Where are Confucius’ teachings on decorum when you need them?

The death toll from the typhoon in the Philippines is the same as it was yesterday – namely, no-one has a clue. Given the aerial shots of afflicted regions, even a well-governed developed country would have trouble knowing where to start. Foreign aid is starting to come in, led by the US Marines, Japanese medics, US$9m each from Australia and the UK, US$200,000 from Taiwan and even US$100,000 from storm-damaged Vietnam, and help from Citibank (link includes details for donors).  

The South China Morning Post tries to put a gloss on China’s contribution, which at US$100,000, looks like a calculated and churlish snub towards Southeast Asia’s most reluctant kowtower to the Middle Kingdom. There is something a bit disturbing about the Chinese leadership’s ability, and indeed apparent eagerness, to pass up an opportunity to display magnanimity and good grace. Those of us with long-enough memories might recall the time in 1986 when Hong Kong’s then-governor Edward Youde died on a duty visit to Beijing. A photo subsequently appeared in the press of an unkempt, cigarette-puffing workman shoving a rough wood coffin to be loaded onto a plane; if the idea was to repel the Hong Kong public, it worked. As with its miserly donation to the Philippines today, it undermined China’s overall interests, and showed a bizarre lack of awareness, or care, about national image. Maybe Chinese officials get some sort of quick, pleasurable thrill from it and just can’t stop themselves.

In a sadly similar vein, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung announces that the disaster befalling the Philippines won’t change his government’s one-month deadline for the imposition of ‘sanctions’, unless Manila gives satisfaction over the 2010 bus hijacking. Even Labour Party legislator Fernando Cheung, normally a hand-wringing humanitarian preaching justice for the poor, is so wrapped up in the wretched bus thing that he seems oblivious to what he is saying. It is as if these people have lost any sense of decency or even practicality. Or simple awareness of how it must look to any outsider; fortunately, the world’s press seems to have more pressing stories than ‘HK takes callousness and insularity to new heights’.

To make sense of it, we need an explanation. Obviously, a lot of Hong Kong politicians have invested a lot of effort into ramping up the bus tragedy in recent weeks. To CY, it has offered a chance to distract attention from HKTV’s licence-refusal and his other woes; in his desperation, he might even have hoped it would win him a few extra shreds of approval rating. For the pro-democrats, it has been a profile-raiser and something else to criticize the administration for. For the patriotic pro-Beijing camp, it has been an opportunity to pander to populist and racist instincts (as it has for everyone), and a welcome occasion on which the Hong Kong public might align itself with Mainland-style nationalism.

As it has been, no doubt, for CY – presumably second-guessing or just taking guidance from Beijing’s local Liaison Office. The recent resurgence of the bus tragedy has suited Chinese foreign and Hong Kong policy nicely. It has been an additional means of bullying Manila for its uppity attitude over maritime boundaries and closeness to the US. It has also served as a great opportunity to get Hongkongers to identify themselves as victimized by foreigners. Generations of Mainlanders have been taught all (if not more) about their ancestors’ persecution and exploitation at the hands of foreigners, and how the Communists rescued the people from this humiliation. In Hong Kong, by contrast, the narrative has been of oppression at the hands of the Communists, and escape to refuge in the colony of a relatively benign foreign power. Filipinos’ victimhood at the hands of natural disaster is an intrusion into this struggle of communal mythologies.


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25 Responses to Where are Confucius’ teachings on decorum when you need them?

  1. maugrim says:

    When you consider the amounts taken from HK under the guise of ‘aid’ to China following disasters there as an example of how others show compassion when China is concerned, $100,000 to the Philippines is particularly cheeky. One wonders about a city state whose legislators leave their kids in the care of Philppinas (and care they do) whilst rushing to LegCo to mete out punishment to their carers and their families. Dissonance in action.

  2. Regislea says:

    Disgusting behaviour – why am I not surprised?

  3. Regina Yip Lau Suk Yee says:

    please stop calling me vagina

  4. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    Today, I’m ashamed of Hong Kong. We joke in these columns about the nonsense that goes on in this place, but this whole episode had laid bare a xenophobic undercurrent in our society that we all suspected existed, but rarely surfaced to give proof to our suspicions. What happened in the Manila bus siege was awful, and my heart goes out to the victims. But to now exploit the aftermath of this natural disaster to gain some political advantage is heartless and deeply disturbing. It this is a calculated move by the government, and not just a lack of appreciation, we are truly lost.

  5. PropertyDeveloper says:

    As usual, you raise all the correct questions, of which the most acute one is why China seems to go out of its way not to show any compassion, humanity, generosity or commonsense, let alone empathy, as soon as foreign relations enter the equation.

    Even Alex Lo, in yesterday’s PCMP, is making some progress on this issue, bringing himself to criticise, or at least suggest room for improvement to, the foreign relations of his compatriots across the boundary, albeit tempered by a conclusion that more or less gets us back to square one (the whole world is prejudiced against China).

    The Youde example, which I wasn’t aware of (incidentally how did the photo get out?) is often echoed in the annals of Chinese revolution, where foreign diplomats did not receive the necessary protection.

    However, in my view, you seem to be pussyfooting around a possible answer: because China can, because in its cynical, realpolitik world, you grind the perceived potential rival’s face into the ground, because to show any lack of utter ruthlessness could be considered a sign of weakness.

