Scraping the meritocracy barrel

The government announces 179 appointed members of District Councils, chosen for their patriotism…

A government spokesman said the appointed councillors were of “high calibre who love the country and Hong Kong” and they received their seats under the “principle of meritocracy”.

Quite a few of them were among the losers in the 2019 polls – so I guess that means they rank somewhere in a meritocracy.

My prediction that there would be fewer brown people in all Hong Kong District Councils combined than in the UK cabinet was right: there is one Pakistani and one Nepali among the 179. 

After all the overseas coverage of the elections – a few items on the Agnes Chow case… 

An HKFP op-ed

The idea that Hong Kong people will be moved to horror and revulsion if somebody stays abroad to avoid a national security trial is a bit of a stretch.

…Consider Judge Andrew Chan, who recently told 16 defendants, many of whom have been in custody for approaching three years, that to deliver a verdict at the end of their trial he and his colleagues would need “three to four months”, with “no guarantees” that it would not be longer. This is carrying judicial contempt for the value of other people’s time too far. 

A commentary by academic Eric Lai in the Diplomat – …

“The request for a letter of repentance as part of the deal for releasing her travel documents is, obviously, not part of the criminal procedure under either local law or the NSL.”…

For many foreign investors, the underlying reason for trusting Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” formula is that their investment could be safeguarded by the standards of the common law in Hong Kong, including the independent court, legal certainty, and the absence of arbitrariness in law enforcement. These elements fundamentally differ from the city’s sovereign state, where laws and courts are subject to the Chinese Communist Party. 

…the Hong Kong government has repeatedly claimed to business groups that the city’s common law and justice system remain robust and impartial, supporting a fair and friendly business environment. 

That said, Chow’s statement inevitably sends a message to global investors that Hong Kong’s enforcement of laws and political powers are more arbitrary than before, as the authorities now consider acts of patriotism as a top cause for gaining freedom of movement and property. Foreign investors would not be eager to receive similar treatment from both Chinese and Hong Kong law enforcement when doing business in the territory…

…given the scant accountability the local police face under the NSL, this whole charade – arrest, seizure of travel documents for indeterminate periods, imposition of arbitrary conditions – could befall anyone in Hong Kong now. 

Transparency is paramount to saving Hong Kong’s image of upholding the rule of law, unless it is merely a façade or slogan. The government should explain publicly whether Chow’s claims are accurate and, if so, what was the legal basis of making such requests on Chow. 

The Economist (paywalled) has more

…the police and officials in Hong Kong are adopting tools often used on the mainland to control residents. These range from forced confessions and so-called “patriotic tours” to re-education campaigns in prisons. Young people are a particular target. Even as the city tries to woo back tourists and businesses under the banner of “Happy Hong Kong”, its leaders are planning to expand the use of such tactics.

…In order to control people like Ms Chow the government has also developed what it calls a “deradicalisation” programme. This usually takes place in prison. According to officials, hundreds of detainees have taken part. Most were protesters. A young participant called Tsang Chi-kin was recently interviewed for a television series sponsored by Hong Kong’s police. Shot during a pro-democracy protest in 2019 and later arrested, Mr Tsang said the programme taught him to manage his emotions. “We must think clearly before acting to avoid being incited and instigated by others.”

The programme involves meeting a psychologist, studying Chinese history and culture, and attending career-planning sessions. One government video shows detainees playing the drums. They perform a song called “Chinese People”. “I am proud to be Chinese,” says a detainee. “Chinese drums were invented by us Chinese people. I feel very accomplished to be a part of the People’s Republic of China.”

And Asia Nikkei on the Mainland Judgements in Civil and Commercial Matters (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance, which allows Mainland court rulings to be enforced in Hong Kong…

“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Ambrose Lam, a Hong Kong legislator representing the legal constituency. “Even the chambers of commerce said they were worried, because they don’t trust the mainland judicial system.”

…The new rules on reciprocal enforcement add to the ambiguity about the rule of law in Hong Kong, said one private banker who has wealthy Chinese clients. “The authorities like to create this ambiguity, giving them room to maneuver. The ambiguity is enough to scare one to death.”

Another wealth manager said the move would encourage more Chinese to shift their wealth from Hong Kong to places like Singapore or Switzerland.

The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment. Several other chambers of commerce in Hong Kong declined to comment.

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8 Responses to Scraping the meritocracy barrel

  1. Cassowary says:

    I still know finance types who are sure that they and their money are perfectly safe as long as they don’t criticize the government, confident that there will be one law for them, and another for the likes of Agnes Chow. The Leopards Eating Faces Party, while sagging of late, still has plenty of subscribers, and will continue to do so as long as there’s money to be made. Motto: I never thought they’d eat MY face!

    People don’t move their money to Singapore because they care about the rule of law. They just think the Lee family’s brand of political vindictiveness is more predictable than Beijing’s. They’ll be happy to move their money back if they think the red lines have stopped moving around. They’ll be fine with John Lee jailing housewives for Facebook posts as long as he does it consistently.

  2. Mary Melville says:

    The biggest ‘merit’ on the part of our newly minted DCs is how some of them will manage to devote more than 10 mins a day to district affairs when they have far more enticing boxes to tick. Central DC is a good example.
    Gone are the days when you could pop into your DCs’ offices and they would be there in person to listen and deal with local issues.

  3. Joe Blow says:

    The Straits Times is running an article that describes how Hong Kong’s vanishing iconic neon signs are a metaphor for the fading of the city itself, that city that once was the anything-goes frontier town of capitalism. Of those who are worth more than US$ 30 million net, a quarter have left already. Thanks, patriots.

  4. justsayin says:

    I remain unconvinced that the Xinjiang approach of happy songs, marching, and reciting slogans will succeed in transforming HK into a harmonious society

  5. Meh-ritocracy says:

    The problem is, we’re being run by morons 2,000km away who can only speak in meaningless slogans.
    Case in point, taken from the newly proposed Civil Service Code, page 1:
    “[…A] two-step strategic plan has been adopted to build China into a great modern socialist country in all respects: first, basically realising socialist modernisation from 2020 through 2035; second, building China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, advanced, harmonious and beautiful from 2035 through the middle of this century”.
    Which is only slightly less embarrassing than the Hong Kong Museum of Art’s new slogan (“The Art Museum of Hong Kong”).

  6. Mike Lowse says:

    Last night I was so hot, I slept with the helper.

  7. Low Profile says:

    To be fair, not all those District Councillors who lost their seats in the 2019 pan-dem landslide were useless. Ours was actually very good – which must be why the government hasn’t reappointed him.

  8. justsayin says:

    Well actually maybe HK still is a meritocracy, it’s just that the key performance metrics of that meritocracy have changed?

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