The Starry Night

RTHK Radio 3 gave its listeners their weekly dose of Emily Lau this morning. The presenter noted that the chairman of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of HK party looked set to give way to a younger leader, and asked the Stan-DABChiefDemocratic Party chief what she thought. She said it was excellent, and proudly added that her own party had recently appointed several younger-generation members to its central committee. So the presenter probed her about following the DAB’s Tam Yiu-chung and handing the DP’s top job to an up-and-coming junior. It is not often you hear a half-second gap of pure silence coming from Emily, but that’s what happened before she awkwardly started waffling about the importance of encouraging and grooming younger members, in an attempt to avoid saying ‘forget it’.

Emily should instead have expressed outrage (which she does so well) at any suggestion that there is some sort of equivalence between the DAB and the DP.

The DAB is the official, local, public front for the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong. Its role is to sustain and develop a support base among voters, which it does, helped by ample funding, through diligent social work and election-time lunchbox-handouts in poorer neighbourhoods. Its members must toe the party line and not form – certainly not express – independent or original opinions. Since absorbing the ‘middle-class/business’ patriotic group 10 years ago, it has been Beijing’s main visible political organization in town, alongside the Federation of Trade Unions (a parallel brand targeting labour).

The DP, by contrast, is one of half a dozen fractious, squabbling pro-democracy groups, albeit the original one. As with the others, it is a make-believe party, with no hope under Hong Kong’s political system of holding power – only of being in opposition. Like the others, it has a tiny membership and limited resources, and is run by a self-regarding old-guard who struggle to cooperate with pan-dem rivals, let alone make way for fresh blood. It has little interest in grassroots or community work and no clue what a policy is. It is a single-issue group dedicated to achieving democracy as an abstract structure and a noble end in itself, and it is firmly rooted in Hong Kong (or what the DAB would term ‘Western’) values. As in the whole spectrum of pro-dem groupings, its members are gloriously free to think and say whatever they want, and they do, quite a lot.

All eyes favour the gorgeous pouting sex-bomb Starry Lee as the DAB’s dashing and youthful new leader. Except ‘leader’ is the wrong word. The DAB is subject to the Communist Party, and its chairman can only be a loyal figurehead who must read from the same prepared script as everyone else. He or she will not be involved in serious internal politicking, as power struggles up north and the suchlike will be handled by Beijing’s minders. Nor does the chairman need to worry about administrative work, which a well-resourced secretariat will do.

To remind ourselves about the centralized and ordered nature of pro-Beijing forces, recall the final days before the 2012 quasi-election for Chief Executive. The preordained ‘winner’ Henry Tang had long been endorsed by the city’s shoe-shining tycoons, but (in murky circumstances suggesting a Beijing power-struggle) ultimately plummeted in the public opinion polls following revelations of womanizing and an unauthorized luxury basement. Throughout those many months, the entire DAB/FTU bloc (which not coincidentally has a de-facto plurality on the Election Committee) was impassive, members saying simply that they had ‘not yet made up their minds who to vote for’. Right until the last minute, when the word came down, and as one they obediently cast their ballots for CY Leung.

Starry-TamThat takes discipline and control. Starry’s role, if she gets the job, will be to put a personable, modern and relatively glamorous face on a cold, ugly and menacing totalitarian system. Maybe the pan-dems’ dreams will come true, and their opposition will persuade Beijing to give Hong Kong representative government. But maybe that won’t work, and the Communist system will continue to tighten its grip on the city – in which case, Starry will make a lovely puppet Chief Executive one day.

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15 Responses to The Starry Night

  1. Maugrim says:

    The fact that she’s a moron will no doubt aid her

  2. Scotty Dotty says:

    Hemlock finds the bottom line on any DAB leader: “Starry’s role, if she gets the job, will be to put a personable, modern and relatively glamorous face on a cold, ugly and menacing totalitarian system.” Well said.

    A slight digression to the post, but hasn’t Emily been a disappointment. It’s like she’s still dining out on her 15 minutes with Thatcher in 1984.