  6. Stephen says:

    CY Leung’s “I couldn’t give a shite approach” is something, I suppose, we are going to have to get used too. That it makes him unpopular and in this instance a callous jerk he seems not to care. It’s either he really is following the mainland edict to the letter or he’s been told by Beijing that whatever mechanism they put in place, for the 2017 CE Election, he hasn’t a hope in hell of winning it. The more I look the more I see its Carrie for 2017.

    The deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones in The Philippines.

  7. reductio says:

    I’ve run out of sarcasm today. My wife was trying to get in touch with some of her relatives today but can’t get an answer. Maybe they’re alive, maybe they’re dead. Who knows? So to these three bottom-feeders in particular

    CY Leung
    Tam Yiu Chung
    Fernando Cheung

    F*** you.

  8. Sid says:

    George (I imagine), Is your spelling mistake deliberate?

  9. Mary Hinge says:

    @ Sid: I imagine he’s just got a dose of the yips.

  10. Incredulous says:

    Sickening, cynical bastards!

  11. Oneleggoalie says:

    Given that 95% of all relief funds end up in corrupt officials pockets…in China and Philippines…can you imagine what would have been syphoned off had the sum been…


    and please refer to Vagina Ip as Hervagina Ip.

  12. Chris Maden says:

    @ Gin Soaked: spot on.

  13. Dawei says:

    Let me see my donation was 0.03 percent of the entire country of China’s. This makes me feel important indeed that I can modestly compete all on my own with a super power, with 5,000 years of history. I am way ahead of Hong Kong though.

    One cannot fathom the depth of vindictiveness that exists over such a monumental human tragedy all due to a bus shooting and island squabbles. Vested interests and real hurt over the bus tragedy should be transcended by the sheer amount of human suffering caused to innocents by this Typhoon. I do wonder when next Hong Kong will raise the bus issue with Manilla. I don’t think they can show there face again. If I was a Philippia I would say stuff your visa who wants to go to HK anyway, there are other places.

    As a HK resident I am deeply ashamed.

  14. Spot on. Who gives a damn whether Manila has asked for extra time? You would have to be a really cold-hearted bastard to put pressure on the Philippines at this time. The country is going to take a generation to recover from this disaster.

  15. gweiloeye says:

    Hong Kong and China, Shame on you!

    and in breaking news CY Leung states (just proving he is a fuckwit):

    “we will decide aid via the normal process”

    Shoe shiner comittee no doubt, wonder if it is similar process to TV rights.

    “the Philippines have not requested an extension to the Manila Bus deadline”

    I think they are bit busy at moment with more important things than your irrelevant deadline you dickhead.

  16. PHT says:

    Fernando Cheung, Vice-Chairman of the Labour Party – What an a-hole! I believe he used to be a Lecturer in Social Work at HK PolyU. He was also previously the Social Welfare Functional Constituency LegCo member.

  17. Chimp says:

    The trick would be to donate $100 million or so, but directly to people affected, rather than via the (despicable) Philippine government or rent seeking “charities”.

    Hell, make it a billion. I am entirely happy to kick in my share. You have to feel sorry for the people of the Philippines: natural disasters AND the most venal, corrupted government on the planet.

  18. Mjrelje says:

    Erm, no, China has the most corrupted government on the planet, followed closely by brothers in arms – North Korea. China you are a failed state.

  19. Bright Eyes says:

    Like Gin Soaked Boy, I am saddened beyond the usual banter by the ease with which so many of this town’s denizens are flaunting utterly repugnant views on ‘outsiders’ of various stripes.

    However, I found a crumb of comfort when I engaged in online chat several of my F***book acquaintances who had ‘liked’ a mortifying page urging HKG to give nothing to Haiyan’s victims. I found that their positions crumbled genuinely and quite quickly when faced with a few simple arguments, above mere embarrassment at being ‘found’ on such a page.

    Perhaps all that’s missing is some moral leadership? Stand up all vertebrate politicians!

  20. Baldleon says:

    @Bright Eyes: link to such a disgusting page? I’ve found plenty of pages stemming from HK to raise donations though

  21. The unscientific but indicative SCMP poll shows 87% in favour of sending aid. Hong Kong people are traditionally generous on such occasions, and while many may have initially thought “sod ’em” after the Manila bus tragedy, the scenes of utter devastation and children without food, water, shelter or medicine are causing them to think again.

  22. Bangkok Lurker says:

    Are you aware that there are now two facebook “Community pages” urging Hong Kong people NOT to donate to the Philippine disaster relief?



    I urge all right-thinking people to log in and give them a stern lesson in how to rejoin the human family.

  23. Baldleon says:

    @Bangkok Lurker:

    Correct about the 1st website. Wrong about the 2nd (it’s about urging the HK gov’t not to donate to China due to govt corruption)

  24. Bangkok Lurker says:

    @ Baldleon:

    Thanks for the correction. I was (perhaps) misled by a Filipino-Chinese friend who says that the second page doesn’t specify which government is being referred to, but that taken in context, it appears to to refer to that of the Philippines.

    Grateful if anyone fluent in Chinese can provide a definitive answer.

  25. Baldleon says:

    @bangkok Lurker: it was about the April 2013 Lushan Earthquake. You may recall that many HK legislators were dead-set against the govt in donating money with the belief that the funds will end up in the pockets of the Chinese officials

    Look at the date in which the Facebook group was founded

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