Why the rush?

A special LegCo session for the second reading of the Article 23 bill.

SCMP has an ‘exclusive’ on why the bill’s consultation and legislative procedures have that ‘blink and you missed it’ feel…

Insiders said for Hong Kong authorities, a swift enactment of the bill was a calculated strategy to catch foreign powers off guard and thereby minimise the potential impact and duration of any punitive actions or smear campaigns against the city.

A decision to get the bill out of the way quickly was made to allow the government to address Hong Kong’s economic woes and jump-start recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, they said. 

So which was it? To get it done before hostile foreign forces could complicate things? Or to enable us to ‘move forward’ and ‘focus on the economy’?  

…[Vice-Premier Ding Xuexiang] and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Xia Baolong met delegates on several occasions during the two sessions. Their message was clear: speedy legislation would allow the city to concentrate on developing the economy.

…The “surprise element” to the fast-tracking of the bill was important, according to a pro-Beijing heavyweight, who said the tactic would catch foreign powers unprepared. Any decision to enact sanctions, for example, would take time to push through given their own countries’ packed agenda.

The 15 lawmakers sitting on the bills committee privately mocked themselves as “martyrs”, the politician said, referring to their “readiness” to face sanctions or other restrictions imposed by Western governments.

The ‘focus on the economy’ trope has been used by every post-1997 administration to try to divert attention from political controversy. The irony was that the controversies were rooted in public discontent over issues (typically to do with democratic reform) that could potentially have led to major improvements in government economic policy – thus obviating the need for the constant ‘we must focus’ thing. To put it another way, Article 23 is a hot potatonot least because of fears it could have a negative impact on the economy. (See also Mainland officials’ traditional mantra about Hong Kong being ‘an economic city, not a political city’.) 

The idea that Beijing wanted to pre-empt foreign pressure sounds far more plausible. The whole ‘national security’ fever is ultimately about perceived threats from foreign influences. 

But a simpler explanation would simply be that rushing Article 23 through shows – indeed just reflects – clearly who is in charge. The consultative and legislative procedures are formalities. But then…

…Fast-tracking without thorough scrutiny could cause residents to question the role of the legislature, said John Burns, honorary professor at the department of politics and public administration at HKU.

He said lawmakers did not sufficiently address concerns about the vague key terms of the bill. Instead, the focus centred on advocating harsher treatment for residents “potentially ensnared in the national security web”, he said.

Burns said residents might legitimately ask: “What, then, is the role of Legco overhauled by Beijing?”

The central government has implemented changes to Hong Kong’s political system to ensure only “patriots” hold office.

“Legco represents a narrow range of ‘official patriot’ opinion,” he said. “This is a dangerous position because the government needs broad support to govern effectively.”

The SCMP tries to conclude with a positive note…

…The passing of the law could mean the start of a real test of Hong Kong’s wisdom. Will plugging the security “loophole” propel the city towards economic prosperity, while preserving its freedoms and liberties, as repeatedly promised by the city’s leaders?

Business tycoon Allan Zeman said he agreed wholeheartedly with the assertion.

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15 Responses to Why the rush?

  1. dopey says:

    The dopey family has had emmigration plans in the works for a while now. We are fortunate to be able to do so in an orderly manner and have alternatives if necessary.

    I’m not sure we would’ve followed this path if it weren’t for the response to the protests and the 2022 covid debacle, and the constant drum beat re: “foreign influences”.

    People in charge all over the world make decisions that align with their own self-interest, and the best any of us can hope for is that the systems in place go some way to align a leader’s interests with those bound to follow. ATM as a foreigner in HK I don’t think it’s in our leaders best interests to protect ours.

    That’ll do from me. Anymore and I should start my own blog.

  2. Judge Pao says:

    Oh, Allan Zeman says it’s okay. Like Xi’s endorsememt of Putin’s “victory”?

  3. reductio says:

    What with Mike “Think Big” Rowse and the ubiquitous Allan Zeman, I don’t think I can take much more heavyweight-ness this early in the morning. Please wait till my breakfast has gone down.

  4. Urban Ruination Authority says:

    Who else is spending this week proactively punching themselves in the face to pre-empt their enemies?

    If they want to fix the economy they can start by liquidating the URA before it can Wedding Card Street the Flower Market

  5. Boris Badanov says:

    It’s a demonstration of who’s in charge. LegCo is now a rule by law factory of whatever the ML Govt Liaison Office and the Pikachu/Chris Tang axis want. Call it the HK People’s Congress (all those in favour say “aye”) and you’ll more quickly adjust your views to the intended new reality – the purpose of the HKPC isn’t to scrutinise or improve laws or act as a check and balance but to endorse the laws the govt brings to it. As for the URA the comments of some Roman historian on certain Roman governor of, or general in, Judea come to mind – “he made a desert and called it peace” or in the URA’s case, “they made a desert and proclaimed it paradise”

  6. Joe Blow says:

    Dan Ryan in Plastic Wedding Card Street has closed down. Give it another year and the place will have all the ambiance and tattered wartime-in-Beirout charm of Lan Kwai Fong.

  7. Stanley Lieber says:

    @Urban Ruination Authority

    Thank you.

