Carrie and the headless chickens: A sad, sad, story

June 28, 2019 12:05
The extradition bill fiasco has severely dented Carrie Lam’s credibility, making governance difficult for her administration going forward, observers say. Photo: Reuters

The headless chickens who are clucking around, not running the Hong Kong government, were last seen sitting behind their desks pretending not to be there. Banging on the door, hoping to get answers, are the tame poodles, aka government loyalists, who are finding life difficult because it's hard to follow orders when none are given. Welcome to Hong Kong in the sweltering summer of 2019.

The extraordinary victory of the Hong Kong people, forcing a retreat by the world's most powerful dictatorship, has left the SAR government and its loyal band of supporters in such a state of shock that they literally don't know what to do, and have been reduced to talking gibberish.

It is hard to say who's winning in the nonsense stakes but a prime contender must be the fast-shrinking Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng who insists that the extradition bill cannot be withdrawn because there is no chance of it being enacted. In other words it is not dead because it's still living but it's living without life - go figure.

Then there was the gaggle of policy secretaries led by Matthew Cheung who, like synchronized swimmers - but without the grace - spent some of the last weekend issuing various versions of the same statement saying that Hong Kong needs to get together and move forward.

Apparently none of them had any clue how this could be done but thought it was a jolly good idea to splutter out a set of platitudes because, well, because maybe this was better than the silence of their boss Carrie Lam who appears to have gone into hiding, although according to one of the poodle newspapers, she remains 'defiant'.

All this government talk of listening to the people and communicating better might be vaguely convincing were it not for the fact that senior officials have closed down all opportunities for speaking in public. No doubt they will emerge from hiding in due course but then what? Keep tuned to CCTVB for further details because this television station can always be relied upon to be accommodating to authority.

Next up in the nonsense stakes is Starry Lee, who 'leads' the DAB, but maybe this is unfair because she has long struggled with that complex business of coordinating her brain and mouth when speaking. Ms Lee says she can't accept an independent enquiry into the police behavior on 12 June because it could come up 'with biased conclusions'. Aside from anything else she has inadvertently revealed the real fear of those opposing a truly independent inquiry, which is that it will inevitably end up criticizing police over-reaction.

To be fair however, Lee’s intelligence-challenged problems are hardly less stellar than the reasons given by other DAB members for not taking part in a Legco debate on police actions on the grounds that it might prove to be 'upsetting'.

Meanwhile in Beijing the Communist Party's great legal expert Le Fei openly admits to knowing little about what's going on in Hong Kong but cannot see why every protest in the SAR turns to violence - well, as he says he really knows very little but, hey, that's no reason not to express a view.

Regina Ip, who already has plans for changing the curtains at Government House in anticipation of her pending residency there, thinks that the best way of stabbing Lam in the back and crawling over her recumbent body is to be the lone voice still extoling the virtues of the extradition legislation. Even the cockroaches scuttling around the grand kitchens of the CE's residence are well aware who Ip is addressing; they need only look North for confirmation.

Mind you Ip has no exclusive monopoly on problems with reality as we now know that despite the government frequent references to pressure it received from the international financial watchdog for closing so-called loopholes in the extradition legislation, this was not true. The Financial Action Task Force simply drew attention to problems with enforcing prosecutions for money launderers and the like, they had stopped described this as being 'urgent' some 10 years ago.

When it comes to nonsense however, it would be unjust to exclude the former Chief Executive Leung Chun-yin -- remember him? He's the one with 'irrefutable evidence' that foreign forces were behind the Umbrella Movement and, as he is so fond of blaming foreigners for protests that, yet again he sees dark foreign forces somehow manipulating the millions of Hong Kong citizens who took to the streets. Using this logic he is saying that it is the responsibility of foreign chambers of commerce to troop around the world explaining Hong Kong's situation since they were the ones who started this fuss in the first place. Go CY.

The bottom line is that we have a government clearly determined to turn a farce into a tragedy. The bad guys are on the run and it's highly tempting to laugh out loud at their discomfort were it not for the fact that the stakes in this game have risen to a dangerous level.

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author. His latest book, Defying the Dragon – Hong Kong and the world’s largest dictatorship, will be published by Hurst Publishers in early 2021.