23 January 2019
CY Leung and Eddie Ng are among the Hong Kong officials that have perfected the art of ducking key issues and playing verbal tricks, say critics. Photo: HKEJ
CY Leung and Eddie Ng are among the Hong Kong officials that have perfected the art of ducking key issues and playing verbal tricks, say critics. Photo: HKEJ

Satirists have unfair competition from govt

Ho ho ho – it’s that time of the year again when peace and goodwill to all men (maybe even women) is in the air. Festive greetings abound and we are supposed to look to the sunny side of things.

Well, humbug to all that because 2016 has proved to be a year that was seriously unfair to Hong Kong’s embattled satirist community who have seen their livelihoods threatened by a government that is unceasing in its effort to secure the satire market entirely for itself.

One of the leaders of this effort is Education Secretary Eddie Ng, who claims to read 30 books per month and demonstrates his erudition in ways that are a wonder to behold. New bon mots from Eddie are eagerly awaited for 2017; maybe the coming year will also provide an opportunity to loose the comb-over.

Meanwhile the clock is ticking for the endless supply of satirical services from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who is vacating his role as Chief Satirist after suddenly noticing that pressing family matters require his attention. How we will miss his witty remarks, his warm smile and his many successes in tackling those big issues.

Oh yes, CY has been unceasing in his pursuit of irony by telling us that he has done wonders in alleviating poverty – and has done so by using a time-honored method demonstrating that no problem is too big or too complex to be avoided by the establishment of a committee.

In this case he came up with something much grander than a committee, it is the Commission on Poverty, which since its establishment four years ago, has a near perfect record for ducking every issue that came its way. Oh, and by the way, around one fifth of the population still lives in poverty.

The other stellar achievement of the fading 689 Administration has been to tackle the housing problem. Mr CY obviously thinks this is one of his better jokes because he repeats it so often. The way he tells it is that thanks to his herculean efforts it is now possible for any multi-millionaire, regardless of race, gender or creed, to enter the market. This is much better than the previous situation when mere millionaires were afforded access to the market.

Things get better by the day over in the property market where New Territories barons have had fabulous opportunities to do backdoor deals with officials aimed at screwing extra cash out of the public purse for their land, where coffin-sized apartments are now available for sale or rent and where brave new stamp duty measures have succeeded in keeping prices just about where they were. Oh, yes, this market remains safe in terms of housing for the well healed.

What else has happened that adds to the satire pile? On the judicial front local courts have been relieved of the onerous duty of making their own rulings as the kind people in Beijing have stepped in and set out rules to make things easier.

Meanwhile excitement mounts over the pending 20th anniversary of the establishment of the SAR, as no expense will be spared for the event. First up on the purchase list were a set of four shiny new water cannon machines to keep the enthusiastic crowds under control. Personally I would have preferred tanks but in life you sometimes have to settle for second best.

I also think it’s been very clever of the government to have a second go at getting the results of the 2016 elections right. You may recall that the people of Hong Kong were careless enough to give the bulk of the seats in the non-rotten borough constituencies to various democrats. This was clearly a mistake and we should thank the government for seeking to overturn the results of this election by taking elected legislators to court in an attempt to unseat them. This has never been tried before but it may just work.

Meanwhile we’ve got lots and lots to look forward to as plans are laid to reintroduce the draconian anti-subversion laws that were unfairly thwarted in 2003. And while we’re at it we may even get a really big dose of patriotic education for school kids. Frankly, a little bit of indoctrination goes a long way but a lot more indoctrination goes further – think about it.

And if all this is not enough to send a warm glow through Hong Kong hearts we can take comfort from plans to eliminate the ridiculous waste of space, currently occupied by country parks. In case you don’t know, much of this area is occupied by things like grass, trees and bushes – honestly is this waste or wot?

Responding to accusations of satire monopolization, one could perhaps imagine a government spokesperson saying that “as the Basic Law makes no provision for humor or irony, officials would be in breach of the mini-constitution were they to engage in activity of this kind”.

He might also say that powers of a satirical nature are vested with the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. 

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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