Twilight of the AOs

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.

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6 Responses to Twilight of the AOs

  1. Cassowary says:

    John Burns writes in a tone that makes it difficult to tell if he’s being ironic or serious. You could convince yourself that he’s wholly approving of dismantling the AOs for failing to understand the CCP. I imagine this is how he keeps his job.

    I’m almost coming round to a “the tycoon-bureaucrat cabal are bastards, but at least they’re our bastards” point of view. If you hope that direct rule by CCP apparatchiks would lead to better governance, well, it’s not like gross income inequality, substandard education for the underclasses, rampant corruption and idiotic urban planning eeeeever happen in the Mainland. I like to be clear when I’m being sarcastic. Saves time.

  2. Stanley Lieber says:

    Only the most perceptive of the CCP realise they have already lost Hong Kong.

    Presumably that does not include President Xi himself. After all, he is the master helmsman of this unfolding disaster for the Party.

    Undoubtedly the majority of Party members and their sycophantic mouth-breathing supporters in Hong Kong believe that chanting “Beijing won’t back down” ends all discussion. How wrong they are.

    The CCP and their local minions are merely rearranging the deck chairs on the SS Carrie Lam in anticipation of the political drama that is about to unfold over the next six months.

    It will do about as much good as it did on the SS Titanic.

  3. Mark Bradley says:

    “ John Burns writes in a tone that makes it difficult to tell if he’s being ironic or serious. You could convince yourself that he’s wholly approving of dismantling the AOs for failing to understand the CCP. I imagine this is how he keeps his job.“

    Wow yes that is exactly what I was thinking too when I read that column.

  4. Mark Bradley says:

    I’m almost coming round to a “the tycoon-bureaucrat cabal are bastards, but at least they’re our bastards” point of view.

    That has been my feeling for a while now. There is nothing worse and more alienating than Marxist-Leninist scum. Even when they aren’t in power Marxist-Leninists are insufferable.

  5. Red Dragon says:

    Stanley Lieber.

    One small quibble, if I may.

    The Titanic was an RMS and not an SS.

    That apart, you’re bang on the money.

  6. Stanley Lieber says:

    @Red Dragon

    Thanks for the correction. Couldn’t be arsed to look it up! Cheers!

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