The 150 people PR show

September 20, 2019 17:42
Carrie Lam and her top officials will hold the first of their planned community dialogue sessions on Sept. 26 as they seek a way out from the months-long anti-government protests in the city. Photo: Bloomberg

The number 150 seems to bear some special significance to the HKSAR government.

Otherwise why would it pick only 150 people for the first “open dialogue” that Chief Executive Carrie Lam will hold next Thursday at the 3,500-capacity arena in Queen Elizabeth stadium!

Still, let's keep in mind that the stadium is just minutes away from the Happy Valley Racecourse, where the Jockey Club suspended night races this week citing security concerns.

All eyes will be on what will mark Lam's first real public appearance since the extradition bill fiasco.

Well aware that she may be the least liked person in Hong Kong right now, and wanting to avoid pesky reporters and angry demonstrators, Lam has mostly stayed out of sight in the past three months, hiding in her official residence or in her heavily barricaded office complex.

Whatever few public functions she attended, the media was not informed beforehand about her schedule. It was only after the carefully planned events that the citizens were informed of her activities, through government press releases. 

Lam is no doubt ruing the situation she finds herself in today, as we learnt from a leaked audio recording recently wherein she could be heard complaining that she can't even visit a hair salon.

As for the upcoming dialogue session, Lam will no doubt be on tenterhooks despite the controlled setting and the limited number of participants. 

Laying out the community interaction plans, the government said people from all walks of life will be encouraged to express their views to Lam and her top team, so that the officials will be able to understand the people's concerns better and strive for solutions.

The intention may be good, but it is doubtful if the two-hour dialogue, or similar events that will come later on, will yield anything concrete that could put an end to the current unrest in the city.

With Lam saying there is no question of more concessions after the scrapping of the extradition bill, and tens of thousands of protesters insisting that they won't back down until she concedes on "all five, not one less" of their demands, one wonders what Lam hopes to achieve with her dialogue sessions.  

The events could end up being no more than public relations exercises, designed more for show rather than meet any real purpose.

Meanwhile, the protests that have been taking place in the city over the past 15 weeks can be expected to continue, with no sign of resolution. 

Given the grim reality, one can't help but wonder why Lam is putting on such an elaborate public relations show when even she knows that the events would hardly make any real difference.

Coming back to the number 150, we know that it also corresponds to the daily immigration quota the government has for mainlanders under the so-called one-way permit scheme.

Why is the number so magical in the eyes of our authorities? 

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EJ Insight writer