The week begins with a faint theme of authoritarian government encountering obstacles in its attempts to needle dissidents.
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority will dock the salaries of 7,000 public doctors and nurses who went on strike last February in an attempt to convince the government to close the border with the Mainland and keep Covid out. The action largely succeeded (though officials grumpily insisted that they tightened border controls of their own volition). The government and its CCP minders would have preferred to take far harsher revenge against the strikers – but these are essential workers, public opinion is on their side, and it would probably be messy from HR or legal angles to take further disciplinary action. So a pay deduction is all.
Skilled health-care professionals are of course among the many Hongkongers currently thinking about emigrating. Beijing is angry that foreign countries, including the UK, Canada and Australia, are extending residency rights to the city’s people. The bureaucrats are refusing to allow individuals hoping to use the UK’s complex immigration plan to cash in their Mandatory Provident Funds before age 65, on the grounds that technically they are not holding documents that grant permanent residency in the UK. Petty, but not surprising.
Lastly, the government wants to further rig the election system (which seems like overkill given that the elected bodies are powerless, and pro-dem members are being disqualified from running anyway). One key move is to let Hongkongers on the Mainland vote. But this seems to have run into unforeseen problems. One commentator suggests that Beijing officials are nervous about the idea of electioneering on the other side of the border. Since the idea must have been approved by Beijing’s locally based minders, the opposition must come from actual Mainland government departments.
Incidentally, UK activist Benedict Rogers introduces a group dedicated to helping Hongkongers going into exile. This attracts a churlish name-check in today’s drivel from Nury Vittachi. The columnist wasn’t always so embarrassingly pro-Beijing. An alert correspondent spotted the following comments in the celebrated humorist’s then-column of June 4, 2009 – the 20th anniversary of the Beijing massacre…
Now, every year or two, members of the Hong Kong elite tell us to forget June 4 and move on. They are surprised that we ordinary people of the city react with horror, stamp our feet and say NO.
Solidarity with the youngsters who hoped for a more open China is a key part of Hong Kong’s identity. Because we’re freer than the rest of China, we have a vital role: Hong Kong is China’s memory and its conscience. Our leaders act as if they don’t realize this, but the average woman in the Wan Chai market knows it instinctively.
June 4 is worth remembering. The young man with the shopping bags who stopped a row of tanks may be dead. But the image of what he did will inspire people around the globe forever.
Nowadays, Nury would insist that the CIA paid the guy with the shopping bags. What happened?