His Highness Imperial Field Marshal Grand Vizier Admiral Bunny Chan tries to explain the spontaneously created Hong Kong Army Cadets Association and its high-profile-but-secretive inauguration ceremony last weekend. It is a challenging task.
The status quo before the weekend was that Hong Kong lacked a uniformed youth organization that stressed the patriotic-style Chinese-ness fed to children everywhere else in the PRC. Hong Kong people were relaxed and comfortable with this; top officials in Beijing were nervous and panicky. The situation since the weekend is that Hong Kong does formally have such a group. Now it is Hongkongers who are freaking out over this alien and creepy presence, and the Chinese officials who feel calmer and reassured that the former British colony has been made a little more normal and user-friendly.
The best Bunny can do to satisfy this irreconcilable puzzle is come up with excuses – essentially variants on ‘the dog ate my homework’.
Bunny says he tried to get the local press invited to the event, but the site is a military area and it was very difficult to get the necessary approvals. This is baloney: the local media have covered open days at the PLA facility on Stonecutters Island with no problem in the past, and several hundred young people were allowed (lured, dragged) in for last weekend’s inauguration. The gathering was exclusive to Mainland propaganda organs because the target audience was in Beijing. As well as lowering the tone of the solemnities in no uncertain manner, the Hong Kong press would have raised the event’s profile among local residents, possibly provoking hostility or, when Education Secretary Eddie Ng waddled into view dressed like Idi Amin, fits of laughter.
So why, some tiresome reporter insisted on asking, was the ceremony held at the PLA base? Bunny’s response: they didn’t charge us rent. While clearly a desperate and ludicrous answer, on Planet Hong Kong it’s also completely reasonable.
On the bigger issue of the Army Cadets’ whole purpose, Bunny flounders. The answer, it seems, is ‘marching skills’, so young people can ‘get fit and strong’. In plain language: please don’t make me lose face by asking any more questions.
It’s just another day of bashing a square peg into a round hole. And the cavalry comes to Bunny’s rescue in the form of Beijing’s latest contrived, orchestrated mass outbreak of patriots all simultaneously spouting the same weirdness – this time, the idea that Hong Kong should come under China’s national security laws. We are supposed to pay attention, tremble in awe, and wise up – and infer… whatever it is we’re supposed to infer.