An antidote to Christmas cheer


Today’s mouth-froth is about seating arrangements. In the past, Hong Kong Chief Executives doing the annual kowtow in Beijing would have their photo taken as an apparent equal alongside the Chinese leader in that familiar scene of big armchairs, loud carpet, copious flowers and that nasty giant tapestry of the Great Wall. Not now. The brutes received CY Leung in a stale conference room of lumpy rosewood furnishings and Deng Xiaoping’s old spittoon in the corner, plus a Big Red Flag in case you don’t get the message. And they made him sit humbly to one side of the table, like some deputy assistant branch manager who has failed to meet his sales target.

Xi-LeingCYEveryone concludes that the arrangement is a calculated reproach to Hong Kong for its insolence and disloyalty. It reflects the constitutional position of the city, CY himself states – no doubt approvingly, as being belittled by the Communist Party is a huge turn-on for him. And of course the imperious Xi Jinping is a total sucker for the master-slave Confucian hierarchy thing.

Hong Kong’s big political event in 2016 will, in theory, be the Legislative Council elections in September. But it will also probably be the year we find out whether Beijing is going to reappoint CY for a second term starting mid-2017. Other hopefuls – so far ex-Security Secretary Regina Ip and ex-Financial Secretary Antony Leung – will be jockeying for attention and favour, in their own ways.

In 2011-12, Beijing’s local Liaison Office eliminated tycoons’ choice Henry Tang with maximum prejudice and installed CY as their obedient killer-poodle. China was undergoing a leadership transition, and the cadres may have had some leeway to act on their own initiative. This time, they will have a detailed script endorsed by their bosses back home. It can only reflect Xi’s centralizing and authoritarian instincts – which CY surely satisfies better than any conceivable alternative.

Antony Leung is being tentatively proposed by the old tycoon caste. Tentatively, because the Xi regime does not hold them in the high esteem they formerly enjoyed in Beijing, and they will have to live with CY if he gets reappointed. All Antony can do is wait for the Liaison Office to give him word that he can be a candidate – and even then it might just be as a sacrificial loser to make the process look vaguely like an election. His establishment buddies will be reluctant to openly oppose CY, and his smug and elitist image and unimpressive record in office 10 years ago will leave the Hong Kong public cold.

As for Regina, she is deluding herself if she imagines that anyone anywhere wants her as Chief Executive. Her efforts to look appointable are shameless and almost desperate. Taking yourself too seriously and Visibly Trying Too Hard are cardinal sins in any case. And if she does somehow make a populist or other bid to usurp CY, the goon squad that crushed Henry will be ready to liquidate her at a moment’s notice, with whatever dirt they have on their files.

You hear other names from time to time, like Tsang Yok-sing, the mild mannered and occasionally personable-looking figurehead of the local Communist Party front. But it is hard to avoid the feeling that it would take a serious upset – CY being run over by a bus, or a power struggle in Beijing – to shift the current course. Put it another way: can you picture anyone else sitting dutifully at the table like that?

Today’s lesson for Regina in not taking oneself too seriously…

Today’s lesson for Regina in not taking oneself too seriously…

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10 Responses to An antidote to Christmas cheer

  1. Joe Blow says:

    And not 1 mention of Mr. Pringles ?

    What interested me the most of the Xi-689 picture was the way the chipmunk of the Liaison Office and his Beijing boss were looking. Or rather not looking: they failed to make eye contact with Xi’s lackeys at the opposite table, who were looking straight at them. Slumped in his seat, the Beijing guy looked like a naughty kid waiting at the principal’s office. They know they may be held responsible, in the end.

  2. Knownot says:

    “that familiar scene of big armchairs, loud carpet, copious flowers and that nasty giant tapestry of the Great Wall.”

    And antimacassars – our only opportunity in the 21st century to use that word.

  3. Knownot says:

    The First Weekday after Christmas Day

    In Hong Kong’s old-fashioned, hard-working way,
    Saturday is still a Weekday.
    This Christmas, one day’s holiday is deleted.
    We’ve been cheated!

  4. Cassowary says:

    Regina may have no chance of becoming the next Chief Executive, but she may yet wheedle her way into a ministerial position, or possibly even CS.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    @Cass: by virtue of what ? John Tsang knows her very well. As Anson said about her “A leopard doesn’t change her spots”. Besides: she is an old bag, pushing 70, out of power for 13 years, and she has no power base.

  6. Diane Butler says:


    Contribute to honesty and decency.

  7. Cassowary says:

    By virtue of a severely shallow talent pool for ministers, she won’t have much competition. They gave Lau Kong Wah a ministerial position fer chrissakes. Besides, being a piece of work and lacking a local power base wasn’t exactly a hindrance for CY. Nobody liked that guy except for the Liaison Office.

  8. Nimby says:

    Cassowary is on the point. The attraction of Tung, the Duck, and Lufsig each is that they had no power base from which to negotiate with the CCP. Once HK lost it’s mission as a model for Taiwan, then the CCP had a vested interest in making HK appear to be a highly dependent failure. A viable area able to function without the support of the CCP yet inside China is the last thing they want. All those “gifts” that the CCP hands out are not for local consumption, they are for show within China, to demonstrate to doubters in and outside the party that HK could not survive without the munificence of the CCP.

  9. Qianjin says:

    @Knownot : “And antimacassars – our only opportunity in the 21st century to use that word.”

    Not at all. I had a delightful pair made of hand-woven thick cotton fabric for my Ikea reclining armchair made during my last trip to Chiang-Mai.
    Admittedly though, translating “antimacassar” into Thai did pose some problems.

  10. LRE says:

    Watching Vagina trying to get the CE job is like watching Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense for a second time: she’s the only person who doesn’t know she’s dead.

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