronald had no trouble batting him away like an annoying mosquito. He sat there as if on opium, a fixed smile playing on his lips, large, dark eyes giving nothing away. A masterful performance.

  12. gweiloeye says:

    I notice Alice couldn’t fill the same column inches that the others did, she mustn’t have got the memo. Ahh the China Daily, do people actually buy that, there always seems to be just as many copies on sale in the afternoon as there was at the start of the day – a shame SCMP is going the same way (or is it already there?).

  13. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Maugrim, The essential difference, without needing to bring in race, is that the pre-1997 government reported to democratically elected representatives, whereas CY and his buddies have little legitimiacy from any system of universal suffrage.

    Spitting is a local art form and I’m disappointed as such an unanalytic appoach to its finer points. On the principle that a threat is more powerful than an action, the preliminary gathering of the phlegm, while the artist looks round for a suitable destination, should be followed by a period of suspense, and the projectile launched only after careful consideration.

    It’s like pointing, litter and cameras: acts that may appear random to naiver souls amongst us in fact have a clear intention.

    Am I sounding a bit like George Adams?

  14. Rory says:

    PropDev – can I get this clear – the democratically etc you refer to is the UK Parliament?

  15. Stephen says:

    @Maugrim,

    I think what confused Tung and especially Bowtie is they thought they could replicate Patten and all will be good. What they patently forget is Hong Kong and its populace has moved on and things that were acceptable 16 years ago are not now. I don’t know whether woeful Governance will continue after some form of Universal Suffrage is introduced but electorate can only blame itself and vote him / her out after one term. However I fear by 2017 that 20 years of ineptitude will have left an unwashable stain on the Big Lychee.

  16. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Rory, As I’m sure you know, the UK PM needs a majority in parliament, which is elected by one person one vote, a more democratic system than in HK.

  17. Real Tax Payer says:

    The tourists are really becoming a pain in the neck – or rather legs.

    Not only do I keep tripping up over their pull-along suitcases in Causeway Bay ( do they live out of their suitcases and never check into a hotel ? ) but they fill up all the buses on Lantau . Had to queue 40 minutes ( = 2 bus loads worth of tourists every 20 minutes ) to catch a bus today from Tung Chung to Tai O, and coming back was standing room only. Next time I’ll take the ferry to Mui Wo.

  18. Joe Blow says:

    …..all the buses on Lantau……

    You must be a retiree.

  19. @Gumshoe – the middle ground is respect. Treat people with respect wherever you are; try to avoid doing anything patently offensive when visiting another country (or territory, I add for obvious reasons); overlook minor breaches of etiquette by visitors to your own country, but politely advise them their actions are not acceptable when they step too far out of line.

    Then kick their heads in if they take no notice or get argumentative….

  20. Pornstar Wong says:

    I have seen Anson Chan about four times in the, ahem, flesh. Each time, it was either inside a Hermes shop (Lee Garden and Icehouse Street) – or the relatively proletarian Links of London (Prince’s Building).

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