Hong Kong’s divine future


Fresh out of Sunday mass, Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam declares that ‘some people’ think the eighth of Jesus’s Beatitudes is particularly appropriate to her. So which item on the Sermon on the Mount checklist was that? The one about the meek? Nope. The peacemakers? Guess not. No: it’s the one about those who are persecuted for their righteousness. As such, she is one of those who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, and she reveals that a duplex with sea view in the luxury development in the sky already has her name on it.

Some may be taken aback that she is apparently seething with a sense of victimhood and personal injustice; others may feel unease at her presumption that Paradise awaits her. But what we are seeing here is no more than the Great Colonial Disconnect that defines Hong Kong leaders’ view of the city’s population.

From the 1840s to around the 1970s, the Hong Kong government’s job was to run a trading port and business centre to serve the needs of merchants and financiers. The ordinary people were simply uninvited guests. They were welcome to come, work, make money if they could, and move on elsewhere. They expected nothing from government.

In practice, government did have to start delivering some public services, simply to guarantee a functioning business environment – law and order, sanitation, and by the 70s, things like housing, schooling and transport. As a ‘community’ formed, colonial officials’ attitudes mellowed, from a Victorian approach of controlling the natives, to a post-war paternalistic attitude of ‘we know what’s best for you’.

Bureaucrats of Carrie Lam’s generation were brought up in this benevolent-elite mindset. It should have given way to the less arrogant, more humble governance style that would come with democratic accountability. But 1997 got in the way, and Hong Kong was essentially hijacked by vested interests co-opted as a power base by the Chinese Communist Party. The 1840s-1970s trend was reversed, and government actually became Stan-Chiefsecretless interested in the local people’s well-being. The business-bureaucrat establishment has gone back to a neo-colonial or neo-Confucian disconnect, where the people are once again seen more as uninvited guests than citizens.

Which is why Carrie feels persecuted. She thinks she and her colleagues have done so much for the poor (‘allowances for 700,000 low-income families’), and can’t understand why the common rabble disagree (or perhaps how they got the idea they have the right to disagree).

In a similar vein, Education Secretary Eddie Ng and his bureau are in a mess over a school-assessment system called TSA. Cutting through the tiresome details, parents are complaining – quite forcefully, through ads in the papers and threats of boycotts – that the TSA is piling too much work and pressure on their kids.

The correct response should be to assume that the parents know what they are talking about. Instead the Education Bureau started by rejecting the complaints and denying a problem existed. Then they started blaming the schools (for which the bureau is responsible). Now they are promising a review. A horrifying loss of face at having to serve the community – rather than vice-versa – cannot be rule out.

The list of examples goes on and on. Lead in water? Not a problem, go away. Avenue of Stars renovation as collusion? Nonsense, all done in accordance with procedures. Too many Mainland shoppers? No you’re wrong, shut up.

Unresponsive and arrogant government happens everywhere. They key thing in Hong Kong is the historic trend. The city is going backwards, and that’s ultimately because a Communist one-party regime cannot accommodate popular accountability. Our ‘executive-led’ government must mean ‘shut up and know your place’ government. Now join the dots with the Liaison Office’s growing subversion of public-order and justice neutrality, and Johannes Chan-style political tests for office-holders, and the future doesn’t look good. Except insofar as the downtrodden and abused will get their reward in heaven (and even then they bump into Carrie Lam).

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13 Responses to Hong Kong’s divine future

  1. Nimby says:

    Eddie is worried about a lot more than a loss of face, he is worried about a loss of patronage/corruption. Just as under Bush Jr. testing for “No Child Left Behind” turned into no state / federal education fund left un-rifled; TSA has been a boon & boondoggle for several “local consulting” firms. They know how to discretely beyond the reach of the law take care of the nuclear family relatives of Eddie and his compatriots who all came out of the Baptist U mafia, all ultimately part of the Lufsig graft machine.

    Let us be clear, as appointment of Maria The Hutt Tam as head of the ICAC supervisory board for so many years demonstrates, the primary job of the ICAC long has been to stop the pilfering at the bottom so there is more to skim off at the top.

  2. PD says:

    Near-genius! A broad-brush sweep across HK history synthesised with a trenchant dissection of present-day ills. Should be anthologised.

  3. Maugrim says:

    TSA is a uniquely HK thing that measures how ‘effectively’ a school has ‘improved’ a student over 3 years. Obviously, schools coach their kids to prepare for what is another meaningless exam, hence the parent backlash. The EDB is ripe for a proper public audit, but it will never happen.

  4. Cassowary says:

    I think they see the “rabble” as basically the equivalent of gun-toting racist troglodyte Donald Trump supporters. People too stupid and ridiculous to be taken seriously by “respectable society”, that being defined as tycoons, businessmen, professionals involved in the construction-industrial complex, and senior civil servants.

