It was a ‘disgusting show of political hooliganism’ by ‘filibustering clowns’ acting like ‘badly parented brats throwing a tantrum’, no less. Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung goes to the Legislative Council, and radicals shout him down with insults and repel him with projectiles, namely buns, not all of which were successfully hurled. In fact, they allowed him to say most of what he wanted to say, which was smart because most of what he said was nonsensical or ill-advised.
So CY expressed contrived anguish over radicals’ filibustering of the government’s budget, declaring it obnoxious to the public. Popular opinion probably leans more towards numb disbelief. By using a potentially powerful weapon like the filibuster automatically at every opportunity, the radicals have reduced its impact to one largely of tedium. By claiming that the delay threatens Hong Kong’s ‘competitiveness’ or hinting that lack of funding will mysteriously result in horrible consequences for the most vulnerable citizens and cherished causes, the administration comes across as no less childish.
(An aside… Pro-establishment shoe-shiners and hired scoffers will inevitably at some stage cite the presence and antics of radicals like Long Hair and Albert Chan in the Legislative Council as evidence that democracy is somehow deficient, or that Hong Kong people cannot be trusted with the vote. The reality is that extremists who are unrepresentative of mainstream society get into LegCo because Beijing imposed a proportional electoral system that allows them to win seats with only a tiny slice of the vote. Prior to 1997, we had a manly first-past-the-post system that enabled only the moderate – dull, in some cases – to get in. The reason for the change, of course, was that the Chinese government needed its own supporters, who had ‘unrepresentative of mainstream society’ written all over their faces, to have a chance in the elections. Beijing put Long Hair into LegCo.)
CY then announced that all the mighty wrath and fury Hong Kong’s combined forces of good can muster will come down upon the evil that is Occupy Central if the pro-democracy movement carries out its plans to do whatever the plans say it will do, if anything. He said that the police wouldn’t be issuing a ‘letter of no objection’ for the event. Which gets me thinking: wouldn’t specifically issuing a permit for a planned act of civil disobedience totally ruin the protestors’ day? He also revealed that companies in the business district were considering suing Occupy Central for the countless billions of dollars’ worth of damage the sit-in could cause.
This makes the warnings about old people starving because of the filibuster sound half-credible. It has the fingerprints of Beijing’s local Liaison Office all over it, and you almost feel sorry for the officials and businessmen who feel a need to play along and pretend to take it seriously. The South China Morning Post does its part by quoting an anonymous ‘source with knowledge of business affairs’ (oh, him) who confirms that big companies might sue for damages if they have to relocate operations outside Central. It is true that financial and other firms are vaguely making contingency plans (as regulators, shareholders and clients would expect for all eventualities, like power cuts), but they are smart enough to know there is little to worry about. This is a bunch of priests, professors and portly politicians sitting in Peddar Street, not a million armed Red Shirts rampaging through Bangkok.
The Occupy Central protestors’ biggest challenge will be to cause more disruption than a traffic jam during a black rainstorm. By indicating so forcefully that Beijing’s insecure paranoiacs are scared of it, CY has probably helped this struggling and divided pro-democracy movement regain some sense of mission and self-respect. Meanwhile, the banks get back to what they do best, like dismissing officials’ and tycoons’ pleas for imported labour as stupid.
To everyone’s relief, LegCo President Tsang Yok-sing pulled the plug on the proceedings.
I declare the weekend open with a marketing campaign we can live with: no mention of ‘exclusive’ or ‘exquisite’; no glossy forest-killing brochure destined to be tossed aside on the spot; no pouting anorexic model leering at you with drugged-up eyes. Just cookies.