Can Carrie Lam sink even lower?

October 18, 2019 17:07
Chief Executive Carrie Lam takes questions from lawmakers regarding her policy address, at the Legislative Council on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Every time you think that the Chief Executive in Name Only (CENO) and her motley crew of waxworks can sink no lower, she triumphantly proves that the absolute depths have yet to be tested.

While the fires threatening to consume Hong Kong burn ever brighter, Carrie Lam, the CENO, is torn between adding fuel to the flames and simply walking away from the carnage.

As a lifelong bureaucrat, her basic instincts tell her that no problem is too big to be ignored or to be buried under a mass of paperwork. But as a hapless pawn being yanked this way and that by her masters in Beijing, she occasionally tries to wriggle free with bold attempts to show the bosses just how tough she is.

This explains her fatal decision to impose the now-dead extradition bill on Hong Kong and as its rotten corpse moulders, she keeps the flames glowing by either allowing or not being able to prevent an out of control police force from rampaging through the streets, by adamantly refusing to negotiate with protesters, by giving herself unlimited powers under colonial emergency regulations and by being her own very annoying self.

It is against this background that the CENO, or should it be the VENO, Video Executive in Name Only, introduced her policy address on Wednesday. It’s immediate, and arguably only positive, effect was to boost the paper wealth of the six biggest property tycoon families by over HK$23 billion as their shares soared on the back of her proposal to make it easier to buy property at a time when sales have been slipping.

So, that’s six happy families but for everyone else there was nothing to cheer about, and in case the VENO’s determination to focus on the rich was in doubt, she handed out impressive sums of cash to the tiny elite who own electric cars, not to mention another bunch of property tycoons who monopolize the ferry services.

Meanwhile, as Jimmy Sham lay in hospital recovering from a savage attack by thugs hoping to silence the organizer of Hong Kong’s biggest peaceful demonstrations, the CENO saw fit to use this opportunity to chastise the protesters for their violence.

No wonder she eventually decided to deliver all this nonsense by way of video; maybe even she was embarrassed by the utter ridiculousness of her policy address (OK, that’s a stretch). Notwithstanding the 220 initiatives that the speech was said to contain – no one was listening because she had absolutely nothing to say about the fire consuming Hong Kong.

Even the people in the legislature who not so long ago were described as being part of the pro-government camp, had nothing good to say about this piece of nonsense. They have belatedly realized that close association with the VENO is a highly toxic political risk, the consequences of which make them shudder as next month’s district elections draw ever closer.

But worry not, they are already working on a cunning plan to get the election put off and or to disqualify the highest-profile democrat contenders even before that happens.

The day after the policy address debacle, the VENO, pleading immense busyness, went back into hiding, leaving her Number Two Mathew Cheung to face the fury of the public in the traditional radio phone-ins which follow this annual ritual. As ever he performed his highly acclaimed role as a punchbag with great aplomb.

She was also too busy to meet US Senator Ted Cruz when he came to Hong Kong last week, giving her an opportunity to explain government policy, which she says is severely misunderstood in Washington.

The threadbare remnants of the government propaganda machine had previously spent weeks bleating about the unfairness of the access given to Hong Kong democrats visiting legislators in the United States. Yet when one of their most prominent members took the trouble to come here, the VENO would not see him.

All this notwithstanding, she still has the gall to insist that she will be humbly listening to the public’s views and will actively engage with them. The first step in this engagement process has been to abandon the admittedly farcical dialogue platform she established after it was discovered that despite careful pre-selection of participants, they had failed to screen out those not matching the high standard of agreeing with her.

When asked by some pesky journalist whether she would respond to the clearly stated views of the public regarding the need for an independent inquiry into the events of the last few months, how she would respond to record lows of support for her leadership etc. etc., the VENO simply replied that she could not be swayed by mere public opinion polls.

The "master plan" now trickling out of the corridors of no power seems to be to sit tight, wait out the protests and, above all, to do nothing to address the unrest.

A brilliant plan from a brilliant leader – that, at any rate, is how things look in the Alice in Wonderland world where the VENO has taken up residence.

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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.