    Insofar as the rabble have any valid concerns, they can’t possibly be about the things the rabble are actually complaining about, because they’re not smart enough to understand how Things Really Work. Hence all this bleating about democracy and human rights must be because the youf don’t have good jobs. Environmentalists whingeing about country parks and heritage? Frustrated incomplete decolonialisation compounded by high property prices. Too many tourists? Angry at economic competition. Give them more training programmes and small business subsidies.

  5. Ccccrrrr says:

    Well said, PD. “Should be anthologised” indeed

  6. Red Dragon says:

    Isn’t it interesting how many of our senior “civil servants” are left-footers?

    First there was Sir Donald Duck, and now we have Curry Lamb, and her porntachioed side-kick, Jovial Johnny Tsang.

    What their faith brings to their individual outlook on life we shall probably never know, but what does seem clear is that they appear only too willing to wear their scared hearts on their sleeves. Apparently incredulous that the citizenry remains stubbornly blind to their righteousness, they adopt a martyr-like pose of resignation, strengthened, no doubt, by the conviction that their purity of thought and action will, in their god’s good time, book them a place in his, or her, bosom. In Carrie’s case, Jacob’s Ladder will presumably go via Esher, thenceforth leading her upward and onward to the celestial throne.

    In this, of course, there is more than a dash of arrogance. The inability of those who regard themselves as our betters to distinguish between righteousness (which they consider their salient quality) and self-righteousness (which the rest of us consider their salient quality) is particularly prevalent in the higher ranks of the bureaucracy. Perhaps those amongst its members who espouse the Marian faith should pay a little more heed to the recent observations on, inter alia, humility, love for the poor, consumerism, and irresponsible development made by the current Bishop of Rome.

  7. dimuendo says:

    Red Dragon: seconded.

    Plus, how is St Carrie being persecuted?

    Very mild criticism is not presecution. Plus if you choose to “rule” then do not expect people to be grateful when you get it wrong. Her self belief and self entitlemnt is staggering, albeit not untypical.

  8. Odd that so many of our “leaders” seem to have no problem reconciling their self-proclaimed faith with slavish obedience to the avowedly atheist regime whose interests they serve.

  9. PCC says:

    @Red Dragon You overlooked that paragon of public virtue and daily communicant, Rafael Hui.

    As for Antony Leung Kam Chung, his recent squawking about getting his marching orders from celestial sources leaves open the possibility that the whispers he’s hearing are from Sheung Wan rather than Calvary, and in any event we can’t tell whether he’s opted for Serie A or is playing in the championship division with Thomas Kwok and the other schismatics.

  10. Laguna Lurker says:

    Nimby: “the primary job of the ICAC long has been to stop the pilfering at the
    bottom so there is more to skim off at the top.”

    Spot on.

    Some time in the mid- to late 1980s, in the long run-up to “The Handover”, the
    editor of LAWYER magazine invited me to pen an article
    about the culture of corruption in Hong Kong. I can’t recall the date of publication
    and I can’t be arsed to go up to the attic to dig it out. Sorry. The title of the piece
    was “A Worm’s-Eye View”. I disclosed that I was familiar with public-sector
    corruption. It was published anonymously.

    I wrote that the days of Hong Kong Government’s departmental corruption
    syndicates, wherein everyone got a slice of the pie, were numbered. I opined
    that, after 1997, all power to levy tribute would be concentrated in the hands of a
    select few at the top of the social heap. And so it has been.

    I also asserted that the ICAC had early on been infiltrated by the Sun Yee On Triad
    Society (loyal to Beijing). When my editor put it to the Commission’s spokesman,
    he brushed the suggestion aside as ridiculous.

    A few years later, in 1993, the ICAC’s Deputy Director of Operations Alex Tsui Ka-kit was fired by then governor Chris Patten, who had lost confidence in his integrity. Tsui, now a “film star”, is widely perceived to be closely associated with the underworld and is known as a keen kick-boxer.


    Hemmers, indeed you really ought to anthologise your posts. They are an important part of latter-day Hong Kong’s history. The many complimentary comments on this blog would serve as great source of blurb material.


    Red Dragon/PCC: excellent point about the unacknowledged conflict between Catholic and Communist dogma.

  11. Nimby says:

    Laguna Lurker:
    From the scary locked down monopoly on search of out of print books that Google finagled from the idiot administrators of PEN, your article was in the May 1990 edition, pages 22 to 23, according to a reference in the book: “The Common Law System in Chinese Context: Hong Kong in Transition”

  12. Laguna Lurker says:

    Nimby: Thanks. Could you kindly provide a link to the cited reference?

  13. Nimby says:

    Laguna Lurker
    go here and input book title and your article title.

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