Ken Tsang beating leaves government clueless as ever

As Hong Kong’s Occupy Central/Umbrella movement staggers on against all the odds for a third week, and the city’s police manage to disgrace themselves, Chief Executive CY Leung cancels plans to take questions in the Legislative Council today on the grounds that it is not an appropriate time. More-than-obvious question: if not this, what time would be appropriate?

On top of countless blunders and miscalculations by the authorities, we now have the blurry-video, or ‘alleged’, beating by cops of the Civic Party’s Ken Tsang. A colleague of the suspected police could be speaking of the administration – or the whole city – when he says “…They are in deep s*** but there’s nothing we can do about it.” The last few weeks have brought us the surprising, the bizarre and the surreal, but it gets stranger still when you see international media describe how the “incessant, unintelligible screech of a female officer’s voice filled the air” in a report from sleepy old Hong Kong. And then the US State Department expresses ‘deep concern’ and calls for a full investigation. (This isn’t the US where cops killed some 110 people in August alone – it’s a different one.)

SCMP-OutrageA statesman-like leader could use the Ken Tsang kicking as an opportunity. The incident is almost universally (if not perhaps 100% accurately) seen as something unimaginable and freakish here. It could warrant a call to everyone to step back and calm down. To have any credibility, such a call would have to include an acceptance of responsibility: what has happened is ultimately a failure of government, and the police, protestors and public should not be blaming each other. Those of us in charge of policymaking must mend our ways radically, and here’s how we start…

The idea that CY would stand before the legislature and say something like this is 10 times more mind-warping than the most surreal and bizarre things that have happened so far. The Hong Kong government is chosen and installed by the Chinese Communist Party, which can do no wrong; any ‘deep shit’ is by definition caused by hostile, probably foreign, forces. CY and his fellow officials, when they recite their fatuous or plain false one-liners, can’t bring themselves to mention the students or other detractors as people or citizens who might have a point – just as an enemy to be vanquished, or at least (improbable as it may seem) outwitted.

So Ken Tsang’s beating joins the whole litany of screw-ups that burden the government. Officials think they have to appear unmoved and aloof; that way they differentiate themselves from all the rabble out there, heckling. One perfectly valid criticism of our pro-democracy politicians over the years is that they automatically oppose whatever stance the government takes, on principle, to the point where they would insist the world is flat if CY said it’s round. Now the government itself is doing it. Critics say it’s wrong for cops to beat a handcuffed prisoner, so officials essentially refuse to acknowledge that something serious and damaging to the community might have happened. That’s supposed to impress us. You can see why this could drag on for ages.

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29 Responses to Ken Tsang beating leaves government clueless as ever

  1. My wife commented that Ken Tsang is now a shoo-in for a LegCo seat if he stands at the next election. The government must be running out of feet to shoot itself in! I’m rather surprised that none of the (few) relatively sensible ministers has resigned yet.

  2. Cerebos says:

    1) is it just a coincidence, but in the space of one morning I’ve seen three separate gaggles of policemen appearing to do their job: enforcing minor infractions. Idling engine, something to do with Whampoa Gdns private cleaning staff and suspected mainlanders ID request. It’s like a time warp.

    2) notwithstanding the above I have decided to chuck in the towel. In the space of a year I’ve gone from not wanting to live and work anywhere else to thinking (for me) the previously unthinkable: I’m moving my job to Europe. The option is Amsterdam and I don’t give a stuff about the 42% tax rate – at least my tax dollars get used to benefit society. I’ll save on rent, sure there’s an almighty economic shit storm coming but its going to cause chaos wherever you are. And as the wife pointed out – if it all goes tits up they’ve got fantastic pills and art museums. If it doesn’t I might even be able to buy a house.

  3. Scotty Dotty says:

    I agree with Hemmers the government is looking clueless.

    And so are the police starting to look like they’re a big fat rabbit in the headlights. Not what is needed from the disciplined services.

    We all know Ken-gate style beatings by police do happen in Hong Kong. But they’re far away – inflicted mostly on triad troublemakers or other pondlife in Kowloon or New Territories shitholes – and far from sight: the police have the wits to get it done behind closed doors. And, let’s all be open and frank, we’re thankful this does happen.

