"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"This system is not universal democracy. But then again, the former governors of Hong Kong arrived on the whim of the British PM of the day."
In a one-horse town, you get a one-horse race. So not much has changed from the colonial era. Except to say some kind of feedback mechanism is in place as evidenced by the departure of the deeply unpopular Carrie Lam.
For my readers overseas (all three of you), Hong Kong has an election coming up for our chief executive. This job is not to be sniffed at because it is the world's second-highest-paid official position. The chief executive gets more than the US president, the British PM and just about everyone else in a top job other than the leader of Singapore.
Further, the role has some international significance, given Hong Kong's unique status within China. Also, we are an important financial centre and, regrettably, a pawn in the increasing ideological conflict between the West and China.
Of course, had the so-called democrats not blocked changes proposed in 2014, the citizens of Hong Kong could head to the polls. But instead, the opposition opted to go for broke with a demand for all or nothing now, rejecting Beijing's incremental approach to democratic development. Unfortunately, this move triggered a series of events that led to civil unrest. But that's another story.
Hence the vote for the CE will fall to the 1,454 election committee members. Moreover, the only candidate standing for election is John Lee, former senior police officer, former security secretary, and chief secretary. Given that he already has 750 nominations, half of the Election Committee, the result is inevitable.
Early on, a couple of no-hopers did indicate an interest in running, although this was more a publicity stunt than a serious effort.
Without a doubt, this system is not universal democracy. But then again, the former governors of Hong Kong arrived on the whim of the British PM of the day. For example, Chris Patten came here because the people of Bath rejected him as an MP, therefore his mate John Major then gave him the job as a consolation prize.
It is commonplace to observe that Lee is not a politician, nor does he have a background in business. Thus, he follows in the steps of the most successful governors from the colonial era.
To his myopic critics, Lee is all about national security. Such assessments reveal a closed mindset to tell more about the commentators than Lee. After all, there are plenty of examples of successful non-politicians taking the reins of power after a short apprenticeship. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, the current darling of the West, is a former comedian. Everybody has to start somewhere.
Anyway, I am not sure having a hinterland of obligations to vested political interests has played out well in the Western democracies. It's easy to see that the US political system, controlled by a few powerful lobbying interests, is out of kilter. Meanwhile, the UK's often claimed 'values' are looking somewhat tattered under the premiership of 'Billy Liar' Boris Johnson.
Plus, these opinions around Lee ignore a few truths. First, all senior police officers need political skills to navigate the district councils, LegCo, and media scrutiny. In this regard, Lee was often at the forefront. Likewise, the internal politics of the police force and the civil service sharpen the skills of any player.
Yet, in the end, I reckon Lee's most significant advantage is that he's not from the stale, slow and unimaginative administrative officer cadre — the clique of bureaucrats that ran Hong Kong for decades. Both Carrie Lam and Donald Tsang are former AOs.
Observing them at work during my 36 years of service, as a group they engaged in policy analysis to paralysis; slow to respond, over-cautious, a few metastasised into roadblocks. The lack of coherence across government during the Covid crisis is ample proof that the AO cadre flatlined.
Crucially, that caution may have seeded their downfall. As civil disorder spread in 2019, many AOs sat on the fence, a position that did not go unnoticed in Beijing. It is suggested that manifested in petty gestures of non-cooperation with the struggling police force. Examples include denying access to buildings and carparks during operations. Is it too much to submit that the AOs proved less than loyal and forfeited their standing? That's a view held by many.
Meanwhile, YouTube has decided to ban John Lee's official channel. They claim that US sanctions against Lee mandate such a move. Yet, Facebook has taken a different stance. In truth, such a ban is irrelevant except to strengthen the argument that the US is seeking to interfere here. Likewise, the recent coordinated attacks on the independence of Hong Kong courts orchestrated by UK politicians come to mind.
But these moves are backfiring. After all, you can hardly champion free speech when you silence people or talk of justice when you pressure judges to step down. But then again, in the UK context, we are dealing with a third-rate Tory cabinet. Moreover, at times the UK appears hellbent on forfeiting any influence in Hong Kong by alienating all sides.
Lee is taking over at a tough time. The pain of the civil unrest still resonates on all sides; the economy is fragile after the battering of Covid, and confidence in the future is wavering. So, the new CE needs to steady the ship to restore positive sentiment by allowing Hong Kong to return to business. And that includes opening up to international travel, unfettered by the current draconian controls.
The pandemic, and some of the institutional failings it has exposed, will provide opportunity and rationale for reform. Lee will prove an effective Chief Executive if he drives that change.
So let's wish him well.
"Many folks at the BBC and assorted others have taken cover under the convenient carapace of 'Savile grooming the nation' to avoid an examination of their roles".
I grew up with Jimmy Savile. Anyone who lived in the UK during the 1960s, 70s and 80s couldn't avoid his presence. He was all over the TV, in the papers and always doing stuff. He advised us about road safety, made our wishes come true, all while behaving like a kooky uncle.
