Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
There is a wearying inevitability to the Pan-Dems blocking actions in LegCo. Delaying tactics, citing obscure rules of procedure. Then filibustering. All harnessed to obstruct debates. The ultimate aim is to defeat bills by burning up time, so a vote can’t go forward. The latest episode relates to arrangements for the new high-speed rail link. In particular, the deployment of Mainland officials to Hong Kong.
Based in Kowloon, Mainland immigration officers will conduct clearance of passengers heading north. Thereby allowing the train an uninterrupted journey across the boundary. Without such a mechanism, the whole purpose of a high-speed rail link is somewhat defeated.
Such a proposal is an anathema to the fiercely autonomous Pan-Dems. They view any such deployment as an encroachment on Hong Kong’s limited autonomy. In their world, this is the thin end of the wedge. The issue gets conflated. The missing bookseller's saga, and other incidents foster a mistrust of Mainland agencies.
The government stoked suspicions with some quick rejigging of the LegCo agenda. They brought forward the debate of the immigration arrangements. Thus, with the Pan-Dems veto under threat, they are fighting a rear-guard action.
And what do the Hong Kong people think of all this? Indifferent or annoyance would be a good summation. Viewed with increasing destain, LegCo is in disrepute. The childish antics, the shouting, posturing and outright thuggish behaviour are despairing.
Having said that, the majority of the public support the immigration arrangements. They see that US officials operate at Canadian airports and border crossing points. Likewise, all nations exercise quasi-judicial powers across boundaries and borders. For example, Australian security agents can act to deny boarding in Hong Kong.
So, the issue is not the function or role. Rather, it is the Pan-Dems deep-seated misgivings linked to a trust deficit. Everyone knows that Pan-Dems view the Mainland through a prism of distrust. That distorts everything to nefarious ends, with each action seen to have a political motive.
This latest episode of nonsense raises questions of whether LegCo is fit for purpose. Yet, it’s unquestionable that governance must continue, moreover a few can’t hold us hostage.
If you need proof that the Pan-Dems are irrational, look no further than educating the public on the Basic Law. Plans to conduct a seminar on the Basic Law caused an uproar. Keynote speaker Li Fei, is the Basic Law Committee Chairman. The seminar is to be broadcast to secondary schools. First, the Pan Dems say its wrong in principle for Li Fei to address students. Next, that the students will be incapable of understanding the material presented.
This is an ideal opportunity to hear what Chinese officials are thinking. Whilst our students appear well capable of making up their own minds. Disparaging students by suggesting they are incapable of understanding the issues is reprehensible.
Also, let's not forget, that teachers will play a role. After the broadcast, they will harness and direct the discussion as students debate the issues. Once again, the Pan-Dems are inferring teachers are incapable of that role.
Their position is untenable. After all, it's the Pan-Dems who sought to mobilize thousands of kids during Occupy. They organized seminars, debates and many talks from radicals. On those occasions, no one raised concerns over the ability of students. To now argue that the same students cannot listen to Mainland officials is palpable nonsense. It's also downright distasteful.
One can only surmise the Pan-Dems are afraid of open debate. A frank analysis of positions may further undermine their standing. We are all familiar with their tactics, including shouting down anyone who opposes their dogma. Witness the intimidation on university campuses.
Getting back to LegCo. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has played a savvy game to date. She called the Pan-Dems out over the high-speed rail issue, forcing them to use stalling tactics. Next, she hints at bypassing them entirely. Further escalation by the Pan-Dems will invite a tough response that negates LegCo. Thus, the Pan-Dems are between a rock and hard place. They can skirmish all they like. Yet, they can’t overwhelm the government. They can delay, they can’t stop.
In all this, there is a calculation to be made. Public sentiment is swinging against the nonsense in LegCo especially the insulting conduct. Eventually, the Pan-Dems will exhaust goodwill, with a price paid at the ballot box.
There was panic this week. The Pan-Dems realised that Beijing is unlikely to come back with electoral reforms in the next 20 years. Statements by LAU Siu-kai, the vice-chair of Beijing’s top political think tank hinted at this. One can only speculate that the hard-line taken by the Pan-Dems, means Beijing sees no merit in talking to them.
Pan-Dems had their chance in 2014. They threw out Beijing’s proposals for changes without thinking through the consequences. When the other side holds most of the cards, its best to compromise on occasions. I suppose the issue is the Pan-Dems remain trapped in their dogma. Compounding this is their uncoordinated and dysfunctional approach. Complicating matters is that they hate each other as much as they detest Beijing.
In the meantime, an emboldened China asserts itself. It sees Western democracy failing, citing the Brexit mess and the rise of Trump as evidence. This drives the narrative that China’s system is working well, whilst the other models falter. Reliance on China trade and largess supports these assertions. It remains to be seen if that assessment is valid. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say China is on a roll.
The clock is ticking ... tick, tock, tick, tock, in 2047 all bets are off. Hong Kong’s current systems are allowed up to that point, then who knows what awaits. So the belligerence of the Pan-Dems has a shelf life. Never forget, China takes the long-term view. Waiting 30 years is no issue for them.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.