    Then you have Ken’s rucking on the telly. No different from other unseen police thrashings except the invisibility has gone.

    In a functional police force, which it’s unclear if Hong Kong has right now, the senior leadership would protect their brand immediately. Cock ups happen. But fess up, decisively and quickly, and cauterise the wound. That’s tough luck on the poor sods that got caught, their police careers are over (or should be), but they forgot the established practice of closing the door first.

    The longer the police hide behind “full CAPO investigation” and “in the fullness of time” the more their brand will weaken. But then that would need decisive police leadership…

  4. regislea says:

    I have viewed the video and it seems both ugly and pretty damning. What I found particularly striking was how deliberate it all was.

    In my reading, these were not cops high on adrenaline lashing out – not that that would have been a valid excuse; these are supposed to be one of the “disciplined services”. They deliberately carted him away to a dark place and administered the kicking, taking turns, while other police kept a look-out.

    I realise that, compared to what a protestor might expect in other countries (Blair Peach, Kent State anyone?), it’s pretty modest stuff. Naively perhaps, I always had some regard for the Kong Kong police that I did not have for those in other places that I’ve lived.

    No longer!

    Now we read that these guys have been identified, and not suspended but moved to other duties – presumably out of the reach of TVB’s cameras.

    Whitewash report in what – three months?

    Note to the moderator – please feel free to distribute the words “alleged” and “allegedly” through this post as you wish.

  5. Colonel Kurtz says:

    The essence of the problem is that the govt does not consider itself accountable to the HK people. So they see no need to explain their actions or inaction or to atone for anything. The best they ever offer is the condescending ‘let’s explain for the idiot unwashed’ comments little better than the intelligence insulting APIs they constantly issue as their answer to everything. It’s a disgrace that neither Leung nor Lam have fronted the public to explain how they propose to respond to events and why their report to the NPC SC was not a blatant distortion of most HK people’s expectation of real democracy. This is why the protestors’ demands for Leung to step down and for the process of working out democracy for HK begin afresh are so apposite. It’s a pity more Hkers don’t stop accepting the failing system we have offered on a take it or leave it basis.

  6. Dan the Man says:

    I think the HK government is much more logical than you make it sound. Suppose they admit the beating was wrong and illegal. Then what? If they prosecute or even the fire the 7 cops, then the cops might respond in defense “we were just following orders.” Then there will be questions who gave the orders. This might lead to investigating higher ups. The goal of the government is to limit the damage so that the really important higher ups aren’t investigated at all and only the low level peopole like the 7 cops are implicated. And the best way to do that is to buy the silence of the 7 cops by continuing to pay them even if they aren’t doing any work.

  7. Fredward Moonglobe says:

    I’m not sure what this town will do for entertainment should the Occupy/Government impasse ever be resolved. It’s a real life 24-hour/day soap-opera-cum-pantomime – “the cops/triads are behind you!!!”. It’s brilliant.

  8. Maugrim says:

    I spoke after the use of tear gas about the feeling I had that the Police would want to sink the slipper in a bit . The reasons why would make an interesting analysis. As I said, things have festered since the Mongkok incident involving Alpais Lam, among others. I heard one senior member of the force thank those who supported the police, the sense of having been wronged and of self pity was so out of place and proportion, I nearly burst out in laughter . My point is the Police have been unable to divorce personal feelings from those their job requires, to uphold the law. The Police are a very interesting lot and are scared of political interference from those more powerful, and thus show obedience. My sense is that what happened is a mix of personal feeling, long, shitty shifts, upper management and Government who subtly condone smashing the students.

  9. Not a former Real Tax Payer says:

    So CY is still trying to bluff it out, pretend that things can carry on as they have for the last 9000 years of Chinese superior civilisation.

    What would it take, I wonder, for him to emerge, Kim Jong-un like, from his bunker? The peg breaking? Ebola in Lok Ma chau? China in desperation offering independence?