We now know why his behaviour was odd. Savile, a devout Catholic, lived with his mother until she died in 1972. He kept her clothes for decades after her death, regularly laundering them.
"Jimmy Savile - A British Horror Story" — the new record-breaking Netflix programme claims the title of a documentary. That's a misnomer. Why? Well, because much is missing. So, while we get a review of Savile's career and crimes, including a traumatic recounting of an attack on a young girl in a church, this two-episode series doesn't even scratch the surface.
I kept asking, "Who knew and when?" and "What did they do?". A true documentary would have dug much deeper to expose those who facilitated, covered up or turned a blind eye to Savile. A little digging would find a wider cast of characters that touches the highest level in British public life.
Instead, we get a series of video anecdotes chosen to craft and sustain the narrative that Savile, the master deceiver, groomed the whole nation. No doubt, that's a version of events that those who worked with him, particularly at the BBC, are keen to sell us as the truth. I don't buy it.
Even today, getting a full assessment of Savile's crimes is impossible - the man died in 2011. Still, we know at least 500 victims have come forward. Many of these — male and female— were between ages 13 and 15, but some were as young as two years old. There is also evidence he engaged in necrophilia. Either way, Savile is Britain's most prolific sex offender.
But, I don't wish to discard this programme as irrelevant because it served a useful purpose; it brought into sharp focus specific uncomfortable facts. For example, we learn that Savile's connection to the royals, especially Prince Charles, ran deep. Journalist Alison Bellamy shares letters exchanged between Savile and the royal family, where Savile had acted as an unofficial advisor. The quantity of correspondence lays bare the level of engagement.
The letters include Savile giving direct advice on how to handle the PR aspects of the Lockerbie disaster. And, in fairness, he provides superb counsel around messaging and keeping tabs on what everyone is saying through a command centre. It's good stuff, from which we may draw two conclusions. First, Savile is a slick operator who understands how to craft a message and ingratiate himself. The second is that the royals are out of touch with the real world. No surprise there.
There is no evidence that the royals knew of Savile's illegal activities. But then again, Prince Charles is a notoriously poor judge of people; he was enthralled by the fake anthropologist Laurens van der Post and has shown poor taste in consorts.
We also learn that Margaret Thatcher championed Savile and his causes because these aligned with her doctrine of self-reliance. Savile didn't seek public funds; instead, he raised money through charity appeals. With her hallmark tireless resolve, Thatcher worked to secure Savile's public standing with a knighthood. Sir Jimmy loved it. And yet, many already knew that he enjoyed 'little girls'. After all, he made no secret of it with such joking comments as," I'm feared in every girl school in Britain' and "My case comes up next Thursday."
There is ample substantiation that many in the entertainment industry knew Savile couldn't be trusted around young girls. Listen to John Lyndon, aka Johnny Rotten and his experience in 1975. Likewise, Bill Oddie had enough honesty to clarify that 'everyone knew'.
Indeed, the nurses at the hospitals he worked in knew what was happening. They took steps to warn patients. I'd like to know why hospital administrators didn't act on the many complaints from nurses and others?
In a breathtaking move, Savile had the keys to the national lunatic bin. Granted unsupervised access, an office and a bedroom, he roamed Broadmoor Hospital at will. This place is the home for many of Britain's worse disturbed criminals, many held in states of chemical-induced passivity. An ideal scenario for Savile to fulfil his perverse needs.
A latter-day analysis of Savile has concluded he wasn't interested in sex per se; instead, power was his kick. Significantly, this analysis concluded that Savile was not criminally insane - he knew what he was doing, tested the waters, and then escalated, if not stopped. In short, there were multiple opportunities to stop him.
Many folks at the BBC and assorted others have taken cover under the convenient carapace of 'Savile grooming the nation' to avoid an examination of their roles. Again, they turn a blind eye.
This brings me to the British Police, who Savile held close. Even late in life, every Friday morning, a group of trusted police friends would gather at Savile's flat in Leeds. At this point, I'm shouting at the TV, "Who are these cops? What is their role?"
It is undoubtedly true the documentary acknowledges this clout by association gained by Savile but does not dig into any of it. Instead, we are left wondering who these senior police officers are? What was discussed? What was the purpose of these regular sessions with Savile? But Savile is not shy in asserting that he has top cover from the police, the royals, and the rest of the establishment.
He makes this clear in several public utterances. For example, in an interview published in The Independent on Sunday, Savile talks about finding relief in being knighted in 1990 because it got him "off the hook."
There is a Hong Kong connection in all this. Former governor Chris Patten was Chair of the BBC when the Savile scandal broke; that the BBC sought to cover up its role in the Savile saga is well known. According to media reports, Patten walked away from the job with a stained reputation.
As years pass and more details emerge, Jimmy Savile's facilitators must hope matters would die down. In that sense, this Netflix effort helps bring attention to how the likes of Savile operate behind a screen of powerful friends.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.