Welcome to Hong Kong’s new style legislature where disruption is a thing of the past, questioning is reduced to an absolute minimum and willing hands shoot up to endorse whatever is placed before them.
Shorn of all but two members of the opposition LegCo has finally be transformed into the law making body that makes the bosses in Beijing very happy.
Last week legislators pushed through HKD7 billion worth of public works in the space of under an hour, some of these projects were approved without a single question being raised. My oh my how efficient things have become.
It can only get better from the government’s point of view because it has a bulging backlog of plans to empty the public coffers for schemes that were held up by the wretched opposition with their endless questions and unreasonable demands for proper explanation.
It will only be a matter of time before the biggest spending bonanza of them all breezes through the chamber. The massive Lantau reclamation plan designed to gladden the heart of every property developer that gets a slice of the action – with Mainland companies, obviously, first in line – will finally be put in place.
And there’s more: a great deal that can now be done. Curbs of the education system are top of the list for ‘rectification’, plans to transform the public broadcaster into part of the propaganda apparatus have already been floated and as for rules governing elections, well, there are rich possibilities for consolidating the unchallenged power of those who are barely elected and ensuring that the half of the chamber where real elections take place, will be ‘fixed’ to ensure that the opposition cannot win seats.
In a bitter parody the pro-China members of LegCo insist that they will not be rubber stamps and that they, at last, have an opportunity to do something for people’s livelihoods.
Jasper Tsang, a former LegCo President, said last week “now is the showtime for the pro-Beijing camp”. All that’s been shown so far is that the rump legislature is already rubber stamping like mad. They completely misunderstand the value of scrutiny when it comes to public policy. By forsaking this vital part of the government process the way is open for widespread abuse. The arrogance of an already extremely arrogant administration will multiply and terrible mistakes will be made. And, of course, it is the so called ordinary people who will suffer.
All that remains for LegCo members is to master the art of synchronized clapping so impressively demonstrated by their counterparts in the Mainland’s rubberstamp parliament, the National People’s Congress.
What is clear is that the Communist Party is not only fed up with any form of opposition in Hong Kong but it wants to demolish the entire edifice of representative government. This means bringing the courts into line so that they behave ‘correctly’, making it effectively illegal to oppose government plans and reaching down to even the lowest rungs of the representative ladder to cull the district council and expunge critics from every advisory board.
An insight into the Party’s thinking was inadvertently supplied many years ago by the late David Akers Jones, the former number two official in the old colonial government. He went on to became an enthusiastic cheerleader for the new order and was also heavily engaged in trying to thwart Governor Chris Patten’s plans for democratic reform. He regarded Patten as being naïve and tried to explain to him that the incoming regime was not opposed to elections as such but disliked their unpredictability and the inability to control the results.
The Party, with the aid of the local Quislings, has now managed to solve this conundrum. The avalanche of predictable and not so predictable consequences is poised to descend.
(Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist, writer and broadcaster and runs companies in the food sector. He was the founding editor of ‘Eastern Express’ and founding publisher of ‘Spike’. In London he was an editor at The Observer and in Asia has worked for international publications including, the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, BBC, Asia Times and The Independent and, during Hong Kong’s 2019/20 protests, for the Sunday Times. He hosts a weekly television current affairs programme: The Pulse”
Vines’ latest book Defying the Dragon – Hong Kong and the world’s largest dictatorship, will be published early next year by Hurst Publishing. He is the author of several books, including: Hong Kong: China’s New Colony, The Years of Living Dangerously - Asia from Crisis to the New Millennium, Market Panic and Food Gurus.)
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