  3. Stephen says:

    The Pro-Dems have “Yooth” when young Alex and Joshua come to the fore and should be able to run rings round the vacuous and pouting Starry.

  4. Cassowary says:

    So it’s Sock Puppets vs. A Herd of Cats. Lovely.

    We’re never going to get any real leadership coming out of LegCo. It’s a containment unit for people Beijing finds annoying. They get put in a nice little box to fuss and shout to their hearts’ content but it doesn’t change anything.

    Joshua, Alex and don’t forget Yvonne, believe (correctly) that electoral politics is a useless distraction. Christine Loh came to that same conclusion over a decade ago. But wheareas Loh moved behind the scenes, for the new kids, the real fight is in the streets.

  5. NIMBY says:

    Well written, and Cassowary is spot on. Being in Legco is even more worse than being on the streets, because the government can never accept any idea coming from that body, while they are quite happy to steal any horrible idea from external items.

  6. David says:

    Starry Lee a “gorgeous pouting sex-bomb”? Don’t make me puke. To me she has as much sex appeal as Regina Ip.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    ….whereas Loh moved behind the scenes…..

    No Cass, she didn’t “move behind the scenes”: she sold out for cold, hard cash. She threw away her integrity, she abandoned her reputation and she betrayed everybody who ever believed in her.

  8. Joe Blow says:

    Hooters are coming to Hong Kong. If that is not a sign of a world city, then what is ?

    If Christine Loh had tits, she could apply for “Senior Waitress”.

    If Vagina Yip had tits, she could apply for “Stern Mistress”.

    If Bonnae Gokson had tits, she could apply for “Buxom Matron”.

  9. Joe Blow says:

    If Maria Tam had tits, she could apply for “Horse of the Year”.

  10. First Time Caller, Long Time Listener says:

    As a “first time caller, long time listener” on Hemlock, tip of the hat to Joe Blow today. I was scratching my head as why would Hooters open in Honkers until his suggestions 😉

  11. gweiloeye says:

    I am overseas in Hongcouver and missing all this naff Hong Kong politics and I refuse to pay for SCMP online. So Hemlock is my source of all that is going on.

    If Starry Lee is the best Hong Kong can come up with as a “gorgeous pouting sex-bomb” then god help us.

    Hooters in Hong Kong – I assume it will be staffed by expats due to the prime directive of the company – i.e. hooters.

  12. Chinese Netizen says:

    Nice photo of Starry sniffing a stink finger…

  13. PD says:

    You’d have to be pretty desperate to fancy Starry: something clinical and unfeminine about her, with a whiff of iodine.

    In other news, Chinese corruption and lawlessness are cultural, according to the Propaganda Department. Or, as the SCUMP puts it: “China’s history of feudalism feeds corruption and undermines law” (

    While this hardly rates as “news”, the coverage is itself an interesting development (hint to Hemlock).

    PS Before trying to post comments, I’d recommend saving them, or at least copying them to the clipboard, just in case….

  14. Cassowary says:

    Joe Blow, I think you were mistaken to have believed in Christine Loh in the first place. She ran with the democrats for a while but wasn’t really one of them. She was always more about results than taking sides, and was not averse to working with the government or developers or the power companies. If she sold out, it was for the promise of influence, not money. Her family’s already got plenty of money, but she’d spent years trying to influence the government without much success. Then CY showed up and offered her influence on a plate.

    I think she got a raw deal. One person is no match against an army of intransigent, turf-protecting, buck-passing bureaucrats, so all we’re seeing from EPD is band-aids and half-measures. However, if Hemlock’s right that we’re not going to get free elections regardless, then her quitting would not accomplish anything. I figure she’s trying to salvage what she can before we get a new CE in 2017 who’s likely going to be even more hostile to the environment. (The green group staffers I know say that CY Leung, unfortunately, is above average in environmental consciousness among HK’s elite.)

    So if you were expecting someone who would say “to hell with it all” and leave on principle, Loh isn’t it. She never was.

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