    Wedding Card Street is the perfect example of an incompetent & meddling government fixing something that wasn’t broken. The new, improved Lee Tung Street is so soulless and lacking in charm that Dan Ryan’s, despite its premier location, recently closed its restaurant there for lack of business.

    The URA redevelopment, in addition to evicting all of the previous residents and shopkeepers, has done nothing for the area except make easier the walk from QRE to Johnston Road because the once-bustling street is now lifeless and deserted.

    50 years no change!

  8. True Patriots Oppose Authoritarianism says:

    Careful, leggers…

    Xiaolongbao swallowed in haste is bad for our health!

  9. Mary Melville says:

    URA is overdue an investigation. Instead of redeveloping decaying buildings, it has embarked on a number of projects that are nothing more than an outright attack on citizens right to OPEN SPACE, parks and open-air recreational facilities. It has already privatized a number of small local sitting out areas by incorporating them into the footprint of its developments.
    Recently it got approval to grab a large chunk of Carpenter Road Park in Kowloon City. The very popular, and only, sizeable kids bike track serving hundreds of thousands to be excised. A large and high government complex that includes a wet market, all the better to attract vermin to the park, to take its place. This to allow URA to cash in on the city block currently occupied by the Kowloon City Wet Market.
    Objections that the development is ultra vires were ignored. No more than 10% of a park should be built on and those buildings must be low rise and complementary to the recreational intention of the park.
    In addition, URA trotted out the “single site, multiple use” model outlined in the Policy Address. However, it is quite clear from the wording of the PA’s that this policy is intended for “Government, Institution or Community” (GIC) zoning, there was no mention of Open Space.
    That this issue was not questioned indicates the rubber stamp nature of our planning process. If residents oppose plans they risk being investigated for questioning the wisdom of the administration.
    Now URA plans to take out a football pitch and sports complex in MKK to build residential towers on their footprint.
    Andrew Lam, Legco member, ex-URA and ex-chair of the Antiquities Advisory Board, nailed it on RTHK: “I think, at the end of the day, the so-called urgency of this project is that the government playground offers some potential for the URA to earn a bit of easy money in a way.”
    He did not touch on the social, cultural and heritage issues related to the shrinking of the Flower Market.
    BUT someone else did: ‘Don’t cut off the lifeblood of the market’: Hong Kong ex-leader, lawmaker criticise Flower Market redevelopment” Hong Kong Free Press 18 March 2024
    Former chief executive Leung Chin-ying and lawmaker Doreen Kong urged the authorities to give greater consideration to the area’s cultural importance.
    “Redevelopment is not just moving mountains and reclaiming land, and moving old merchants into new shopping malls. It’s not just about concrete and steel, or financial feasibility.“
    Leung refers to earlier redevelopment projects
    “Those new sites kept the shape but lost the spirit… we failed to keep the old architecture or the industry – it’s a double loss,” Leung wrote.
    There are additional issues of dysfunctional policies such as ‘make more babies’ while at the same time diminishing the quality and size of our parks. This when many urban districts, like MKK, are deficient in the provision of 2sq.mts of Open Space per resident as mandated under the HK Planning Standards and Guidelines. The shrinking of recreational space is compounded by the Drainage Services take over of large chunks of open spaces in numerous districts to construct water storage tanks.
    As for the sports facilities, no wonder there are so may ‘wayward” youth as the street level, walk in courts are being replaced with gated and managed facilities that they avoid.
    Time indeed for the URA to be reminded that it was never intended for its projects to be funded via encroachment and exploitation of already meagre recreational spaces.
    The impact on the community of loss of activity space during the years long redevelopment phases must be evaluated.

  10. Young Charles says:

    Which part of painting our trading/investment partners as “enemies” is supposed to help to improve Hong Kong’s economic outlook?

  11. Mark Bradley says:

    “Which part of painting our trading/investment partners as “enemies” is supposed to help to improve Hong Kong’s economic outlook?”

    It really is an amazing split personality isn’t it?

  12. Richard Haass says:

    @Young Charles

    The Middle Kingdom’s foreign relations under the Wolf Warriors philosophy is going well.

    Here’s an example from a headline in today’s SCMP:

    “About 40% of Americans see China as top US enemy in new poll”

    Only 40%?

    Things are going pretty well for Foreign Minister Wang, I’d say.

  13. Low Profile says:

    @Mary Melville – You know Hong Kong is getting weird when you find yourself agreeing with Leung Chun-ying on anything!

  14. MC says:

    The URA must be under pressure to generate revenue and that pressure, added to the usual graft, will mean more destructive schemes. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has thousands of 50+ year old, run down buildings in need of regeneration.

    If CY keeps speaking out like this, he could be open to accusations of ‘soft resistance’. What times we live in!

  15. Mary Melville says:

    Re MC: What is overlooked is that urban districts that have been spared the URA are seeing more organic redevelopment projects than those locked into its grandiose plans.
    TST, for example, has a dozen or more ongoing projects while YauMong is stagnant.
    That public parks are now viewed as nothing more than land banks to be exploited is indicative of the misanthropy that has permeated our society.

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