Luo Huining governs HK with mainland mentality|Poon Siu To

Published (HKT): 2020.10.10 09:27

The “visiting-the-poor show” starring Luo Huining, the director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government(LOCPG), on Oct 1, the National day, and the story of a person moving to a subdivided flat for patriotism did not strike a chord with Hong Kong people, but turned into the laughing stock of netizens.

Luo Huining’s career kicked off in Anhui with the post of provincial government office secretary. From then on, he was promoted all the way up to provincial Party committee publicity director, then transferred to Qinghai as the provincial Party committee deputy secretary, province governor and at last provincial Party committee secretary. In 2016, he was tasked with being in charge of Shanxi. Three years later, he left the office and changed to the deputy director of the Financial and Economic Commission of the National People’s Congress. He had thought back then he would retire from the second-tier post, and had not expected he would be appointed as the director of the LOCPG this year. Anhui, Qinghai and Shanxi he used to look after are rural areas in the Midwest of China where the majority of the population living in poverty badly need assistance from officials of provincial level. With Xi Jinping’s original aim of eradicating poverty this year, it can be imagined how important that political duty was!

How does a cadre display that he attaches great importance to the work of poverty alleviation? Apart from showcasing outcomes, he has to substantiate it with numbers(statistics and counterfeit data help demonstrate brilliant results). More importantly, his superiors need to “see” him allaying poverty. To this end, “poverty alleviation shows”  are set up. On New Year’s days or other festivals, cadres in backward provinces and regions will pay visits to key targets of poverty alleviation of provincial or national level to show care to the poverty-ridden and give out articles of everyday use such as staple food, cooking oil, canned food, cold weather outfits and bedquilts. But some shows are farced with gifts taken back for being given to the next household. In underdeveloped areas, these shows are essential for they are evidence of achievements in cadres' career.

Though Luo Huining went southward to Hong Kong, previously an international metropolis where East met West, he has never tried to wholeheartedly get a clue about what the city is all about, not to mention the smidgen of occasions on which he has come into contact with Hong Kong people. Perhaps what he is tasked with doing in Hong Kong is not to stand guard over the city’s distinguishing features, hence understanding thoroughly the system of Hong Kong and feelings of the citizenry not necessary for him. Instead, he is still with the mentality he upheld when he was in charge of Qinghai and Shanxi, so “paying visits to the poor” on that important festival commemorating the Chinese Communist Party establishing the People’s Republic of China. That is the provincial cadres' mentality on the mainland he can hardly get rid of, which has however been dumped for a long time by officials at the helm of the affluent provinces and cities along the coast.

Protagonists of a poverty alleviation show in Hong Kong are without doubt subdivided-flat households. To play safe, his subordinates got him “LOCPG’s friends”. As a result, Xu Tianmin, a chef from Hunan who is very often interviewed by state media, was chosen and rose to stardom overnight. State media have since been eulogizing him in relays. It is claimed that he used to have his own property in Hunan, and was promoted to chef after coming to Hong Kong in 2013 to be a cook. Suffering from unemployment caused by the coronavirus epidemic and “black bloc”, he turned to be a worker on construction sites. Now he is living with two other family members in a subdivided flat of 70 square feet that costs HKD4,500 a month in Sham Shui Po. He had planned to move to a bigger apartment, but he “could not put up with” people tearing apart and burning the national flag, so he “voluntarily” took to the streets to wield the five star flag and spent more than 100 thousand dollars from his saving in “organizing patriotic forces”  and holding events to support the police, protect the national flag and clean up Lennon Walls. Nearly exhausting his saving early this year, he sold the property in his hometown and donated 100 thousand dollars cash and anti-epidemic supplies worth a few hundred thousand dollars to his birthplace. He is praised for “never being stingy with rendering services to repay his motherland’s kindness”, helping the mainland fight the coronavirus pandemic with his lifelong saving, which manifests what Luo Huining means by "'Patriotism is not a choice, but an obligation'.

Patriotism show can’t move Hong Kong people

The particularity of this story is that patriotism conferring perks or even fortune on people is just a myth. Now that a lot of the patriotic in Hong Kong have already been on the crests of their success, just a meager of them like Xu, who became poor-ridden for loving his country, are left. After reading that story, the majority of Hong Kong people would just spit out a four-letter word instead of being touched and following suit. People with such nobility of mind can only be found in Hunan(Lei Feng was from Hunan). Hong Kong people with just average personality can never be as outstanding as Xu. In the past, some Hong Kong people sold their cars and apartments and donated the money with their whole pensions to education institutions and help the poor-ridden, but they would not brag about it. If patriotism had reduced them to living in subdivided flats, the pro-establishment figures and patriotic bigwigs would have long since been scared away! Extoling Xu this way and deeming what he has done an obligation, is the authority telling the patriotic who have been benefiting from the CCP for decades that it is time they did their part to donate their possessions?

That is the difference between Hong Kong and the mainland. The show might touch some people on the mainland, but in Hong Kong, it is just worth some taunts. If such an anecdote could not strike a chord with anyone, it would not move more people to loving the country. A smarter way is to cover fortune-making stories about people moving to bigger apartments for being patriotic. If there were no independent media outlets in Hong Kong, the political show would not have been revealed. That is why freedom of the press is so detestable to the CCP bureaucrats, who are always the “sufferers” making a show of themselves!

A straw shows which way the wind blows. The background, knowledge and experience of nearly all the cadres at the helm of Hong Kong affairs are the same as Luo’s. Having only worked in underdeveloped provinces and regions, not only are they not equipped with international vision, but also they do not even know how to administer a developed city in the coastal areas. Now they have become the people in charge of Hong Kong affairs and policy executors, they can only make decisions with the mentality they upheld when administering provinces on the mainland. Without any achievement in their career(or else they would have already been transferred to developed regions at an earlier time), being servile and obsequious to their superiors and preferring to be “left” than “right”, what destination would they navigate Hong Kong into? We should have a pretty good idea of the answer!

(Poon Siu To, veteran journalist)

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