The Hong Kong Government’s policy for funding social welfare recalls that of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, who was forced from office in 1974 and murdered in 1975. In his later years, a time of famine and economic hardship, while being driven in his enormous limousine he would throw coins to children and peasants encountered on his route.
In the 21st century, our Government disburses occasional cash sweeteners while disdaining fundamental policies that would help those most in need and who are least able to afford the basics of a decent life in our city. This is a third world policy in a supposedly first world city.
Such tokenism underlies every aspect of governance in Hong Kong. In many areas the attitude is one of pass a law and then ignore. Example, idling engines that pollute the air. Or, heavily influenced by vested interests, they refuse to sanction a public service but then only intermittently take action against it. Example, Uber.
And in respect of the most critical issue for millions of people, housing, they appear incapable of finding a solution.
The massive protests against the extradition bill are the direct result of serial Government failures to address fundamental concerns, be they housing, education, pensions and care for the elderly, or the state of public health services.
And tokenism has been on full display in the Chief Executive’s reaction to the protests, a massive display of discontent for which she is the proximate cause.
Her first ‘apology’ was made public in a press release. Her media appearances lambast violence, concede no ownership of the problem, claim it would be wrong for anyone to resign at such a critical time, offer no solution and indulge in teary moments.
And the token? Her pearls, her jewels and expensive clothes are locked away in Government House as she stands, bravely indomitable, in garments that could have been sourced from a charity store, a true woman of the people. Little wonder many of her civil servants joined the protests.
Yes, the extradition bill should be withdrawn. This should not be a problem. If, as Carrie Lam insists, stating the bill is ‘dead’ is equivalent to withdrawal then such a step should be simple. And probably there will need to be a formal investigation or commission of inquiry at some point.
But such steps are short-term palliatives. Unless government policies are introduced that address the fundamental and legitimate concerns of millions of Hong Kong people there will be further demonstrations in the future.
Presently, our Government is efficient but not competent. It can efficiently clean the streets or issue new identity cards. In respect of policy and politics it is hopelessly incompetent. It needs to change. It needs to look beyond its cozy circle of tycoons and other vested interests.
But the need for reassessment is not confined to the Government. The feckless and ineffective political parties in Legco need to generate policy solutions to Hong Kong’s problems, a basic political requirement that has to date eluded them.
And the pan-democrats and many of the protesters need to accept that universal suffrage will not happen outside the scope of the bill for the election of the Chief Executive the pan-democrats voted down in August 2014.
And, further, that Hong Kong is, and will remain, part of China and there will be no revolution or liberation as advertised by graffiti artists on the walls of the city.
Get real. Negotiate.