In theory, it could have been an opportunity to dangle a shred of hope that Hong Kong might yet offer its people a home with a future. Instead, to no great surprise, yesterday’s policy address focused on Mainland, Greater Bay Area, NatSec Law and Mainland, in that order. ‘Striving Ahead With Renewed Perseverance’ confirms that the city’s fate is to be the designated suburb-without-capital-controls.
Its wealth will be diverted to: Chinese construction SOEs dumping sand off Lantau; HK$20 billion worth of ‘land flattening’ at Lok Ma Chau Loop Mountainous Tech Zone; the third airport runway; the adoption of the deserted Zhuhai Airport – and we’ll let you know the rest later.
Rather than representative government, you will get New Improved One Country Two Systems, oath-taking laws and endless multi-pronged support from the Central Government.
The most desperate-sounding policy proposal is subsidies to employers who hire Hong Kong graduates to work over the border. The idea assumes that salaries in the Mainland are too low and/or life in the land of forced confessions too unattractive to appeal to young Hongkongers – and/or that employers would prefer Mainland staff. Most of all, it is perverse: in a world where most cities want young professionals to move in, Hong Kong spends money on shoving them away.
Apparently, the government has so far received an enthusiastic response from mainland companies. I guess with HK$18,000 a month to play with, there’s an opportunity to make a profit here.
I thought the whole policy address was going to be rewritten by Beijing, but it seems not. The plan to nationalize the ailing Jumbo Floating Restaurant as part of a Southern District Vibrant Tourism Hub Zone, complete with ‘water taxi’ to link Aberdeen with neighbouring coastline spots, could have been thought up only by Hong Kong bureaucrats. Apart from obvious loyalty-oaths-and-patriotism measures, most of the ‘policies’ are parochial, and too insipid to have come from target-driven Mainland officials (they would consider this stuff ‘formalism’). Beijing’s input was the overall ambience of inevitable, relentless submission and merging. You are being tied to this giant carcass, and it will absorb you as it rots.
Lasting seven hours (though it felt longer), Carrie Lam’s speech nearly broke Fidel Castro’s record. Pro-Beijing figures forced to listen in LegCo had a hard time paying attention, with one government minister, Erick Tsang, passing out from the tedium. I hear he was resuscitated afterwards and has come bouncing into work today feeling great. RTHK makes the most of the story while – amazingly – it still can.
Government departments duly register their unswerving support. (Normal among Xi Jinping’s underlings, but also oddly reminiscent of Donald Trump’s photo-op cabinet meetings, in which everyone took turns to express their loyalty to the Great Leader. Another parallel: Trump’s insistence that he won the 2020 election and Beijing’s bizarre attempts to convince itself that Covid came from Italy. Biden will at least spare us this eerie mirroring.)
We will need that ‘perseverance’.