Monday, 5 September 2011

What’s Wrong with Hong Kong?

The thoroughness of Hong Kong’s ineptitude in governance is matched only by that of an idiotic emperor towards the end of a failing dynasty. It's a historical aberration. 
I rarely rely on the mainstream “international” media for information, and nearly never waste time on Hong Kong papers. Being without a TV for decades now, I’m blissfully ignorant of the stupefying local politics and media brouhaha. I do have friends who give me the occasional glimpse of the state of affairs in Hong Kong, after they’ve made it more comprehensible with their intelligent filtering.
During a luncheon gathering yesterday, I learnt of a number of recent headlines through chit chats. Predictably (or, more hypocritically, I should lament sadly) Hong Kong’s political deterioration hasn’t slowed down since I last took notice.
There has been much fuss over the security at the University of Hong Kong over the visit of Vice Premier Li Keqiang. It sounded to me the security in a concert by a Cantopop singer would have been at least as tight. But the Vice Chancellor of the University had to endure a Cultural Revolution style grilling over the security arrangement, by a bunch of students who had been groomed by so-called “politicians” rather than the rapidly disintegrating education system. The Vice Chancellor, of course, care more about keeping his job than defending principles or the nominal dignity his position demands. Well, Hong Kong is a preposterous metropolis which prides itself for having everything. But honour, vision and courage are notable exceptions to this ostentatious claim.
Elsewhere, Hong Kong Rail, after decades of running the world’s most efficient and reliable metro system, could not find a local person of whatever ethnic origin to head the corporation. Have they heard of something called a succession plan? Someone from New York has been headhunted to run the Hong Kong system which has been operating a hundred times more impressively than its NYC counterpart. Oh well, that’s not surprising, considering that the Chinese University’s website on Cantonese pronunciation is a joint venture with Yale. 
While politics in Hong Kong is surrealistically comical, many operational areas have remained excellent. The efficient airport, a mostly reasonable police force, and a top class public transportation system are some of the things Hong Kong can still be proud of. Perhaps that’s why they’ve been targeted for the next phase of decline.  
Then there’s the $6000 per eligible citizen pay-out scheme. Not many government would have this much trouble handing out cash. Tiny Macau has done the same thing annually in the past few years without any trouble. But then it’s not a fair comparison. Macau uses common sense. Hong Kong likes to seem to be more complex and sophisticated, depending on the workload of the civil service.
The thoroughness of Hong Kong’s ineptitude in governance is matched only by that of an idiotic emperor towards the end of a failing dynasty. It's a historic aberration. In any other political system - be it a rambunctious “multi-party” political show, a One-Party-Many-Factions experimental system, a fanatical theocratic state or an outright dictatorship - the leaders must possess certain quality to struggle for power and to maintain sufficient support in a real world. Hong Kong “politicians” have been fortuitously exempted from a comparable selection process. Political vision, skills, cunningness, courage and gambling instincts required of leaders and power brokers are all absent in the transition from a colonial past to self-governance.
Administrative robots expertly house-trained by the colonial master are now pitifully inadequate to run Hong Kong as an SAR. Many Hongkongers have this naive and arrogant delusion that Beijing has taken up the role of Britain, manipulating events from behind. Well, this is not the only thing that Hong Kong likes to flatter itself with. China has a long and scary list of critical issues to deal with. I’m sure the childish and inconsequential politicking in Hong Kong are very low on that list, if they are there at all. Sure, main sovereignty issues - i.e. foreign affairs and the military - must firmly remain in the hands of the Central Government. Beijing probably “influences” the financial and economic big picture the same way Wall Street controls the US Federal Government. But the rest? Only Hongkongers are joyously innocent and obtusely confident enough to imagine their self-important SAR being micro-managed by the Central Government.
China has nothing to gain in meddling with Hong Kong’s piddling bickering. In fact, when the time is right, and that would be very soon, Hong Kong would be given the kind of boisterous democracy that many have been flatulently demanding. Why not? It would have no material impact on China’s political landscape and, in the worst scenario, which would be a likely one, Hong Kong can join Taiwan to provide a negative illustration of the shortcomings of a copycat populist democracy to the rest of China - something that is very difficult to achieve through philosophical debates otherwise.
Hongkongers’ big challenge now is to identify a passable candidate who can do the job of Chief Executive when direct election comes. If none can be found after a big stretch of the imagination, then we better start looking for a way to blame Beijing for the failure, or headhunt one from New York.

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