Whither Hong Kong?

May 11, 2020 12:03
Photo: RTHK

When is a duck not a duck? When it is the Liaison office set up by the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R.

Staffed by Mainland officials, on the payroll of the central government, under the jurisdiction of the State Council, speaks in Putonghua on behalf of the central government, it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck but, according to that legal luminary our Secretary for Justice, it isn’t a duck.

The title of Secretary for Justice is a misnomer, if ever there was one. But it really is objectionable to have the office holder described as “the Justice Chief”.

The Secretary for Justice is the government’s in-house legal advisor, totally different from the Chief Justice who heads Hong Kong’s judiciary.

Pre-1997 the role was designated the Attorney General, the head of the government’s law officers. To anyone who has read Orwell’s 1984, the title ‘Secretary for Justice’ carries an ominous threat of Big Brother.

So, if the Liaison Office is a central government duck, it must be quacking on behalf of Beijing.

But according to Regina Ip, if it is a duck, it is not recognized as such in Hong Kong, in which case, perhaps its quacking is too high for the human ear to detect.

But ducks aside, what are these central government officers and legislators – all on full salaries and expenses during the pandemic, unlike the majority of Hong Kongers – quacking about?

Election of the chair of the local legislature’s House Committee, an issue which could have been resolved instantly if the incumbent chair was not insisting on standing for re-election.

But the opposition regard the composition of Legco as gerrymandered to outvote them on every issue, so they refuse to cooperate.

So, the business of Legco was actually being frozen by its intractable Deputy chair and held hostage by the chair’s unbridled ambition and ego.

So, the overpaid dumbclucks, both pro and anti-government, played musical chairs followed by beat your neighbor out of doors.

And we pay these people handsome salaries for behavior that no kindergarten teacher would tolerate?

As Shakespeare would have said, “A pox on both your houses.”

Equally, had the Legco President had the gravitas of any of his predecessors, doubtless he could have facilitated a solution.

But the current office holder does a fair imitation of Donald Duck, to whom no-one, even Pluto and Goofy pay any attention.

Disney World aims to entertain but Legco is the equivalent of a 5th rate disaster movie whose casting director thought it was a circus film about unemployable clowns.

Prior to Snow White and the antediluvian establishment dwarfs grabbing the chair, instead of finding an internal solution, they splashed out taxpayers’ money to seek advice from leading counsel whereupon, in a mindless tit for tat, the pandemoniums followed suit by crowdfunding counsel’s opinion.

Meanwhile, Snow White’s wicked fairy godmother, the Chief Executive, appears to have handed over the control of Hong Kong to the Police Force.

Enter the silent movies’ era Keystone Cops, some of whom appear to be putting their reputation on ice when they’re not arresting 12 years olds for, what? Nothing.

As the lights go up in the cinema, we look around us, wondering if there are any sane people in the audience.

Once upon a time there were civilized, sensible legislators who knew how to agree to disagree, were capable of articulating themselves clearly and focusing on the nuts and bolts that were necessary for Hong Kong’s machinery to function efficiently.

There were people of substance like Sir John Swaine, Rita Fan, Andrew Wong and Jasper Tsang who presided over the Council’s proceedings in a way that lent it dignity.

Now all we have is legislators from Central Casting, locked in mortal combat as though they were Lords of the Ring.

The Basic Law explicitly disqualifies the Central government from interfering in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, regardless of how you describe any of its organs.

The pathetic havering over whether the Liaison Office is a department of the central government reveals just how totally dysfunctional is our current administration.

A different question is whether all the fulminating quacking from Western constitutes interference or is merely a dissatisfied filmgoer protesting about the quality of the movie?

If any of the people who genuinely earn their living in Hong Kong doing a proper job were to behave like these addle-pated, pompous twits, they would soon be out of a job.

As Hong Kong begins to emerge, gradually, from the restrictions necessitated by Covid-19, a success story that is attributable to the maturity of the bulk of the population rather than any governmental diktat, sensible people recognize that it is time for serious reflection.

Though the protesters’ four remaining demands are impracticable, there is an urgent need for constructive steps to be taken to reflect the genuine groundswell of public dissatisfaction.

Two things that would meet with widespread approval and restore order in the community are first, an independent inquiry into the cause, course and conduct of the protests, including police brutality, and second a public body to devise a more representative form of governance.

Nor is it credible to continue the policy of misusing the Police Force to batter the protest into submission. This is not a Police State; yet. But the inquiry should not be limited, as the protesters demand, into just abuses by the Police.

The government has a duty to keep violence off the streets, no matter by whom it is being perpetrated and to hold to account those who are guilty of unlawful violence.

Appointment of an independent judicial commission of inquiry with broad terms of reference is the first urgent necessity.

A second step would be to establish a representative body of highly regarded citizens, without any in-built political bias, to consider how to progress Hong Kong to a more balanced system of governance consistent with the Basic Law.

The people of Hong Kong, both young and old, need to be able to feel that their hopes and fears will be listened to and reflected by their government and especially by its Chief Executive.

Candidates that spring to mind for the panel would include such as ex-Chief Justice Andrew Li, ex-President of Legco Jasper Tsang, retired bureaucrat John Chan, retiring chair of the Competition commission Anna Wu Hung-yuk, leading microbiologist Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, amongst others.

An independent policy think tank composed of people of this calibre would not only provide wise guidance for the way forward but command general respect.

Critically, what is needed is a Hong Kong solution to a domestic problem, with no interference from either Beijing or any foreign country.

What, definitively, will not meet the requirements of the situation is Tung Chee-hwa and C.Y. Leung’s 1,000 founders of the Hong Kong Alliance “to protect Hong Kong from protest chaos”.

The composition of this ad hoc rush of blood to the brain includes six of Hong Kong’s richest citizens, the very Landlords whose unmitigated greed lies at the heart of the obscene disparity between the rich and the poor.

On the Gini measure of economic disparity Hong Kong rates a staggering 0539 as against 0411 for the US.

The Hong Kong Alliance might as well pour water on a drowning man.

By chance, Covid-19 created a window of opportunity for the exercise of wisdom, insight and basic common sense, rather than cast Hong Kong into internecine chaos.

Only blind, malicious stupidity would prevent it being seized.

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Queen's Counsel