Date
21 October 2019
Hong Kong's Leader Carrie Lam, pictured here at a press conference on July 22, is battling a serious crisis that is largely one of her own making. Photo: Reuters
Hong Kong's Leader Carrie Lam, pictured here at a press conference on July 22, is battling a serious crisis that is largely one of her own making. Photo: Reuters

We’re still waiting for the govt to stand up for Hong Kong

As local football team Kitchee predictably went down to defeat against English Premier League club Manchester City in the Hong Kong Stadium this week, the deep shadow of local politics reverberated throughout the arena with fans chanting ‘free Hong Kong’.

Unlike the former chief executive CY Leung, who could not even bring himself to say he would support the Hong Kong team in a football match with the Chinese national side, local football fans know where their loyalties lie.

The slogan that dominates recent street protests, ‘Ga Yau Heung Gong’, a colloquialism that can be roughly translated as meaning, all strength to Hong Kong, sums up the fundamental sense of solidarity that the people have and their commitment to preserving Hong Kong’s unique character.

There is no doubt that Hong Kong people will always stand up for Hong Kong but is there anyone in the wretched and increasingly irrelevant Hong Kong government prepared to do the same?

The answer is ‘no’ and it starts from the top. Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive in Name Only (CENO), has shown herself to be emphatically unwilling and incapable of performing this task.

This was made abundantly clear when she came out of hiding this week to address a press conference where, in her trademark robotic fashion, she went to some lengths to prioritize condemnation of minor damage to property owned by the Chinese government before turning her attention to the rampage carried out by thugs in Yuen Long in the name of patriotism.

Hong Kong people, she was in effect saying, are way less important than the Beijing government’s property.

That was quite bad enough but the fact that the thugs could commit these crimes without police restraint was breath-taking. What did the CENO have to say about that? Who knows, who cares, because the reality is that she has nothing of relevance to say.

Challenged by a notably insistent reporter to at least provide some semblance of a human response to these events Lam blinked furiously, assumed an expression of extreme distaste and then slunk back into robotic mode saying… well, it’s hardly worth reporting what she said because it amounted to little more than yet another repetition of a script dictated in Beijing.

Gathered behind the CENO were her entire ministerial team standing there with grim faces and giving an impression that they would prefer spending their time lapping up cat sick rather than facing the media but, of course, they remained silent, leaving it to the police commissioner to do a sterling job of damaging his own credibility and that of the force he is supposed to lead.

So, this is what they look like in public. And what on earth are they doing behind closed doors? Who among them is prepared to tell the bosses in Beijing what’s really happening in Hong Kong, assuming that any of them know?

Far more likely is that they go to meetings clutching a script written in simplified characters which says that the protests are led by mysterious foreign forces meddling in China’s internal affairs and that it’s best to ignore the substance of the protests while developing a narrative focusing on law and order.

No wonder even the bosses up North are fretting over the lack of real information from Hong Kong. Yet they are to blame because they operate a regime that has repeatedly shown a willingness to shoot the messenger.

A vicious circle is in operation here which means that the people taking the real decisions about Hong Kong are forced to do so on the basis of limited and inaccurate information. And those decisions have generally tended to pour oil on the fires of discontent. This leads to even worse decision-making or, as matters stand, it then produces something approaching paralysis of government seemingly aimed at forcing the protestors to exhaust themselves so that everything can return to ‘normal’.

Meanwhile what kind of advice comes from the inner circle of official worthies in Hong Kong? In the case of the DAB, the biggest of the pro-government parties, this amounts to little more than repeated exhortations to support the police.

And, over in the far corner, still itching to make her way into the top job, is Regina Ip who is so contemptuous of Hong Kong people that she thinks the best way to get them off the streets is to offer a bribe. HK$8,000 per person is the sum she has in mind. Even ignoring this reckless waste of public funds, this bribe proposal demonstrates the paucity of thought in the upper echelons of government.

They just don’t get it, and that means all of them, from the CENO and right up to her bosses and from there down to the poodles who do their bidding.

So, here we are in the very hot summer of 2019, where the police force which facilitated a rampage by violent gang members in Yuen Long is determined to ban a demonstration by peaceful citizens on grounds of ‘public order’.

Can it get worse?

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RC

Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author