The South China Morning Post claims that ‘doubts are surfacing’ over the abilities of Hong Kong’s newly elected greenhorn young-gun legislators to do their job. The paper invites readers to compare child-radical Nathan Law (23) with seasoned mature grown-up Abraham Razack (71) – forgetting perhaps that these readers are the same voters who elected Nathan not least out of revulsion for the property cartel Razack represents.
Four years ago, the best the old-guard opposition lawmakers could do was focus obsessively on new Chief Executive CY Leung’s illegal garden trellis. Today, before even starting to collect their Legislative Council salaries, some of the new Council members are savaging the CE over apparent collusion with the New Territories thugocracy.
Newly elected legislator Eddie Chu accuses the government (and CY personally) of doing a deal with the Heung Yee Kuk to let rural crooks continue occupying public land illegally, while evicting nearby villagers who lack powerful connections. Thus, to ensure that local landlords continue making money, officials reduce planned public-housing supply in the area from 17,000 to 4,000 units. These are specific accusations, with circumstantial evidence – not least the death threats Eddie Chu received from the second he convincingly won his Legco seat, plus bureaucrats’ predictably desperate squirming. It all squares with longstanding suspicions/assumptions about ties between the Kuk, triads and officials (the Standard’s editorial refreshes our memories).
The timing couldn’t be better, or worse, according to taste. A watchdog has just criticized bureaucrats for (essentially) ignoring countless cases in which people are illegally occupying and profiting from public land. The government is planning to clear tenants from illegal housing in old factory buildings without providing alternative shelter. And property prices are spiking up again – with Henderson offering 163-sq-ft apartments for HK$3.9 million. CY Leung of course came into office promising to fix the housing problem.
The whole mess confirms the Heung Yee Kuk as the grubby mafia it is. And it puts government supporters in their usual impossible position. (Pro-Beijing legislators seem to be stalling – which means awaiting instructions from their Communist Party minders in the Liaison Office.)
Sensitive timing; an old-style faction of power-brokers suddenly looking friendless; and the loyalist camp uncertain over which side to take. It feels eerily similar to Henry Tang’s basement scandal, which pulled the plug on the tycoons’ preferred Chief Executive while leaving United Front shoe-shiners in the lurch.
As then, no-one can tell what exactly is going on behind the scenes (in terms of, say, Liaison Office-Beijing squabbling). But one difference is that new opposition lawmakers are gutsy prime movers in publicizing what looks like a real outrage. Can’t imagine why the SCMP doubts their competence.