The ‘loyalty test’ that the Hong Kong government has tried to impose on hopeful election candidates seems to be collapsing. Several localists who refused to sign the declaration are being allowed on the ballot regardless. Another, Edward Leung, is making a big deal of signing it even though he is openly pro-independence. His case offers the possibility of further entertainment from the saga – if the authorities subsequently pursue him for fibbing about his thought-crimes.
As a polite and understated academic quoted in the South China Morning Post puts it, the government did not plan this properly.
Indeed, it looks as if the idea was planned and implemented badly on purpose. Even bureaucrats get pissed off. Since CY Leung took office four years ago, Beijing’s local Liaison Office has assumed control over the fight against Hong Kong’s subversives and counter-revolutionaries. The smearing of pro-democracy activists, the police tear-gas frenzy at the beginning of the Occupy/Umbrella protests, the selective prosecutions, the interference in university governing bodies – all suggest Chinese officials losing patience with this foreign, rule-of-law ‘impartial public service’ BS, and showing the locals how it’s done. All backfired, but the ‘loyalty test’ particularly overstepped the mark.
The loss of two top people from the Independent Commission Against Corruption takes this Mainlandization of governance to its most disturbing level yet. Today’s SCMP carries a reassuring op-ed from a former ICAC boss. He says he has no insider knowledge of the agency today, but nonetheless denies that political interference had any role in the recent departure of Rebecca Li. The job she had taken over was massively challenging, he says – having struggled to do it himself back in the day – and Li should not walk away. It would be persuasive if this were not happening in the midst of the Liaison Office undermining so many other institutions (let alone the unfortunate context of an investigation against Chief Executive CY Leung).
Even if it’s true, people won’t believe it – this is what happens when you tarnish a hard-won reputation. The pro-establishment Standard yesterday saw fit to report that the New York Times had run a story about the perceived weakening of the ICAC and other Hong Kong institutions…
Hong Kong’s leaders constantly remind us that the city relies on its reputation for the integrity of its institutions – an independent judiciary, clean bureaucracy, free press and so on. But these local officials must also serve the Chinese Communist Party, and the CCP despises this ‘integrity’.
As Beijing’s response to the South China Sea ruling shows, China’s leaders do not believe that a court is ever impartial, only controlled by one side or the other. When they look at the West and see a democratic election result, jury decision, media revelation, regulatory ruling, business dispute resolution, or a market-based outcome like a currency or stock-market shift, they see only manipulation and a struggle in which someone stronger has won and someone weaker has lost. To them, separation of powers, checks and balances or market forces are fabrication and lies.
The apparent failure of the ‘loyalty test’ will no doubt make the Liaison Office more determined to stamp out the pro-independence forces as CIA-backed threats to national security. Meanwhile, it is hugely tempting to vote young localists into the Legislative Council.
Not everyone thinks so. I declare the weekend open with the amusing sight of one crotchety old woman, seething with jealousy and resentment at idealistic youth wanting to make a difference, who feels entitled to list the kids for their ‘extreme mediocrity and/or lack of achievement’.
There used to be a CAFE LOYAL in Wanchai…not quite CAFE ROYAL but good for a laugh. The sign is still there.
I am recovering from having to teach on the 41st floor in something called Olympic. Have you been there? Do you know urban hell has arrived? How much alienation can people take? And I am still on my bicycle, living on a second floor, looking out to the waves. I like your good self have not mutated. But watch out. Loyalty to the unreason of believing in Hong Kong people must be lethal in the end.
Tony Kwok’s piece about ICAC is extremely intriguing and unprecedented. The author’s appeal to Rebecca Li appears primarily motivated by a forlorn attempt to repair the shattering damage done to ICACs reputation. I’m afraid it’s too late for that, unless they can score some big convictions.
Dear “Doctor” Adams,
With respect, the “crotchety old woman”, despite his many faults — insipidity, implicit racism — does have quarter of a point.
He’s actually borrowing one of your great theses, that the more the government tries to repress, the greater the resistance — with the corollary, possibly, that the localists are not succeeding because of any talent, but because that’s a method to express people’s outrage at the destruction of HK.
The fundamental weakness of his argument is a begging of the question. He/she assumes that the independence/autonomy movement is just a minor irritation, whereas it has the merit — a huge one — of spotlighting all that is rotten in the polity.
What a guy!
I used to have hope for the crotchety old woman when she first joined the staff as a regular columnist (somewhat objective) but was let down when either it was through showing of true, repressed colours or bowing to the powers that be in order to keep a job at around the fall of 2014.
Must be hard to live with oneself after selling out so cheaply.
Holding their phones before them
In an attitude of prayer
They come seeking Monsters
In parks, everywhere.
Like the flames of candles
In holy places
The glaring screens
Illumine their faces.
Hushed under the trees
“Oh, give me strength to hit the Monster
Let me capture him.
Give me stardust, give me candy
Let me rule a gym.”
So they hope; perhaps they win.
And hoping, I can pray:
Those real-life monsters, creeping in –
Please make them go away.