The idea that Hong Kong young people are driven to the streets purely by too many Mainlanders/not enough housing is simplistic and insulting – they are resisting CCP threats to their city’s freedoms.
But on-one can deny that rising inequality and visibly declining quality of life in Hong Kong add to discontent. So, just as the massive anti-extradition protests have prompted agonizing over the unrepresentative political structure, we currently have an outbreak in pro-establishment circles of Let’s Finally Get Really Serious About Stuff like social harmony and of course housing.
And, just as with the structure, we need to face the possibility that the municipal misgovernance is not an unfortunate accident – but deliberate.
This is a challenge. It’s easy to understand that Leninist Beijing’s system of government for Hong Kong is undemocratic by design. But it’s harder to see so much apparently random assorted crap going wrong as part of a plan, especially if you are not into conspiracy theories.
To put it briefly: the CCP has chosen Hong Kong’s governments for over 20 years now. If the city is being run a particular way all this time, that’s surely because it’s how Beijing wants it.
Every Hong Kong administration since 1997 has had one broad implied policy theme. You can call it ‘to push up housing prices’, ‘to push up rents’, ‘to maximize developers’ margins’, ‘to boost land valuations’ or ‘to accumulate large government surpluses/reserves’. It’s hard to tell which of these is the aim and which are side-effects – but it’s real. As well as obvious manipulation of (and lies about) land supply, we have had around 1 million new immigrants from the Mainland to house, while officials have actively facilitated production of luxury housing for sale to outsiders. At the same time, huge numbers of Mainland tourist-shoppers have swamped public space and seriously distorted the retail sector. All these increase the cost of living and reduce economic opportunities.
Meanwhile, officials under-spend on hospitals and welfare, ignore environmental problems, and maintain a public-school system for the masses that has a hopelessly outdated curriculum. Officials who fret about an aging population (hence the need for immigrants), also tell young people to leave Hong Kong to enjoy Bay Area Opportunities.
Is it paranoid to suspect that the running-down of Hong Kong’s material quality of life is more than just incompetence – but a strategy? For the answer, watch how determinedly Beijing pushes Carrie Lam to finally fix housing.
(Or look at Xinjiang or Tibet, or ask how many speakers of Manchu you run across these days.)
Shaking my head at the truly-within-grasp but now totally blown “opportunity” for HK to have been a medical hub/magnet/center/Mecca due to selfishly not allowing foreign qualified docs to work here and just basically making it a bureaucratic nightmare. Oh well…Thailand (and S. Korea to some degree) wins out in that little niche…amongst many.
I’m inclined to take the oddly optimistic “I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-pessimism” approach: that the incompetence is due to the choice of spineless puppetry and sycophantry coupled with these choices’ thought-free and risk-averse ‘Dinner for One’ work plan: “Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?” “Same procedure as every year, James.”
My I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-pessimism extends to the fact that the Communist Party doesn’t actually have a plan at all, as they do not work together at all: it is just a huge organisation of people on the take and out for themselves and increasing their own finances and/or power. As such they lie so incessantly, and capriciously that no one in the Party actually knows what is real, or what is really wanted. Which is why so many of them get arrested and disappear for doing what they have done their entire career (and it’s what their replacement will do too).
No one wanted the Cultural Revolution’s wasted decade, no one wanted the Great Leap Forwards’ famine and genocide — it’s just the Communists are particularly shit at predicting what will happen when they do things, mostly because everyone has to lie to them all the time just to be left alone.
So in conclusion the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-pessimism stance is: the incompetence is systemic and endemic but not sinister or deliberate — and that’s not due to them having ethics or being nice, it’s just they’re not that well organised, competent or selfless enough to pull it off: this is just the side effects of thousands of people pulling in hundreds of different directions to make things better for themselves and their family alone.
A very large percentage of the Hong Kong police force are mainland kids who came here on one-way permits, grew up in Hong Kong and joined the force for a stable, civil servant job. It’s one of the reasons that the police force is not hurting for bodies and one of the reasons there have been a rash of corrupt cops stories and thefts, and assaults and such in the press over the last three years.
I think the orders came down from on high that the police on June 12 should be unrestrained in suppressing with force, any show of force or authority from the protesters. And then they are also being told, to hold back. Beijing wants to create civil unrest in Hong Kong. It wants every excuse to create more suppression. The young protesters, as spirited as they are, are being led into the trap. And the trap, unfortunately, will enclose all of us.
Beijing is a horrifying paranoid regime. And I think communism is disgusting. I pray for this city.
To be fair, Manchu died in 1911…
If Beijing actually pushes Lam to fix housing, they’d piss off the developers.