Shanghai, and tycoons, get desperate

If you’re a free newspaper, you can prostitute yourself all you like. The Standard today carries no fewer than three stories glorifying one Li Ruigang, Mainland TV and radio tycoon, for reasons that are not clear but presumably go beyond everyday shoe-shining into, perhaps, the owner Charles Ho’s hopes of cementing some sort of cross-border media deal. Li plans a Shanghai version of Lan Kwai Fong (can’t anyone think up anything original any more?), knows much and cares deeply about Hong Kong’s declining creativity (I’m not making this up) and absolutely did NOT NOT NOT rise up in the state-run world of Mainland media thanks to a relationship with the gorgeous pouting daughter of a Politburo member (I think we can safely read between the gaping, laboured lines). Wanting a Lan Kwai Fong: pitiful or what?

Back on planet Earth – well, not really, but a bit closer – Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung continues his barely believable ‘shooting self in foot after self-immolating and leaping from window’ act. After a generous two-week excuse-inventing interval, the government is coming up with an official super-credible reason why entrepreneur-led HKTV didn’t get a TV broadcasting licence while stations run by members of dynastic cartel-running conglomerates did: HKTV lacked a big parent company, deemed necessary for financial sustainability in a competitive market. If that sounds like a fancy way of saying “Your daddy isn’t a tycoon, so there,” that’s unfortunate, but it’s the best we could do in two weeks.

The government is trying desperately to beat tomorrow’s Legislative Council powers-and-privileges motion that would force it to produce all the papers behind the licensing decision. It will probably succeed, thanks to the in-built veto power of the mainly pro-Beijing Functional Constituencies. Apart from a token few allotted to the pro-democracy camp, the FCs are divided between Communist loyalists, who will follow orders, and (mostly cartel-related) ‘business’ interests. The latter detest CY but also hate competition for cozy market-rigging cliques, and so may initially feel torn. But they will also, no doubt, ultimately follow orders.

Hopes of solving the root cause of this mess – a dysfunctional political system – lie with constitutional reform, which is possibly coming soon, or at least soonish, after much foot-dragging for over 20 years. It will all be decided by Beijing, which has to choose whether to depend less on buying the loyalty of business and other vested interests with crony government, and instead to trust the wider population to elect leaders who are competent but won’t challenge the Communist Party.

One constantly repeated falsehood is that things can only change if the bulk of the Hong Kong community can agree on a way forward. The theory is that both pro-democrats and the pro-tycoon FCs have a veto over any reform bill in LegCo. The South China Morning Post yesterday did its bit to perpetuate this myth in an editorial on the need for compromise:

Hong Kong failed when the first chance for political reform under Chinese rule arose eight years ago. Despite strong public desire for change, the government and lawmakers could not agree on the way forward when handling the reform in 2005.

The truth is that no way forward was on the table; Beijing offered a 2007 package of purely symbolic change.

…the city cannot afford to miss the coming opportunity. Standing still is not an option … crafting an electoral package acceptable to the key stakeholders will not be easy … the language of political conciliation is needed … dialogue and co-operation [are] essential … That means putting aside differences and seeking common ground on the way ahead … Hong Kong cannot afford to march on the spot on the road towards democracy. We need to work harder to come up with a road map and turn it into reality. Compromise is essential.

This is all a code for ‘we must con people into thinking the FCs can and have to stay in some form’. When saying we need a package “acceptable to the key stakeholders,” the (tycoon-owned) SCMP is suggesting that the FCs would use their veto against a package eliminating or seriously reducing their privileges. Constitutionally, they could. But any such package will come from Beijing. If (by some chance) Beijing orders to FCs to vote themselves out of existence, they will obey. The dynamics give the pro-dems, on the other hand, a genuine veto (which, typically, they are neglecting because it’s more fun to rant about how the Chief Executive candidates must be nominated by a ‘committee’ comprising the whole electorate.)

So remember: when you hear hand-wringing pleas for ‘compromise’ on things like the FCs, you are probably listening to tycoons begging to retain the upper hand.


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9 Responses to Shanghai, and tycoons, get desperate

  1. Sid says:

    The problem is that we are peddled dangerous half-truths, which multiply like mould in April, and which slimily slide their way into the grey areas and “loopholes” of public discourse.

    A reasonable person, if there are any left, might claim that the present regime does need public opinion on its side and considerable guile to implemement the slightest measure, as even the police are looking slightly frayed at the edges. Even the claim that you need considerable finances behind you to set up a TV station cannot entirely be dismissed out of hand. But these people don’t play fair, and reason hardly helps.

    Combating the insidious political half-truths, innuendo, and sleight of hand, as you masterfully show, requires dipping at least ones toes into the stinking, bubbling morass: irony and exposure of hypocrisy are probably the only ways to stem the ineluctable-seeming tide of merde.

  2. Mary Hinge says:

    Excellent comment by “dynamco” on the SCMP website re. the HKTV fiasco:

    “Bill Gates started his business in a garage
    Richard Branson published the ‘Student’ magazine at age 16
    Neither finished University
    Li Ka Shing started up selling plastic slippers
    Under HK Government’s requirements, these people never would have made it to where they are now with no chance for the small guy, just hand everything over the rich to get richer.
    If TV companies can improve their product offer then more advertising revenue would emanate.
    If ATV cannot compete they should not be in the business even if they are family connected in EXCO.
    Meanwhile there should be a blooper prize for the number of re-run movies shown on NowTV and I-Cable over a 3 month period.”

  3. Sojourner says:

    Reading both the government’s mealy-mouthed “explanation” for denying HKTV a license and the SCMP’s craven editorial, I am reminded of what Orwell wrote in “Politics and the English Language”:

    “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.

    When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

  4. Gumshoe says:

    I’m so happy that the housing market thrives on free trade and any control could seriously damage its health. The television market, on the other hand, deserves some real thought to prevent any potential problems(?) that may occur if a business happens to fail. We’re just looking out for HKTVs interests, basically.

    Three words: What the hell?

  5. gweiloeye says:

    Can omeone confirm if I heard wrong or not, but if you want the the Now or iCable “free” to air you need to have their IPTV boxes??? WTF!

  6. Sojourner says:

    Since I don’t give a damn about sport, I quite happily get by without cable.

    (Uncensored) TV shows can be downloaded gratis from certain sites the day after they are broadcast in the UK or USA. Films too are available still warm from the cinema projector.

    Remember … Property is theft.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    Free-to-air TV is old media and will die anyway.
    Talking about old media:

    Farewell then, Barrie Grindrod
    who used to write for the Post
    which, sadly, is now toast.
    After that you wrote about planes
    but not about buses or trains.
    You married (?) a dolly
    who served beer from a trolley.
    At night she mumbles ‘chicken, fish or halal sheep’
    but you are fast asleep.

  8. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    On sleaze related matters, the nice lady collecting signatures for a petition to stop the hotel near the Peak walk, told me the project is being run by the brother of someone in the CE’s office. Anyone got the inside track on this?

  9. Oneleggoalie says:

    Joe can insult old people and get away with it…
    in rhyme too no less…

    Sooo impressed…

    bring back hanging and racism…we beg.

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