    Although I very much hope OC can continue indefinitely, I also hope CY can be given the space to fall on his sword, perhaps with a little push from up north, as any rational being would surely do in the circumstances.

  10. Sir Crispin Bentley-Smythe IV says:

    I have to wonder: just how facking stupid are these 7 cops?

    I mean seriously, how many firing neurons does it take to realize–with all the media presence at the protest sites and everyone plus their granny having a cellphone cam–that taking someone off for a whooping is likely to be captured? These morons obviously lack the basic common sense to have a job hanging off the back of a garbage truck.

  11. Stanley Gibbons says:

    Cerebos…..see how he runs……

  12. Stephen says:

    These are not great days for Asia’s finest with Inappropriate / excessive use of tear gas, colluding with Triads and now giving a guy a quiet kicking. However in some ways I can feel a little sorry for the Police as our pathetic little bureaucrats have decided to stick their heads in the sand and are doing nothing to end the impasse. So the police are out night and day and are being totally outplayed by the students.

    It is clear that the current political reform policy is doomed – you haven’t got the votes in the legislature and have mass civil protests – so now what ? I still see CY resigning as he’s just too much of a polarizing figure but at some stage you are going to have to re-launch the political reform or this place will remain as it is currently, ungovernable.

  13. PCC says:

    Did someone mention Kent State? That was last century, for chrissakes.

  14. regislea says:

    Just a suggestion but should you not be considering changing the sub-head to the blog from “Watching the sun set, little by little, on Asia’s greatest city . . ” to something like:

    “Watching the sun set, faster and faster, on Asia’s formerly (but increasing less so) greatest city . . .”?

  15. Gooddog says:

    Students should blockade CY in his house or office. He is a turd.

  16. Cassowary says:

    It’s just their luck to have picked on the guy who belongs to the political party composed mainly of barristers. I was very much amused to read media accounts of various members of the Civic Party going to visit Tsang in hospital and/or jail, and every single one was described as “So-and-so, who is also Tsang’s lawyer”. The man has more lawyers than he can possibly know what to do with. This is going to be fun.

  17. regislea says:

    PCC – what’s the statute of limitations for slaughtering unarmed protestors?

    I might have chosen another more recent incident a little closer to home – oh, sorry – that was last century as well!

    So that’s all right then.

  18. Fredward Moonglobe says:

    It’s a crying shame that Henry Tang wasn’t elected C.E. People might slag off CYL (I actually think he’s OK, but his hands are tied-up super-big-time), but I reckon that the vitriol for the philandering, horseheaded, Kowloon Tong bunkermeister would have much, much greater.

  19. Adam says:

    I agree with Colonel Klutz and Cerebos. We are in the midst of a transition from a fairly open and liberal society to being a fully integrated part of a repressive, totalitarian country.

    Regarding the HK government’s refusal to admit any fault, or re-submit a report to the NPC, I am not sure whether that is simply to protect themselves, to protect BJ from embarrassment or out of concern it might precipitate an even heavier clampdown by BJ on HK freedoms.

    The reason CY won’t step down is clearer: it would trigger a new CE ‘election’ within 6 months under the current system. HK people would be engaged and international media with renewed interest in HK would quickly start to ask awkward questions about the election committee. It might even lead to Occupy Central mark 2.

    What we have seen these last few weeks is, in a sense, just making public what has been going on for some time now. Triads attacked people protesting outside a CY meeting in the NT 2 years ago. The blue ribbon brigade have been harassing Falun Gong for years. TVB has been a government mouthpiece for a while.

    Unfortunately, I think the conclusion to the current mess will be as follows. From the point of view of the HK government and certainly Beijing the problem is a) Apple Daily, b) absence of a national security law that could have put the ‘trouble makers’ in prison before this started, c) independent judiciary that cannot be counted on to give long prison sentences and d) too strong a presence of the democratic parties in Legco.

    I expect within 12 months they will have found a way to shut down Apple Daily, re-assert firmer control over TVB, SCMP and Mingpao and many of the OC leaders may be facing 10 year prison sentences or knife attacks similar to Kevin Lau.

