It could be the latest in some trashy Hollywood franchise – Transformer: Conduit of Power. It could be a weapon rather like the lightsaber in Star Wars. It could (and in my humble opinion, should) be the brand name for a company that makes lightning conductors. Or it could be the job description of a healer who channels God’s grace to cure the sick with a single touch. Or the inspirational theme of a one-eyed TV preacher’s show. (Wow… Is this cosmic or what??? It is the inspirational theme of a one-eyed TV preacher’s show!)
Instead, ‘Conduit of Power’ is the phrase that Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has modestly decided best describes that part of his constitutional role that thick-skulled Hongkongers just can’t seem to comprehend. It is intended to help us understand that throughout the People’s Republic of China there is no parallel, alternative, separate, ‘residual’, shared or checking-and-balancing source of power to the Communist Party.
Put simply: the Party has an absolute monopoly of power. Not just over executive, legislative and judicial functions, but over schools, universities, media, the Internet, unions, lawyers, charities, churches, local authorities, families, and, through various means, private-sector businesses. Indeed – bus stops, cupcakes, bunny rabbits. All are ultimately subject to party control. By definition. Because there is no other source of power. If you choose your own career, decide to have a second kid, move to another city, read a book, write a book, attend worship, choose a college course or go on vacation overseas, it is because the Party has allowed you to. There are no inherent rights or liberties, and no independent guarantee of the ones you get.
This is China’s real constitution. And it is way too embarrassing and maybe even shameful to spell out in public, to the whole world, for the benefit of Hongkongers. So Beijing’s officials and apologists must resort to metaphysical mumblings about how CY ‘transcends’ all else in Hong Kong. And when that fails, try something that might connect with the Japanese-comics generation. Behold – the ‘Conduit of Power’.
A rough and ready Hongkonger-friendly explanation probably needs to be a bit politically incorrect, and might go something like this… The CE is not only head of government in Hong Kong, but a sort of sub-head of state. A bit like how in the old days the governor also represented the Queen. He runs the administration, answers to the legislature and is as subject to the law as everyone else. But he also symbolizes a higher (albeit far away, mountains-are-high) idea or concept that ultimately… ‘transcends’ all else. There – that doesn’t sound so bad does it?
In the Mainland, the ‘established-religion’ Party exercises its absolute authority through a power structure that mirrors the ‘secular’ state one. Companies, colleges, army units and local governments all have their own bosses, department heads and so on. But all have a Party Secretary shadowing the hands-on management to ensure that ultimately no person or body can break free of the one source of power.
This includes provincial governors and mayors, but there is no official equivalent in Hong Kong. This is why Beijing is paranoid about the city.
Looking back, as several commentators have said before, post-1997 Hong Kong would have been better off with a Beijing-appointed Party Secretary occupying a ‘transcendent’ office. He would be loyal and trusted – like CY, or indeed a Mainlander. He would do the ceremonial stuff with flags, the mutual shoe-shining with Mainland delegations, the ‘One Belt, One Road’ blather and the other patriotic ritual. He would also monitor and check everything the CE/mayor did, and be able to override/remove him if he threatened the Party’s monopoly of power (by starting up his own CIA-backed faction, say). Meanwhile, the CE/mayor would be elected by the local people to sort out housing, schools, pollution, traffic and all the rest. And the Communist Party paranoiacs would be able to relax a bit. But in pre-handover days, that would have sounded creepy. So instead we now get… ‘Conduit of Power’.
Perhaps the “conduit” bit of CYL’s new phrase should be replaced by “sphincter”?
We should just look into his eyes, bare our fangs and call him Master like the servants in Bela Lugosi films. Some years ago I sat through a lecture on China’s laws at Shitty U. I laughed every five minutes and was almost ejected. China doesn’t have laws. It has regulations. Many of these are still secret.
Is he AC or DC? Is he a three-pronged plug? Maybe we should keep him around if our electricity bills go down.
