The queen or the curse of Hong Kong?

January 30, 2020 08:02
Chief Executive Carrie Lam is flanked by Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan and Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau at a news conference on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Can a virus that is invisible to the naked eye do what millions of Hong Kong people could not? A million people marched peacefully. Then two million. They got nowhere. Months of violent protests followed. But Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the most hated leader since reunification, is still our chief executive.

Our only hope now is the Wuhan virus. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t want her to catch the virus. That would be too cruel a wish. My wish is that her disgraceful handling of the virus outbreak would fuel enough public anger to awaken President Xi Jinping. He needs to understand Lam’s position as chief executive is no longer tenable.

Xi has praised her as a courageous leader for her handling of the anti-government protests. Hongkongers know she is the opposite of courageous. His praise shows how little our communist rulers understand Hong Kong. Most Hongkongers consider Lam a political midget compared to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and even Macau’s leader Ho Iat-seng, who has shown far more courage in handling the virus outbreak.

Where was Lam when Hong Kong people understandably panicked over the new virus? Macau’s chief executive Ho was making sure people had facemasks, stopping mainlanders with fever from entering the city, and even saying he would close casinos – the pillar of the city’s economy – if the epidemic worsened. That’s what courageous leaders do.

When Australians slammed Prime Minister Scott Morrison for holidaying in Hawaii even after fire-fighters died battling bushfires, he cut short his vacation and returned home. US President Donald Trump rushed home to deal with more pressing issues after just two days in Davos.

What’s more pressing in Hong Kong than the Wuhan virus? But our puppet leader chose to wine, dine, and smile in Davos as panicked Hongkongers desperately hunted for facemasks. I couldn’t buy facemasks, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, and even bleach. Yet our government dares to call Hong Kong Asia’s world city.

Government press releases insisted Lam was in Davos to reassure dignitaries about Hong Kong’s future under one country, two systems despite the protests. I wish I could name even one of the dignitaries she met. They are all so insignificant I have never heard of them.

The reality was she spent much of her nearly a week in Davos blaming the protest movement for Hong Kong’s woes. She did that at a televised forum hosted by CNN’s poorly-prepared Fareed Zakaria who didn’t know how to challenge her spin.

For example, she accused the opposition of seeking international help to interfere in Hong Kong’s domestic affairs. But didn’t she do exactly the same thing in Davos by urging foreigners to discredit the protest movement?

Why is it interference when the protest movement seeks foreign help to discredit Lam but not interference when she seeks foreign help to discredit protesters?

Zakaria failed to challenge her when she said “world-class propaganda” was behind the protest movement and that Hongkongers had failed to accurately understand one country, two systems by waving American flags and opposing a national anthem law.

For Lam’s benefit, waving an American flag is neither against the Basic Law nor one country, two systems. Mainland Chinese regularly wave the Chinese flag in the United States. Should the US ban that? It is free speech in Hong Kong to oppose a law. Legislators have a constitutional right to question proposed laws.

Hongkongers understand one country, two systems very well but only the formula that was promised them, not the redefined one by Beijing, which has made two systems subservient to one country. If anyone has misunderstood one country, two systems, it is Lam, who slavishly bows to Beijing but cares little about panicked Hongkongers who can’t buy facemasks.

She feigned remorse when she withdrew her much-hated extradition bill, but a leopard cannot change its spots. Her imperious attitude was on full display when she met the media last Saturday after returning from Davos and on Tuesday. Her Tuesday press conference, with her top aides at her side, was an epitome of a failed government.

Hong Kong’s officials are the world’s highest-paid bureaucrats next to Singapore. Yet Lam and her minions didn’t have the leadership qualities at their Tuesday press conference to reassure the public about the new virus.

They only dared to partly close the mainland border and offered empty words about trying to get facemasks for the public. Lam vindictively threatened to site quarantine facilities in crowded residential areas after Fanling residents opposed such a facility in a vacant housing estate.

Everyone I know says Lam is Hong Kong’s most arrogant leader since reunification. They are overly kind. For me, imperious is a better word to describe her. She behaves like the queen of Hong Kong without realizing Hongkongers despise her as the curse of Hong Kong.

The whole of a panicked Hong Kong had to wait for her return from Davos before the government could take half-measures to protect the people from the Wuhan virus. She and her top officials all wore facemasks at Tuesday’s press conference while Hongkongers searched high and low for one.

She and her top officials have never smelled teargas yet shamelessly branded ordinary Hongkongers as rioters for braving teargas to support young people fighting for their freedoms. Lam is not only the curse of Hong Kong, she is Hong Kong’s tragedy. If she has any conscience at all, she should resign, even if Xi won’t let her.

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A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.