    The next step – solving the ‘political problem’ by gerrymandering of districts is well under way. The proposed CE election package will pass as soon as pro establishment parties have the majority. The CE will then have a ‘democratic mandate’, which in the eyes of Beijing should solve the governance problem.

    The final step – dealing with facebook, youtube, twitter etc, which facilitate the spread of non-establishment views, will be dealt with later as it is too difficult to do now.

  20. Sakit Chipati says:

    WRT to the Occupy/Central stand-off, it’s a crying shame that Henry Tang wasn’t elected C.E. People might slag off CYL – I actually think he’s OK – his 85,000 flats/year plan in the early phase of CH Tung’s reign would have proved superbly beneficial to the economy, as well as the the political environment – fcuk the tycoons. However, his hands have been tied-up super-big-time re 2017. As a consequence, we have missed out on the vitriol that would have inevitably been directed at the philandering, horse-headed, Kowloon Tong bunkermeister. How much fun would that have been?

  21. Joe Blow says:

    In less than a month CY Leung has single-handedly destroyed the reputation of a police force once known as ‘Asia Finest’.

  22. Cerebos says:

    StanleyG: appreciate the Beatrix Potter / Chaz’n’Dave jibe. Guilty myself of the same in the past. Have been rejected (twice) for an HKSAR passport (aint hindsight great). Sniping aside, my point is I can’t recall the last time the govt announced a law / enforced an existing one meaningfully. It boils down to a Hobbesian (leviathan) vs Kantian (rule of law) personal preference. We can’t define ourselves as an ahem – strategic trade / finance / logistics hub and expect the labour pool we attract not to then be mobile and discriminating. We are faced with years of impasse and the most plausible outcome being an acceleration of pearl-river integration at the very least. Meanwhile the poor go unhoused and hungry, the rich do whatever the F they want because they will get away with it and the majority hover along in a state of inflation-eroded stasis. So yes. Snipe away – I vote for a society that dispenses monthly sex-coupons to the physically challenged (http://m.mic.com/articles/85201/the-surprising-way-the-netherlands-is-helping-its-disabled-have-sex) and prioritises equality.

  23. Joe Blow says:

    @ Private Beach

    “I’m rather srprised that none of the (few) relatively sensible ministers has resigned yet.”

    Yes, so are we. Christine Loh, for example, who was once a leading light in democratic circles, before she sold out.

    Come on, Christine: it’s only money !!

  24. Wan Chai Wanderer says:

    Fredward Moonglobe, I second you.

  25. Sakit Kelapa says:

    @ Joe Blow.

    I reckon Chrissie L is keeping schtum because someone high up has indicated that her name will be going on the 2017 ballot. Beijing will not want 80% of the papers being spoiled, thus a range of candidates will be allowed. The key thing is loyalty. After that, I suspect that Beijing doesn’t give a stuff – for the capital, the HK-problem is like having to take on a relative’s brattish, expat-flavoured, like-monster teenager because its parents have been killed in a road accident. Actually, it probably wishes that 1997 had never happened.

  26. Tom says:

    I was a little troubled by the “unintelligible screech” and other passages in that report. It all came off a bit colonial.

  27. Gooddog says:

    Adam – that’s a pretty amazing analysis – please repost it in 12 months time to see how it is traveling.

  28. PD says:

    Just caught up with this page. Nothing to add really, except thanks to everyone for an articulate, informed discussion.

    Except… “on one level”, the present steady destruction of “HK values” was, with hindsight, predictable years ago for anyone living in the countryside, where mob values have reigned for quite some while (always?).

    Good luck to Cerebos on leaving these increasingly barbaric shores.

  29. nulle says:

    Cops can’t use “just following orders” to justify the beating because these orders to beat the stuff of someone when handcuffed is illegal. It is not a legitimate reason. You don’t have to follow illegal orders, you can refuse them.

    remember the illegal orders of kill civilians still exposed those who followed it to murder and genocide charges (=> guility)

    Therefore those cops who beat Ken Tsang should be put to trial and found guility of serious assault and given lengthy prison sentences.

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