To no-one’s great surprise, the University of Hong Kong council rejects law professor Johannes Chan’s appointment to pro-vice chancellor. Judging from the leaked account, the veto was carefully scripted: each council member who voted against gave neatly distinct reasons, which taken together left no possible stone unturned. Yet Chan himself and other key figures are reluctant to publicly call this a Chinese Communist Party hijacking of the university’s internal affairs. It’s as if Beijing’s agents had never hacked their HKU email accounts, or mounted a year-long anti-Chan smear campaign, or pressured pro-establishment or vulnerable council members and bystanders to fall into line or be silent.
The Liaison Office’s obsession with ensuring that this one low-to-medium-profile individual must not take this obscure-sounding university post is puzzling. Yes, there’s the kill-chicken-scare-monkeys thing. Obviously, the HKU-Occupy-Benny Tai connection made him a natural target, one that would impress the bosses in Beijing. But it doesn’t fully explain the sheer amount of effort in terms of snooping, propaganda and arm-twisting that went into this. Something deeply personal or pathological known only in the psychology of Stalinism is going on.
And it is bound to be counterproductive. The message is supposed to be: avoid incorrect political movements and ideas, or your career will suffer. Maybe some academics scrambling for research grants or tenure will succumb, unnoticed by the rest of us. Otherwise, this episode can only provoke yet more anti-Beijing sentiment within Hong Kong and suspicion about China abroad. The real message is: yes, we’re thugs.
Council member Rosanna Wong (Dame Rosanna, sorry), HKU-grad and pre- and post-colonial do-gooder and all-purpose – and generally decent – busybody, said she voted no because she ‘worried that appointing Chan would split the school further’. I think this was her idea of a joke. If she had ‘…expected that rejecting Chan would increase the community’s love for the motherland’, it would have been a bit funnier, perhaps, but nice try.
Typically, Beijing’s local henchmen have a last laugh of their own, by leaving Rosanna and her buddies in their own doo-doo. After listing Johannes Chan’s every failing, they now have to find and approve a pro-vice chancellor who is demonstrably superior and adored by all stakeholders.
On the subject of irony, page 4 of the South China Morning Post describes how the US media highlighted the Pope rather than President Xi Jinping during the recent parallel visits, while the Mainland press pushed nothing but glowing coverage of Xi’s tremendous popularity and impact in the US. And page 12 of the SCMP has, well, nothing but glowing coverage of Xi’s tremendous popularity and impact in the US…
Meanwhile, away from the SCMP, some investigative reporting to read – more Howard Winn on the Zhuhai Bridge ‘moving island’ mystery/screw-up. He reveals that ‘…[insurance] loss adjusters have been appointed, which suggests matters are not as ‘normal’ as the government would have us believe…’
I declare the National ‘love the motherland’ Day midweek mini-weekend open with a challenge: name one thing that is as ‘normal’ as the government would have us believe?