It shouldn’t be too hard to run a developed-economy city-state in East Asia with 7 million educated and civil people, great infrastructure and roughly six months’ GDP stashed away in fiscal reserves. But somehow, Hong Kong’s unrepresentative administration manages to find itself grappling with never-ending, unnecessary, man-made quandaries and crises.
Some of these are so elaborately contrived that they have become institutionalized: a non-existent shortage of land that only vast destructive mega-spending can hope to solve, a gradual and foreseeable demographic shift that must be treated as the ‘aging population’ disaster – not to mention the ‘lack of available talent’ that so worries the government specifically chosen to exclude anyone competent. Others are bombs, thrown into the mess by the paranoid sovereign power, like the recent demand for instant, no-fuss local implementation of dictatorial laws compelling ‘respect’ for the national anthem.
A couple of columns remind us of the (so far) relatively minor but telling embarrassment bubbling away – the 2022 Gay Games Freak-Out Hand-Wringing Panic.
As EJ points out here, if this was the International Conference on Sustainable Belt and Road Fin-Tech Innovation Challenges and Opportunities, every official would be gushing with pride at how privileged Hong Kong is to host such a gathering. Instead, the government is frozen in fear, unable to contrive a Line to Take on the unfathomable contradiction of Asia’s World City being picked as a hub for the bizarre and creepy Western and anti-Christian perverts’ festival.
A South China Morning Post op-ed piece asks how this scenario could unfold – will the Hong Kong authorities try to bar the event from public sports facilities, or will officials lose big face and lay out the welcome mat?
Commentators cite Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s Catholicism – not unreasonably, as she mentioned it herself as a reason for her Gay Games agonizing. But the reality is that she has no idea how a world city’s leader is supposed to react. She is an administrator who is expert at implementing policy, but she can’t decide a policy for herself, and is so cut off from real life (unable to buy toilet paper, for example) that she has no idea where to start.
This makes her vulnerable. It’s pretty certain that she has been influenced by some of the slimy fundamentalist Protestants in establishment circles who do know something about this subject, thanks to the Book of Leviticus, the outpourings of American preachers and a morbid obsession with sex.
Interestingly, other parts of the establishment – notably our all-important professional services and tourism sectors – are far more positive about (the economics of) LGBT issues, and they are likely to pressure Carrie accordingly. She will be utterly bewildered, even after seeking illumination through a Briefing Paper drafted by minions too nervous to take a clear position.
There is one hope for her. The fact that the SCMP carries the linked column above reminds us that this fiasco is purely a local shoot-self-in-foot problem, not ideology handed down from Beijing. If it becomes a humiliating-enough muddle, Beijing’s Liaison Office might feel the need to pick up the phone and give Carrie a kick up the rear by way of guidance (clue: our hotel-owner friends want their pink dollars).
“How dare you screw up Hong Kong governance with pointless artificial divisiveness and problems?” the emissaries will shout. “That’s our job!”