Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung’s 2015 Policy Address is, like its predecessors over the ages, an incoherent mess of half-baked ideas, free lunches for vested interests and pointless gestures.
One surprise was that CY pretty much started his speech by attacking barely heard-of student publications Undergrad and HK Nationalism by name for their supposed separatism. Presumably, such a high-profile assault on obscure dissident material is for the benefit of Beijing’s officials. Some observers will see an attempt to intimidate youthful supporters of self-rule, though Hong Kong has no pro-independence movement to speak of – just a joke-meme useful for pressing some of the Chinese Communist Party’s most sensitive buttons.
A sinister and disturbing interpretation would be that totalitarian forces want to provoke more serious pro-autonomy sentiment in order to justify a crackdown when the time is, as they say, ripe. They are certainly inviting a plethora of ‘HK nationhood’ graffiti. A cheerier view is that this could be CY’s attempt to encourage the critical thinking/young people/creative industry/blah-blah that every Policy Address features. These works by up-and-coming writers would have gone unnoticed in a crowded and commercialized market with little time for start-ups – but after receiving such a massive plug from the CE, crowds have inundated bookstores, and the book may be reprinted.
The Policy Address contains at least one interesting little idea: converting multi-storey car parks into commercial premises. This hints at the stupidity of accommodating cars downtown at all. Some 85% of us get around the city using up only the space we walk, stand or sit in. The other 15% insist on surrounding themselves with a big metal box of at least 12ft by 6ft, moving (much of the time) more slowly, and making the air unbreathable – and they get priority for space over everyone else.
Banish cars from urban areas, and you suddenly have more, and nicer, space for everything. This isn’t even lateral, out-of-the-box thinking. It’s obvious, child-level logic: if you have too much stuff crammed into too small a space, remove some of the stuff.
Which bring us neatly to another way to free up our environment and lower rents and allow a flowering of new businesses and other activities: eradicating the Mainland Shopper and broader Visitor Cult that is otherwise known as the tourism sector. Sadly, the Policy Address has none of it. Instead, we get baloney about yet another convention centre. In other words, let’s have even more clueless-looking guys in suits getting in everyone’s way looking for their hotel. How many millions of these people do we really need clogging up the city? What is the purpose? In fairness to CY, he is a slimy and untrustworthy reptile with no loyalty other than to the Communist Party, and in the finest comradely tradition, he may be promising goodies to tourism-sector shoe-shiners while fully intending to kick them in the teeth when they are of no further use later on.
No Policy Address is complete without some sort of hand-wringing about population. In particular, the need for ‘quality’ humans – as opposed to, well, no need to get specific or personal. After all the gimmicks and point systems, and passport-for-sale scams (and a continuous, hefty flow of Mainland immigrants), we still seem to have a problem: the economic production units commonly known as ‘people’ mysteriously remain crap. By which we mean ‘not as good as Policy Address drafters think they should be’.
The only other bit I bothered reading bright idea this year is ‘attracting the second-generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents who have emigrated overseas to return to Hong Kong’.
Where do we start? It’s tempting to ask what he means by ‘emigrated overseas’ – presumably, this is to exclude scum who emigrated to Shatin. And why say ‘return’, when these are people whose parents left, and who know only Canada or somewhere as home? We might also wonder why the word ‘Chinese’ is necessary here. Non-Chinese second-generation Hong Kong emigres do exist in small numbers; is there something undesirable about them? (Rhetorical question.)
Essentially, what is so special about this particular classification of person? The answer is that it’s one that the bureaucrats hadn’t thought of yet, and it sounds vaguely do-able, and has a family-reunion/apple-pie emotional warmth to it.
Rather than define arbitrary selective categories of ‘talent’, ‘quality’, ‘investor’ or whatever as target migrants, why not just make Hong Kong a nice place to live and work in? A Policy Address in three points:
- Keep all the nice civilized infrastructure, institutions, services, low taxes, countryside, freedom and fun that we already have;
- Scrap the cartels and the ‘cram more people and stuff in’ mentality to ease up on rents, prices, space, traffic and air;
- Don’t screw it all up with paranoid Communist witch-hunts, United Front intimidation, and attacks on the press and rule of law.
…and they will come, and everything will take care of itself.