On a brighter note, the Hang Seng’s up 400 points!

Will 2018 be the year Carrie Lam clearly emerges as the worst Chief Executive Hong Kong has had?

It would neatly fit a pattern in which the Chinese government curses the city with successively more-awful leaders, from CH Tung to Donald Tsang to CY Leung. On the other hand, it seems hard to imagine that Carrie – or anyone – could be a greater stereotypical disaster than CY.

The picture is muddied because the history of Chief Executives since 1997 involves a parallel trend: the expansion of direct rule by Beijing via the Liaison Office. Tung was left to bumble his own way, partly well-intentioned but accident-prone. Donald was less trusted but given the job on the understanding that as a bureaucrat he would be safely inert. CY was chosen for loyalty and obedience, and implemented with relish the local version of the Communist Party’s reassertion of control nationwide under Xi Jinping – but he also dabbled with some tokenistic welfarism on the side and backtracked on National Education.

Unlike her three predecessors, Carrie came into office under duress (for reasons we can only guess). And her hands are more tied: Beijing has scrapped the ‘high degree of autonomy’ whereby Hong Kong ran everything except defence and foreign affairs – the Liaison Office now gives orders on prosecutions, law enforcement, school curriculums, university appointments, refusal of entry to foreign troublemakers, and more to come. But even in policy areas where she is allowed some control, she is obviously utterly clueless, and is surrounded by fellow bureaucrats similarly devoid of ideas.

The result is passivity and ineptness.

In recently dismissing legal critics as ‘elitist’ (for thinking Common Law is superior to the Leninist version) she is simply prostrating herself to the Communist Party’s line. If she ever imagined serving as a go-between, she has abandoned it – she is resigned to serving as a pathetic and implausible apologist for Beijing. She will dumbly implement whatever infringements of civil liberties or other anti-Hong Kong malice the Liaison Office orders.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, there is not even the pretense of a vision for the future. Instead, it’s all hand-wringing over ‘shortage of land’, privatized public-estate shopping malls, traffic congestion, and other failures of basic public administration.

Two worthwhile links from Hong Kong Free Press set the tone for the year ahead: the ongoing transformation and Mainlandization of the city as Carrie clutches her pearls, and the decline in Hong Kong’s international image, as she clutches them even more.


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7 Responses to On a brighter note, the Hang Seng’s up 400 points!

  1. Probably says:

    Hemmers, one of your best posts in a while. maybe the New Year break has cleared your head.
    What curry lamb and her ilk do not realise is that once the rule of law in HK is undermined then it has no appeal to international businesses who have already been burnt ttying to set up ventures in the PRC. For all it’s flaws at least Singapore still respects contract law and that is where global business will migrate to.

  2. Fowler says:

    Passivity and ineptness. You don’t understand that they are Oriental virtues.

    The history of the Orient is littered with superior Western meddlers: evangelists, nutritionists, political scientists or old colonial bores.

    Further to my reference to Graham Greene and how you may well be the new incarnation, older and shop-soiled, of Alden Pyle, here is a passage from THE QUIET AMERICAN for you to think about.

    “I’ve been in India, Pyle, and I know the harm liberals do. We haven’t a liberal party any more-liberalism’s infected all the other parties. We are all either liberal conservatives or liberal socialists: we all have a good conscience. I’d rather be an exploiter who fights for what he exploits, and dies with it. Look at the history of Burma. We go and invade the country: the local tribes support us: we are victorious: but like you Americans we weren’t colonialists in those days. Oh no, we made peace with the king and we handed him back his province and left our allies to be crucified and sawn in two. They were innocent. They thought we’d stay. But we were liberals and we didn’t want a bad conscience.”

  3. If Carrie really wants to attack elitism in Hong Kong, she could start by getting rid of the Functional Constituencies which give an elite group a greater say in what passes for a political system. But don’t hold your breath waiting.

  4. property developer says:

    Okay, Hong Kong’s international reputation has gone sharply downhill. But it’s clutching at straws that burned out a generation ago, to try to leverage that into any sort of hope.

    The reality is that any conceivable future for this region is inescapably damned. Get out if you can.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    Whatever happened to Terry Halladay ?

  6. HillnotPeak says:

    HKFP articles are too depressing, I think I give 2018 a pass.

  7. old git says:

    The places with the problems are the likes of China, which shall get old before it gets rich (see their exchange control policies) and disturbingly, the EU which has nether an immigration policy nor a birth policy.

    The places with few of these problems are Vietnam and Philippines which have a much younger demographic. Africa is a HIV and corruption issue which will take a generation to repel. So Asia will rise without China.

    HK has no problems

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