A letter to the SCMP editor welcomes the government’s recent cabinet reshuffle as a boost for diversity and meritocracy.
It is tempting to say good riddance to the colonial-era type of Administrative Officer career civil servant. These lazy, blinkered, arrogant, out-of-touch and imagination-phobic bureaucrats are, after all, responsible for perpetuating Hong Kong’s most ruinous core policies: high-priced-land-and-housing, cars-first-pedestrians-last, dump-ordinary-kids-in-rote-learning-schools, cram-in-more-tourists, splurge-on-white-elephant-projects, and (not least) give-ourselves-huge-pay-rises.
Politics prof John Burns in HK Free Press takes a less rosy view, seeing the reshuffle as Beijing getting rid of AOs with their self-image of being above politics and their ‘lack of understanding’ of the Glorious Motherland…
…the CCP observes that civil servants in Hong Kong have violated their duty of loyalty to the government, based on a colonial-era understanding of political neutrality, with relative impunity.
Forty thousand mostly civil servants demonstrated against the government’s position on the extradition bill on August 2, 2019. Presumably, authorities removed the minister for the civil service for this and other transgressions.
The CCP never trusted Hong Kong’s British-trained civil servants, and the feeling was mutual – remember the ejection of Dame Conscience back in Tofu-for-Brains’ time. Over the years, Beijing no doubt worked on taming and co-opting the next generation of bureaucrats, culminating in the dazzling success that is Carrie Lam.
Now Xi Jinping and his newly appointed Hong Kong Affairs knuckle-draggers have lost patience with AOs, as they have with everyone else in Hong Kong. The recent reshuffle suggests that our future ministerial talent will come from the disciplined services and the DAB – people who are not too bright, find authoritarianism pleasurable and of course just do what they’re told. Being dim is a real plus: obviously it means you don’t ask questions, but it also means you are easy to ensnare and compromise. Just how the CCP like it.
Still, Prof Burns concludes with a note of slight optimism, hoping that a shift away from AOs might at least ‘dilute the power of big business, giving voice and hope to the people of Hong Kong’. I guess we need to think this way – the alternative is that the new ministers will be even worse than their entitled, pompous, tycoon-sucking predecessors.
Meanwhile, in international affairs: win-win Belt and Road cooperation takes a beating in Kenya.