Whoever becomes HK chief executive is irrelevant

March 21, 2016 13:33
Pan-democratic lawmakers protest after the Legco finance committee approved extra funding for the express rail link. Photo: Internet

No matter how chaotic the voting was, extra funding for the controversial express rail link is in the interest of Hong Kong, and so was Chan Kam-lam’s nasty way of ending the filibusters.

The reason: We’ve been led straight up a gum tree as the project is already half way through, and we stand to lose even more should it be abandoned.

Therefore, Chan, acting chairman of the Legislative Council's finance committee, was acting for the city’s own good when he displayed utter contempt of the pan-democrats.

And, needless to say, Chan has proved to be a faithful stooge of Beijing, which doesn't want the legislature standing in the way of the government.

The kinks between the two feuding camps have long been there and the government is to be blamed, but we have reasons to suspect that officials in secret are happy with a malfunctioning legislature as pro-establishment lawmakers can lord it over the minority, even in a way like last week’s voting farce.

Pan-dems, though always the underdogs, have to fight back as they are elected by their supporters to do so. Filibusters are by all means better that hurling objects or coming to blows in the chamber.

And, for the record, Hong Kong’s filibusters are quite moderate when compared with that South Korean lawmaker who recently set a world record by speaking non-stop for more than 10 hours at the National Assembly in a bid to block an anti-terror bill.

Hongkongers may feel some empathy as our pan-dems, in the face of tyranny, have not found a more refined way of opposing government folly.

But their efforts are doomed to fail at the very beginning. Now my advice is to focus instead on the rail link’s recurring cost overruns – even in a broadly deflationary environment – and dig for truth.

I always find the simple dichotomy between the pro-establishment camp and the opposition misleading because a lawmaker, regardless of his political inclination, is part of the establishment. And one should not kill, indiscriminately, every bill tabled by the government.

Although Beijing is perceived to have softened its rhetoric, there are still some incorrigible, bellicose figures who still think the government should up the ante.

Shiu Sin-por, head of the official think tank Central Policy Unit, chastised the local judiciary for failing to deter activists from advocating separatism, and, apparently he is not satisfied with the pro-establishment lawmakers either, as they “haven’t made the most of their dominance at the Legco to the government’s advantage and they are too courteous to the opposition and sometimes cause an insufficient quorum themselves”.

One can only imagine what kind of policy recommendations this top government advisor can think of.

Whoever becomes the chief executive is supposed to toe Beijing’s line, and, therefore, whoever takes up the top post is irrelevant. What is significant is whether he is willing and able to mend fences with the pan-dems.

You may still lose if you bet against Beijing, for now

It’s now evident that some “overseas forces” share a dim view of Hong Kong's prospects as they feel the territory can hardy stay immune from all the repercussions of the fatigued Chinese economy.

The Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor scheme, the stock link and the legions of IPOs by Chinese firms all mean that Hong Kong has “skin in the game” of China’s development.

Following its downgrade of Hong Kong's outlook from stable to negative, Moody's did the same to MTR Corp., an unsurprising move since a company’s credit profile comes under a cloud when the prospects of its city of domicile look gloomy.

The only one who has emerged well is Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, whose refutation of the rating agency's vote of no confidence in Hong Kong and China, absolutely politically correct, has for sure scored high marks in Beijing’s eyes.

The world’s worry over the Chinese economy has intensified yet I do not buy the notion that a crisis is just around the corner.

Beijing has in store ample capital and other means to keep the market in check and any trend that runs against its will will be intercepted.

Remember how western hedge funds speculating on renminbi depreciation were caught flat-footed after Beijing single-handedly lifted the value of the currency?

Business Insider noted four funds lost US$1.4 billion after Beijing decided its currency must not get any softer.

As in all other aspects, it would be humiliating for Beijing if it failed to maintain its absolute grip on exchange rates.

We know that betting against Beijing won’t pay well.

This appeared as separate articles in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Mar. 15 and 16.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版 1, 2]

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A famous Hong Kong writer; founder of the Hong Kong Economic Journal