It boggles the mind as to why the police, who have always been so obsessed with preserving public order, would give permission to the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union to stage a large sit-in Sunday in such a narrow space as the arrivals hall at the Hong Kong International Airport.
Did it ever occur to the top management of the police that a protest of this scale might be a huge inconvenience to travelers or even lead to chaos, or was it actually a conspiracy perpetrated by the police and the union to embarrass Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying?
In fact, the union has stated that the sit-in was only its first step, and if the Civil Aviation Department does not respond to its demands within a week, it will escalate its action.
It is not entirely impossible that the whole carry-on luggage saga might finally evolve into a mini Occupy movement at the airport.
So far, no government department or minister is willing to take the blame for the scandal, nor are any of them doing anything to take the heat out of the situation.
All they are doing is passing the buck to one another, so as to avoid this snowballing controversy, which might end up costing them their jobs.
Obviously, no one in Leung’s cabinet is willing to risk sacrificing his or her own political career to cover up for the first family.
As a matter of fact, by mainland standards, Leung’s alleged ordering of airport staff to spare his daughter the standard security check procedures would be considered peanuts, because mainlanders have already taken it for granted that party officials are superior to ordinary citizens and are supposed to enjoy special privileges.
Unfortunately, things are different in Hong Kong, and people here embrace an entirely different set of values.
Given Hongkongers’ fear about the invasion of the mainland’s privilege culture, the public’s strong reaction is not surprising at all.
The fact that the “Bag-gate” saga quickly evolved from merely a news headline into a massive sit-in protest within less than two weeks indicates that the public backlash against the scandal is quickly gathering momentum and may continue to escalate.
And if the pan-democrats are smart enough to seize this opportunity and milk the incident for all it is worth, the scandal might eventually turn out to be Leung’s undoing.
In fact, the almost washed-up pan-democrats badly need a resounding victory to hold their support base and appeal to young voters in the face of the fierce challenge posed by the indigenous and so-called “valor” factions in recent months.
The pan-democrats have become so disoriented and disorganized after the failure of the Occupy movement and the defeat of the reform proposal for the 2017 election for chief executive that their popularity has been eroded quickly among young people.
Thanks to their own indecision, inaction and infighting, the old-school pan-democrats are quickly giving way to the indigenous and valor factions and losing their leadership of the pro-democracy movement.
Unless the pan-democrats can pull off something impressive, such as mounting a successful onslaught against Leung over the Bag-gate saga, or, hopefully forcing him to make a public apology over his abuse of power, their prospects in the upcoming Legislative Council election are anything but promising.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 19.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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