Date
23 October 2019
Protesters break into the Legislative Council building during the anniversary of the handover on Monday last week. Photo: Reuters
Protesters break into the Legislative Council building during the anniversary of the handover on Monday last week. Photo: Reuters

Reality check

Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,

Nor Man nor Boy,

Nor all that is at enmity with joy,

Can utterly abolish or destroy!

(From Intimations of Immortality by W. Wordsworth)

 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s 4 a.m. rush of blood to the head triggered the anticipated choleric expostulations from Beijing and the canine fleet of foot in Western.

But before we fall victim to similar knee-jerk reactions to the attack on the Legco complex, it pays to stand back and consider the overall picture, as William Wordsworth would have said, in the calm of recollection.

The mindless vandalism of those who smashed their way into the Legco building is as indefensible as it was futile. If those responsible thought they were making a gesture, they must know that in their bone-headed stupidity they wrenched the moral high ground from the protest movement.

Less than half a mile away, hundreds of thousands of people were making their peaceful voices heard, blissfully unaware that others claiming to share their opinion were wreaking counter-productive havoc in the legislative chamber.

Why? 

It is argued, with ample justification, that it is this government’s cozying up to its Communist Party masters in Beijing that is tearing apart the fabric of the common law system of which Hong Kong is justly proud and that steps taken by successive administrations are unraveling the integrity of what makes this Administrative Region “Special”.

Carrie Lam’s studied arrogance and obdurate refusal to listen to anyone save those who agree with her, has built an impenetrable Chinese Wall, shutting out the cries of an overwhelmingly young electorate who are conscious of their increasing irrelevance in this society.

Priced out of the prospect of home ownership by avaricious property developers, denied a forum to have their reasonable needs even considered, let alone addressed, the folk who represent the future of Hong Kong, denied a meaningful voice in their destiny, are waxing desperate.

Those with foreign passports, extra-territorial residency and sufficient funds to build a living elsewhere ought to reflect before condemning, out of hand, the sense of despair that prompts violent reaction.

That three suicides took place in the space of a few days is cause enough to stop and think.

The distinction between the two systems, Hong Kong’s essentially liberal rule of law and the mainland’s autocratic dictatorship, can be expressed in a number of ways but at its heart, those who have the capacity to think, are frightened witless of coming under the direct governance of the one-country Chinese Communist Party.

That singular quality, the power of independent thought, is the faculty most reviled and feared by those that Carrie Lam refers to as the Central Government, the organ that, as she proclaims, has complete confidence in her.

It was sad but brutally chilling that Tung Chee-hwah, the most benign of chief executives since 1997, singled out the inclusion of liberal studies in the school curricula as the cause of social unrest among the younger element of the population.

Put bluntly, he was advocating a return to the rote-learning, unquestioning system of education that is calculated to produce a docile, readily amenable population.

That was most certainly not the outcome of the expensive American education that his parents purchased for him. Does he seriously imagine that Hong Kong would welcome a forcible indoctrination program such as that to which Uighur children are being compelled?

It is a telling indictment of Carrie Lam’s tenure of office that she is deaf and blind to any opinion other than her own and dumb in terms of engagement with those over whom she governs other than her Greek Chorus of fellow travelers.

The Executive Council comprises mainly brown-nosing sycophants who prefer to retain their exalted status than stand up and condemn what some of them, at least, must know to be pig-headedly wrong.

The puerile echo chamber that is the Legislative Council  is symbolic of what is wrong with Hong Kong. Once upon a time, erudite, articulate legislators debated issues overseen by respected and reputable presidents like Sir John Swaine, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Andrew WongWang-fat .

In its current iteration it consists, in the main, of people at opposite extremes of polarity revelling in sound-bite bigotry and the mind-numbing cadence of their own voices.

Instead of debate, in scenes reminiscent of the Japanese army in 1944 ranged against the defenders of Kohima across the tennis court, in an orgy of self-destruction they hurl abuse at each other, mindless of the fact that in doing so they are negating the very purpose of a legislative arena.

Is it any wonder that the educated, informed younger generations of Hongkongers, aware of the difference between a free society and the Orwellian dystopia just across the border, are driven to mark their contempt for the monumental irrelevance that is the Legco charade?

Yet, the vast majority of Hongkongers who object to the current state of affairs, conducted their protests in the least harmful manner. Just imagine what all enveloping destruction that vast mass of protesters could have inflicted if they had adopted the tactics of France’s Gilets Jaunes.

Think of the thousands of smashed windows, plundered shops, burnt-out cars, trams and buses that we have not experienced.

Examine the meticulous selection of specific symbols to impugn inside the Legco building rather than turning it into a charnel house, even leaving some, albeit not enough, money to cover the cost of drinks removed from the refrigerator.

Carrie Lam and her dysfunctional cabinet’s absurd refusal to recognize what I would describe as “the mind-bending silence” of the mass protest exemplifies the sickness at the heart of Hong Kong’s government.

One curious inconsistency is why the police, armed with every device necessary to disarm the hooligans attacking the Legco building, stood back and permitted the assault to proceed unhindered?

A handful of tear gas canisters would have dispersed those intent on breaking down the doors into the building but a catalogue of justifications have been proffered by way of explanation for the uncharacteristic inaction. How valid, remains to be judged.

Did the vandals who broke into the Legco building fall, unwittingly, into a trap engineered to rob the protest of its innate moral probity?

Has Carrie the crocodile transmuted into Machiavelli’s Prince?

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CG

Queen's Counsel