Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Carrie Lam has squandered her good start as Hong Kong chief executive with recent missteps

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2018-02-05

Alice Wu says the chief executive began well in office but her refusal to mediate between opposing camps in the legislature and her defence of Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng have betrayed Hong Kong people’s hopes

It has been reported that Huang Lanfa, a deputy director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, has praised Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for having got off to a good start since taking office.

Well, technically, Lam did have a good start. She began her term with a pretty high rating, as the public was euphoric over the end of Leung Chun-ying’s reign. She pulled off a few clever political manoeuvres as the chief executive-elect: her courtesy visits to Beijing’s liaison office, the office of the foreign ministry and the People’s Liberation Army garrison were delicately handled and clearly signalled that she intended to do things differently.

On her first day, she allocated HK$5 billion to education – a smart move as no one would object to more resources for that sector. It’s up there with “kiss the baby” in terms of political sure-wins.

And so Hong Kong did feel tentatively renewed. Reaching across the political aisle to get the support of the opposition and ticking an election pledge off her list in her first week of office was indeed a good start. At the time, the public held out some hope for Lam’s ability to “heal the social divide”.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long. Being insensitive to the Rohingya crisis and making her first trip to Myanmar to talk business made Hong Kong look bad. Refusing to mediate between rival camps in the legislature over proposed changes to their rule book made Lam herself look bad. It exposed her unwillingness to mend divides. So her comments on “improving the executive-legislative relationship” as “the first thing the government will be working on” were just talk. When the opportunity presented itself to play the role, she passed.

The latest controversy over Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng-wah is now way out of hand. I’m glad that Lam has found a BFF in Cheng, so much so that Lam has repeatedly stuck her neck out for Cheng over the illegal structures in her homes. When the secretary for justice breaks the law, it is not tolerance, which Lam aggravatingly keeps asking the people for, that we need. What the public needs is to know that officials will do the right thing. Cheng, along with Lam, failed miserably. Cheng can chalk it up to her political inexperience, but what’s Lam’s excuse?

Lam feels she can relate to Cheng when it comes to “being too busy to handle private affairs”. But as chief executive, her priority – and the theme of her entire election campaign – is to “connect”, relate to the common folk, and not the privileged few who think that breaking the law should be tolerated.

With her “tolerance” for illegal structures, Lam has not only compromised her own integrity, but also the trust – the little there was to begin with – people have in the government and her relationship with her “friends” in the legislature. There is no doubt that Cheng is manna from political heaven for the opposition, and they will ride the abomination that Cheng has managed to become in just weeks for all it’s worth.

How quickly this city’s first female chief executive reverted back to her lead-tainted water buck-passing bureaucratic self. How fast this government has degenerated into one that cares not for personal failures. How quickly Lam has gone back on her words on easing social frustrations. Nothing is more infuriating than being talked down to in brazen bureaucratese.

The pro-establishment camp better start evaluating how much of a political liability Lam poses for it. Lam certainly isn’t looking out for them.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA

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Hong Kong education reform continues, but Beijing’s role presents new challenges

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2018-02-05

Katherine Forestier


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In Hong Kong, animosity towards mainland Chinese can’t be overcome without an open mind

CommentInsight & Opinion
2018-01-30
Peter Kammerer says the fear of mainlandisation, though understandable, unfortunately stops Hongkongers from getting to better understand the mainland Chinese who come for work or a holiday. The continuing spats show not enough Hongkongers are making the effort

How many more times are we going to be pummelled by yet another sorry tale of Hongkongers and mainlanders sniping at one another? To add to the long and sorry list of recent years, in the past week, we’ve had a row over Mandarin language exams at Baptist University and a food fight in a noodle shop at the airport. I also witnessed an argument on a bus and jostling on a street in Causeway Bay.

None of these would have happened had those involved treated each other as equals and taken the time to talk rather than shout.

The Baptist University saga is complex, but at its heart is that same old concern about the creeping mainlandisation of Hong Kong. There are fewer layers to the noodle shop incident, which involved staff losing their cool with two mainland travellers. Both matters quickly found their way onto social media platforms, where the usual mud-slinging ensued. The latter has been settled with an apology from the shop, but the former rumbles on.

Hongkongers feel threatened; I get that. I understand how nationalism is created and manipulated so that the mere suggestion of words like “independence” can have sycophants howling. But there’s also another truth, best illustrated by an observation; two decades ago, people on the mainland complained that Hong Kong visitors were noisy and arrogant, and now the reverse is true. As an outsider to the dispute, I don’t perceive either side is worse and the only significant change is that Hong Kong now gets many times more mainland visitors.

Keep in mind that we’re talking about the same ethnic group and their biggest differences are the dialect they speak and, marginally, the manner in which they’re governed. Culturally, there’s no difference, with both celebrating the moon, with festivals featuring mooncakes and red packets containing money. Not liking the manner in which a person or political party governs can never be a reason to also dislike the people who are subject to such a system. I think United States President Donald Trump is a buffoon, but I would be foolish to suggest all Americans are also clowns.

There’s bound to be indignation when shopping and leisure habits are disrupted by a tourist influx. But Hong Kong has had plenty of time to adjust to that. We should also have had every opportunity to get to better know and understand our visitors. Unfortunately, it’s obvious from the continuing animosity that not enough have tried.

From my perch as a Caucasian with no vested interests, the vast majority of my interactions with mainlanders in Hong Kong have been positive. There have been curious university students, helpful work colleagues, pedestrians in need of guidance and chatty gym-goers and diners in restaurants. The negatives most often relate to being buffeted in the street by a suitcase-wheeling parade or an inconsiderate smoker.

Hong Kong likes to call itself an international city, but the numerous ethnic groups and nationalities who make it so multicultural tend to group together and rarely cross paths. Apart from cross-border marriages, this is also largely true for Hongkongers and mainlanders.

Here’s some common sense: you won’t get to know someone if you intentionally avoid them. If, in an encounter, we are rude and demeaning, expect the same treatment back. And here’s a truth: taking the time to start a conversation with a stranger from the mainland by talking about how the trip is going, if it’s for shopping or business, or even if the weather is meeting expectations, will make a world of difference, with the result bound to be positive.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post