Sort-of-charismatic-by-Democratic-Party-standards lawmaker James To. Slick and unscrupulous Filipino politicians. Families suffering from the double-misfortune of a) losing loved ones in the Manila bus shooting and b) appearing at a superficial glance to be more interested in money. Hapless Hong Kong government officials trying in vain to herd all the above. And now all-too obviously ambitious legislator and former Security Secretary Regina Ip. Once a tragedy, the 2010 Manila killings saga is becoming a distasteful farce in need of a swift ending – and that’s probably not going to happen.
With no chance of having to take responsibility for anything, Hong Kong’s elected politicians can only strut around trying to look important. Pro-dems, who don’t have to modify their behaviour in accordance with the commands of Beijing’s local officials, especially like to latch onto good and noble causes, which somehow end up being more about themselves and specifically tests of their ability to make ever-more impossible demands. James is making the most of this.
Then we have the slimy Hokkien Mexican-ness of our southern neighbour’s governance, with Manila City Councilman Bernadito Ang offering to convey written apologies and raise lavish compensation from his businessman constituents. If the Big Lychee represents the lame, effete and amateurish end of the spectrum of political style and mannerisms, the Philippines is at the far opposite end, where brutish, corrupt cynicism is an art form. The Hongkongers thought this guy would honour a confidentiality agreement? Please…
And then there are the poor families. It starts off with “Hi, I’m James To and I’m here to help you,” and next thing you know – or maybe they don’t know – they’re being used. We all know that nasty things happen, like someone being shot dead by some lunatic in a Third World city, and we always assume it will happen to someone else, and we have no idea what it must be like when it happens to your own family. Possibly, you are so distraught that you can’t tell when your victimhood and your grievances and your pleas start to get just that little bit unseemly, and no-one has the heart or the gumption to let you know.
Trailing behind all of the above but trying to look involved is the Hong Kong government, wringing its hands with worry that the public might think it’s not wringing its hands with worry enough. The city is not a sovereign power, so getting uppity with a foreign country isn’t part of its administration’s remit or skill-set. To complicate matters, China sees the Philippines as American-backed barbarian intruders into Hainan Lake who need to be taught a lesson to keep the other vassal and tributary states in line. Furthermore, Hongkongers look down on Filipinos for being brown and poor and fit only to help the kids with their English homework, and being irritatingly happy with it. It’s a lot for panicky officials to weigh up before reacting to the latest twist.
And then, with a flash of jet-black fur, the sleek, panther-like form of Regina Ip pounces onto the scene. Unlike General Douglas MacArthur to the Filipinos, she has never uttered the words “I shall return,” but her lust to be back in government – at the top – is embarrassingly obvious, to the rest of us at least. James To has already grabbed the families for himself, and anyway Regina does ‘statesman-like’ rather than ‘cuddly and pain-sharing’, so she is demanding that Hong Kong slaps visa controls on Filipino visitors. Yes, it’s a dumb idea, as she must realize, but it says ‘decisive’, and it says ‘bangs fist on table’, which is more than anyone else around seems capable of, and it got into the news, right? Regina also strides purposefully into the debate on money, otherwise known as ‘compensation’. With Thatcherian aplomb, she declares that of course a dead Hongkonger is worth more than a dead Filipino, because the cost of living is higher here. To which there is no answer.