Charles Ho, the tycoon who owns the Sing Tao and Standard newspapers, gives the world the benefit of his opinion on why former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau was chopped half to death in the street last week. It is wrong, he insists, to say politics played a part, as triads don’t carry out such attacks for political reasons. Lau, says Ho, ‘knows why he was attacked’.
The innuendo is that the assault was unrelated to Lau’s position in the media and instead connected with the sort of shady underworld activity that does lead tattooed gang-members to get out the excrement-smeared meat cleavers. Testing loan-sharks’ patience to the limit, for example, or intruding on some crime ring’s turf.
The fact is that we have no way of knowing. There is no evidence that Lau moved in mafia-type circles (though it is a hazy milieu, which overlaps into all sorts of respectable-ish areas and touches a suprising assortment of people). We do know that the sub-species who carry out contract hits do it for the money, and generally don’t care or even know what the disagreement is about or who is paying. We also know that under Lau’s editorship, Ming Pao helped expose things that powerful people wanted hidden, like the extensive wealth accumulated by the families of the Chinese leadership.
It is hard to imagine former Premier Wen Jiabao sitting with some scar-faced brute in an alleyway dai pai dong in Mongkok, arranging the near-fatal ambush. But there are demented, ultra-patriotic hangers-on and second-guessers who, of their own volition, might have a word with someone who knows someone, possibly for personal satisfaction or to impress some other party for some reason. Rather like Charles Ho, who no doubt hopes and trusts that important figures will note with approval his claim – in effect – that pro-Beijing elements would never stoop to criminal violence to silence political opposition.
Ho is currently in the nation’s capital for the annual ‘two meetings’ of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress. They should probably call it the Chinese Tycoons’ Political Consultative Blah-Blah, because it seems to be a club for the rich. Indeed, for the children of the rich. Along with Ho – scion of a tobacco empire – on the CPPCC are Li Ka-shing’s son Victor and Lee Shau-kee’s son Peter. (Fellow members include multi-millionaire basketball mutant Yao Ming and other business and entertainment stars. I suppose Communists in the era of socialism-with-Chinese-characteristics imagine that the masses will find such blatant plutocratic symbolism really cool.)
Peter Lee is best known for doing what all number-one sons must do, and that is present his father with male heirs. Only Peter isn’t married, so he acquired triplet boys via some sort of mail order (male order?) sperm-receptacle baby-factory service. Old man Lee was so pleased, he showed the trio off to the world as if it were perfectly normal. (One of those cosmic common threads just struck me… Charles Ho blithely saying the knife attack was non-political, the Chinese Communist state wrapping itself in billionaires, and old man Lee with his motherless, paid-for grandsons: it’s the pure oblivious shamelessness of it all.)
At a CPPCC sideshow, Peter declares that Hong Kong needs a new opinion poll organization, as the surveys conducted by Hong Kong U give the impression that the public is unhappy; the polls are therefore obviously biased, and right-thinking business groups in the Big Lychee should do something, ‘the quicker the better’.
CPPCC membership is a sort of pat on the head, and the chance to make a suggestion (…Political Consultative etc, right?) is part of the deal. No-one expects anything to happen; indeed, if Hong Kong businesses want to set up a new polling organization, why are you telling NPC Standing Committee Chairman Zhang Dejiang about it? This wouldn’t have been composed for Peter by Beijing’s local officials, who have more important things to do, and would sound less dim-witted. But nor would it have been off-the-cuff. Having been invited to stand up and deliver a ‘suggestion’, he would have scrabbled around for one and bounced it off a kindly uncle – former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa helps preside – and then read it out, all by himself. (Tung of course had his own run-in with the HKU polls.)
Charles Ho’s shoe-shining Standard praises the boy Peter’s ‘eloquent’ (presumably they mean ‘fluent’) Putonghua. The substance of his ‘suggestion’ goes beyond shamelessness into the realm of cluelessness. Indeed, it’s cluelessness squared: being clueless about the fact that you’re coming across as clueless. Don’t like the opinion poll results – get new opinion polls. Let’s hope that for Peter’s sake, if only as a devout Buddhist, no-one gets the wrong idea about his reference to polling-master Robert Chung by name and helpfully sends a couple of knife-wielding gangsters round to HKU to sort the problem out.
The CPPCC-NPC sessions continue in their stultifying tediousness until the middle of next week.