Of course, it can always ditch unpopular policies…

Best excuse for dilatoriness so far this month: found myself caught up in a labyrinth yesterday…


It’s actually a Lutheran labyrinth, which surely has the makings of a good tongue-twister. I was inadvertently passing by a Christian missionary complex near Shatin. The Norwegian founders incorporated some unsubtle Japanese/Zen- as well as Chinese-type décor into the place, seemingly to make their faith look as comprehensively Asian and non-Western as possible, albeit through Scandinavian eyes.


Great location for a low-budget kung-fu movie, if the church ever wants to get into some Buddhist-style monetization. Otherwise, it scores four stars for ‘serene-contemplative’. The small handful of people drifting silently around in ones and twos appeared to be slightly scary misfits, but maybe that’s what they thought about me.

Back in the real world, and the big story today is the great MTR bailout thing, which supposedly solves, once and for all, the cost overruns on the HK-Guangzhou high-speed rail HK$85bn white elephant.

Forget its legal status and public listing – the MTR is simply a part of the public sector. The idea that it and the government are in conflict and that ‘arbitration’ or financial transfers can meaningfully take place between them is a trick. Whoever seems to pay, it’s your wealth, and you’re being ripped off by this bureaucrat/engineer-construction-developer nexus, again.


The government statement hints at desperation. We are invited to give a damn about the impact on the West Kowloon Cultural Zone-Hub, and – even more enticingly – we are told that terminating the high-speed rail project would be an unthinkable catastrophe. Mmmmm… I smell fear.

This might not seem to have much to do with the fuss over primary school assessment tests – but not so fast. At a Legislative Council hearing yesterday, parents and kids spoke against the unpopular and badly-implemented system. One child who improbably claimed she supported the tests was revealed as the daughter of a pro-government politician, who had scripted her remarks. We can safely say that the politician, as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s local front, was following orders. Thousands of parents organizing against the assessment system have taken note, and declare that they will not forget his affiliation when LegCo elections take place next September. Watch the government hastily make some concessions on the tests.

The government will need LegCo to approve the MTR high-speed rail bailout. With an inbuilt loyalist majority (including representatives of construction and other parasite interests), that should be no problem. But the pro-government parties will then have to face voters in the elections next September. And today’s younger, post-Occupy opposition – less fixated on electoral reform and more gifted at stirring up trouble – will be sure to remind voters who supported what in LegCo.

The government needs loyalists’ support for many unpopular policies. To the extent the pro-Beijing camp delivers, it risks a backlash at the September polls. A real labyrinth.

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6 Responses to Of course, it can always ditch unpopular policies…

  1. Mary Melville says:

    Is there still time to run out and buy a few MTR shares in order to jazz up the minority vote?

  2. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    I did enjoy the self-immolation of Grenville Gross in this mornings SCMP. He rightly berates the Legal Department for its slow handling of cases, noting that talent was not nurtured and an over-reliance on overseas lawyers. All things that could have be addressed in his 18 years as deputy and then head of the department. The script writers of ‘Yes Minister’ couldn’t make this up.

  3. Knownot says:

    It was 2015, 2015,
    Our super train would go.
    But it was too hard to dig the line,
    And we were too dumb to know.

    Now we resolve, and firmly declare
    It will not happen again.
    Give us two years to tunnel and build,
    Then we will start the train.

    No more requests for money or time.
    We will not come to you twice.
    No more dollars to pour underground
    Now we have capped the price.

    It is 2015, 2015.
    Oh, how lucky you are,
    You and your cellos, violins too,
    Riding the MTR.

    with acknowledgement to ‘Only Sixteen’ sung by Sam Cooke

  4. Des Espoir says:

    We taxpayers are fed up with being ripped off by the constrution industry junta, getting their snouts into the public purse. For years they have insisted that we need big infrastucture projects “to create jobs’. This is now exposed as a complete lie, since we do not have enough workers, and have to import them. And the reason for these massive cost over-runs is that they are starting several projects at the same time, so all bidding up prices for labour and materials creates need for more money, and the taxpayer picks up the bill. And who will pick uip the bill when the third runweay has its cost over-run..?

  5. Since the current through train to Guangzhou usually seems to be only about 10% full, we can safely assume there is limited demand for rail transport between the two cities. Where then are all the passengers supposed to come from to make this new line profitable? Or are we going to be bearing the burden of its continuing operating losses in future as well as the ridiculous cost of building the thing in the first place?

    Bridge to Macau likewise.

  6. Incidentally who will the finished (if ever) line belong to? Is it MTR property or part of China’s national rail network? This has implications for both “One Country Two Systems” and the ongoing costs of running the thing. And why don’t our legislators ask this sort of question before giving billions of our dollars to fund the project?

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