The pro-dems are correct: He just named himself Tian zi (son of Heaven), after all, we have been told that Zhongguo is centre of the Universe. I wonder how Xi will take this challenge.
I’m having a laugh.
Conduit of Power? Conduit of Shit, more like. Which would make him a sewer …
I remember when Zach Hines at HK Magazine sent just such a proposal to separate the CE and “the mayor” the Mainland Liaison Office. Wonder if they ever responded to it? http://hk-magazine.com/city-living/article/f-chief-executive-we-need-mayor-0
Perfect summary from Hemmers.
Amusing contortions on ‘conduit of power’. He should just come out with what he really means: “Look here, chaps, I’m the fucking Emperor round here, and you’re fucking not.”
Let me see if I’ve understood: the chief executive is not an executive?
And he doesn’t wield any power? A conduit, after all, merely serves to transmit stuff from one end to the other, and has no independent function.
And finally, his authority is transcendental, ie it passeth all earthly understanding?
Lufsig is having trouble with his canines impairing his speech, one would hope the press would be more careful. He was saying, as the CE servers all the people of Hong Kong, that means all sexes; that the CE position is trans-gender.
It goes with out saying that Lufsig is already trans-species, as well as trans-living. Now that he’s trans-gender, who could be more qualified to represent both shark and slug; the living, the dead and the undead; as well as Alpha, Omega, and everything between.
If we couple Maoist political theory (political power comes from the barrel of a gun) with the latest proclamation of “power conduit”, the CE is the suppressor on Beijing’s gun barrel, reducing the noise made by the power and making it harder to tell where the “power” is really coming from.
But perhaps that’s being too cynical — let’s take them at their word:
The CE is a political wall socket, transcending the separation of power into the three holes of executive (Earth), legislative (Live) and judicial (Neutral). And just like a wall socket, the CE is a cheap, nasty, thin plastic cover, full of toxins and produced by the mainland, so it won’t fit in properly, will turn out to be rather unpopular with the residents and definitely won’t last long. And it will be replaced by an almost identical model, because no one wants to pay the extra for one that’s up to international standards.
Say what you like about the Beijing Liaison Office, but no one else is going to explain the role of the CE to us so baldly and truthfully. Hats off to them, I say!
According to the Constitutional and Sacred Affairs minister, we should refer to the “wording and articles” of the Basic Law (http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/1858981/i-dont-understand-beijing-officials-comments-hong-kong). That is, the Basic Law has two components, the surface and the deep structures. That is, it doesn’t mean what it says, nor say what it means.
No wonder our judges can’t understand it!
The rule of law under threat and the prospect of a property meltdown: I sense a new wave of mass migration to Canada coming on.
@ Joe Blow
Exaggeration Of The Day award.
CP=Conduit of Power=Communist Party.
Q: You wouldn’t be an over-extended property owner by any chance ?
A: “Nooooooooooo, of course not……..!”
Yeah, I know what you’re trying to say, but no. Not at all.
Your caption photos are fairly funny, I enjoy them now and again, but informed political commentary, nope, that’s not you
Perhaps CY should go and live in Conduit Road.
“We are all in the conduit, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Most men eddy about
Here and there – eat and drink,
Chatter and love and hate.
Work all day for a living,
Never really living.
Washing, dressing, fussing.
Rush out for the lift,
Look about for a taxi,
Look about for a purpose.
Waiting for a bus,
Playing Candy Crush.
Governed by their phones,
Every message pesters.
Never feeling up to date.
Always just a little late.
Then, in the hour of need
You, like a hero, appear,
Firm, patriotic, and pure.
Servant of Beijing? – or son
Shall I not call you? because
In Beijing you were made.
Where are we going? – You call;
Order, encourage, and raise
Our fainting, dispirited race.
Beckoned by you, we advance on
The Conduit Road of power,
The Electric Road of light,
And (not marked on any map)
The Democratic Path.
O, Emperors’ descendant!
O, CY Leung transcendent!
With acknowledgement to ‘Rugby Chapel’ by Matthew Arnold.