A leadership vacuum

January 01, 2021 06:00
Photo: Reuters

I can scarcely believe it, but I am compelled to agree with something said by Mathew Cheung

The decision of those elected legislators – who normally oppose any government initiative as their default status – not to participate in the legislative council is, not to put too fine a point on it, barmy.

I am wedded to the belief that one must stand by one’s principles and commend heartily those who do. But, surely, even principles need context?

Of course, the central government’s interference in a purely internal issue for Legco, for which there are more than adequate rules and regulations, was both wrong-headed and prima facie contrary to the Basic Law.

It was, unfortunately, gratuitously contentious too.

But that nebulous bunch of pseudo legislators who combine under the umbrella label of pan-democrats, having gone through a charade of seeking popular opinion as to whether or not they should continue to discharge their duties, promptly flew in the face of their mini-electorate.

The upshot, of course, is that the members of that equally pseudopodic collection of overpaid nincompoops who genuflect to any establishmentarian initiative now have no-one to query the propriety of their mechanical compliance with the Lam coterie’s effluence.

Pity poor Hong Kong, saddled with the pan-dems and the panderers, as a collective let us call it what it is, a pandemonium.

The central government must be speechless with laughter: the flag bearers of the Communist Party’s most toxic specific, voluntarily remove themselves from the game.

In practical terms it means that Legco, as an instrument of the legislative process is not only a rubber stamp but utterly surplus to requirement.
Mrs. Lam must be singing the old song “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets”.

One does hope that in the same sense of rectitude that the pandemocrats abandoned their function, they will also hand back their salaries and perks of office.

How many Hong Kongers cast envious glances back to the days when Legco was a serious debating chamber, legislators were articulate and treated each other with the respect that they expected to receive themselves?

The populace has watched, with growing dissatisfaction and unease, the descent into polarised paralysis.

Where, once upon a time, a well-honed criticism could make a government spokesman or woman cringe, sending drafts back for revision, now the chamber is a well upholstered Aunt Sally in which the hooligans shy bananas and ordure at their opponents.

Did it never occur to these brass-bound cretins that their behaviour constituted the most graphic of arguments against the very concept of a democratic process?

One does have a measure of sympathy for those opposing the government’s machinations, after all, the members occupying the establishment benches are a lacklustre collection of sycophants, trotting out the hackneyed phrases from the Idiot’s Manual of Negativity.

Now that the proceedings are conducted in Cantonese – at least until they are compelled to adopt Mandarin – those of us who are not conversant in Chinese needs must rely on translations. But even allowing for things that do get lost in translation, one is compelled to ask, rhetorically, “did he/she actually understand what he/she just said?”

Sadly, the paranoia exhibited by legislators of all political colours has led to a situation in which no-one actually listens to any other opinion. Indeed, they all appear to be suffering from the same audio-impairment with which Mrs. Lam is afflicted.

One cannot but have sympathy with an opposition that is trapped, virtually permanently, in that status, simply because the system is gerrymandered to guarantee a majority for the government.

But having rejected the opportunity to expand the electoral system on a path towards a democratically elected government, those in opposition are hoist with their own petard.

Had those successively holding the reins of government had the wit and wisdom to listen to the hopes and fears of the vast majority of the electorate, an evolutionary path to fair representation could have been charted.

But neither the current incumbents nor their immediate predecessors had either wit or wisdom.

With the passage of time, it was inevitable that a young, well-educated and aspirant population would seek to shrug off the dysfunctional hand of self-serving Chief Executives and a pattern of ever-increasing misgovernment.

Had anyone in government taken the trouble to consult the Gini coefficient, they would have noted that Hong Kong is up there with Zambia and Haiti!

At one extreme, we have the obscene wealth of the major property developers and at the other a significant percentage of people who have to live in sub-divided flats or sleep on the street.

For the vast majority, the price of purchasing a flat is beyond their wildest dreams. This, in a territory whose budget has been so richly endowed that successive Financial Secretaries have been at a loss to know what to do with their surplus.

Societies are like pressure cookers: unless there is a safety valve, they explode.

Despite which, Hong Kong’s population demonstrated peacefully in their millions or hundreds of thousands, depending on who you believe.

That a small minority resorted to violence was, in part, an indictment of the lack of leadership on both sides: by the pandemocrats who refused to condemn gratuitous vandalism and by a government that, bereft of the ability to respond constructively, sanctioned an utterly disproportionate measure of repressive violence by the Police.

The situation spiraled exponentially down. Having observed that Mrs. Lam only responded when the Legco chamber was invaded, some of the protesters deduced, wrongly, that only violence produced results. Listen up children, violence only begets violence.

When it appeared that the Police chose not to intervene when government friendly thugs attacked innocent people, and the forces of law and order were no longer held accountable for their excesses, the leadership vacuum reached its apotheosis.

Then, in stepped the central government.

That Hong Kong now labours under a repressive regime totally alien to its psyche, is the culmination of the abdication of leadership by all concerned.

Mrs. Lam seems to think she is the Pied Piper of Hamilin; she ignores what happened to the citizens of that unfortunate town.

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