POLITICS – Interests of Conflict Weekly Digest #8


Interests of ConflictBelow is the latest digest from our political commentator ‘Tony Wong’. Hong Wrong publishes a selection of his musings each week, but you can sign up for his full, daily newsletter by emailing ‘subscribe’ to [email protected] It is “aimed at informed residents who are encouraged to further develop and rebut the arguments made here, and in the media, to create actual, honest and productive political dissent.”

 

Friday, 15th Nov: HK’s Elite Clubs – Britain always had a very classist society that is run through secretive clubs and societies, exclusive backdoor meetings and nontransparent negotiations… This ‘culture’ had an easy time finding its way into Hong Kong politics and business ever since the early days of the colony. Many of these clubs still exist today. Though only few still discriminate based on ethnicity or gender, they are nonetheless inaccessible to outsiders without a formal endorsement or invitation.
Though secrecy and closedness has paid off very well for these societies, it hasn’t exactly done so for society as a whole.

Competitive bids are tailored specifically for specific companies, special interest groups get access to proprietary information and influence over legislators, and legislation gets amended to fulfill the specific need of industries… We learn from Olga Wong in the SCMP that some Audit Commission suggests that the leases of many of these societies should not be renewed… When these organisations were created nobody was ashamed of having them close to the government. It was no secret that the government officials would hand out public land to organisations led by their family and friends that had no public interest.
It is ironic that the very corruption that allowed these organisations to thrive is now able to bring them to a halt.

The government explanations is both understandable and wrong. Other than what the commission might say, the leases are not being reconsidered because land is so scarce. If that were of concern to the government they would have a much easier time starting with all the empty parking lots. But they do have a point that there is no reason to subsidies yacht clubs with public money. I wonder if the government will reconsider the many golf clubs as well, especially the one in Fanling comes to mind. Most of these clubs pay little to no rent while occupying land of the size of entire districts… These golf clubs at least make it onto the list of the SCMP, but until recently we heard quite opposing views from the government… As much as we might applaud the destruction of these clubs, we should also remind ourselves that what is replacing them is not exactly transparency and openness of our government.

The government is already shutting itself off from these kinds of special interests groups, but it is not shutting itself off from all kinds of interests groups. Competitive bids and laws are still tailored for specific interests, businesses and industries. The government is still making deals behind the people’s back against the public interest, whatever that might be… As so often, a harmful remnant of our colonial past is being taken away and being replaced with a harmful debris of our post-handover madness.

Thursday, 14th Nov: National Security Council – The soon to be established National Security Council might have big consequences for Hong Kong as well, Apple Daily reports (translation courtesy of The Real News HK)… While English media in general acknowledges that this Security Council might have big consequences for civil rights matters in China, they seem to ignore the implications on Hong Kong. Admittedly, we naturally have no idea about the extent of the powers that this apparatus will hold. So far, China does not have a powerful and globally operating secret intelligence service like the United States or Russia (or even smaller European nations),  but it is easy to imagine that it wants one. Internally, the state has little to counter actual and fictional terrorists with communication infrastructure likely more optimized for censorship than surveillance.

Other possible uses for a National Security Council would include secret police work, because somehow transparent and challengeable procedures are for the west and the weak… In any case, a secretive organisation that answers only to the highest of ranks within China is likely something we should be worried about. China can easily argue that its national security matters are within its jurisdiction anywhere, especially within the territory of the SARs (yes, this acronym is used far too little in its plural form).

Our local government could and would likely not react to any movements and actions of Chinese agents within the territory, first because it is uncomfortable, but also because they legally don’t have to do anything against it (or even mustn’t do anything). Fears of ‘white terror’ are maybe a little bit too far fetched, as our satisfaction and the livability of this city are still of Peking’s concerns, at least as long as there is still hope to give Taiwan a similar deal… Without strong and radical constitutional reform the Hong Kong police will be unable to protect us from the harassment, theft and kidnapping of Chinese agents… The only thing we could rely on would be the interest of our politicians to keep this an internationally competitive city, but we know well that our fate is in the hands of few whose voice can be bought.

Swearing on the Constitution: The Standard writes about the idea that candidates for the post for Chief Executive might have to swear on China’s constitution to be eligible to be elected.

The constitution of the PRC contains such phrases as ‘the State respects and protects human rights’, ‘All power belongs to the people’ and ‘the right to vote and to run for election’. Article 35 is the most interesting, reading: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”… But it also forbids secession and clarifies that China is a ‘dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants’.

It’s a document that tells us quite well what kind of China Deng Xiaoping wanted to live in, but it’s also less legally binding than Xi Jinping’s WeChat conversations and therefore a fantastically unfit document to swear on.

 Wednesday, 13th Nov: HK’s Elderly – From a young age on we are being taught to always respect the elderly, to obey their commands while at the same time listen to their wisdom. We are thanking them for having built this beautiful city with their hard work and the smart decision for having moved here in the first place… We forgive them when walking slowly and envy them for their practically free transportation. We however don’t find it at all contradictory that our city’s elderly are among the poorest in the developed world.

Beneath all the superficial respect that we and especially our government show towards the elderly lies a deep crack of distrust and disbelief for their mental and physical capabilities. It seems almost that we should at times remind ourselves that old people are people too, and that they can and are productive members of our society, far beyond pushing cartons and recycling cans.

Ever since the handover our government has been literally shipping people to China, paying them between 2,900 and 5,000 HKD per month not to bother us here. The idea behind this is that for once we are under the disillusion that we have too little space, but also the romantic misconception that a person’s birthplace is inevitably a person’s home. We completely don’t take into account that quality of life isn’t the same across the border, social circles are important to people of all ages and health care matters too.
As a result, currently only around 2,000 Hong Kongers choose to retire in China, Olga Wong reports in the SCMP. We learn of a thing called the ‘Elderly Commission’ who warn that we need more land to house these old people. It is not clear to me at all why we need more land to take care of old people, or why we would need to ship them anywhere for that matter, no matter if Chiu Chow or Tseung Kwan O. Many people of all ages are deeply rooted in their local communities, which may be villages but more likely just average street corners in the older neighborhoods. I cannot imagine how someone who lived all their life in such a community, and most Hong Kongers of age have, would not want to retire in that area as well.

What is happening here is that an apparent problem, poverty, is once again ‘solved’ by ripping people out of their homes and lives and into sterile monotone housing complexes far away where we then ignore and leave these people to rot and die… Our elderly deserve more dignity and individuality when having their issues addressed. The lack of retirement insurance or care is one that we messed up a long time ago and we should be able to fix it without messing up our own’s as well. But it is not an issue that we can fix as easily as building a few high rises in newly claimed land in the New Territories, so I may kindly ask the ‘Elderly Commission’ to go back to work.


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