What a fine week it’s been. With the election out of the way and the boss up in Beijing, life in the Liaison office has been pretty much laid back.
We’re enjoying the peace while we can.
The boss was at a Party party in the Great Hall of the People, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ingenious scientific concept we all know and love as the Hong Kong Basic Law.
On the face of it, this may not seem like a big deal. But when you’re invited to a party by NPC Chairman Zhang Dejiang, you’d better dry-clean your dourest party suit, because you’re going. This is a man who made his reputation sending refugees back to North Korea. It’s not for nothing he’s known as The Iron-Fisted Enforcer.
So naturally, everyone turned up. Held at the Great Hall of the People, the gathering included my boss Comrade Zhang Xiaoming, Wang Guangya of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and a whole bunch of Hong Kong delegates, lead by Tung Chee-hwa and the soon-to-be-jobless Comrade Wolf.
Thankfully, I’m just the humble head of a lowly regional propaganda department, so I didn’t get an invitation. That was fine by me. I didn’t fancy traipsing all the way to Beijing to spoil a perfectly good holiday weekend. Besides, I celebrated the Basic Law’s birthday last month, and unless you’re the Queen of England, one birthday should be enough for anyone.
So with the boss off my back, I thought I’d stay and enjoy a fine, sunny weekend here in Hong Kong.
It all kicks off
As it turned out, the party generated a lot more excitement in Hong Kong than it did in Beijing. It seems Comrade Iron-Fist’s keynote speech included some home truths about the Basic Law.
“Hong Kong’s political structure is neither separation of powers nor led by the legislature or judiciary,” he said.
“The relationship between the central government and Hong Kong is that of delegation of power, not power-sharing. Under no circumstances should the central government’s powers be confronted in the name of a high degree of autonomy.”
In truth, we’ve been telling Hong Kong this for years. Comrade Deng Xiaoping told the Basic Law Drafting Committee this way back in 1987, and within two years of the handover, we’d already been asked to reinterpret the law to make it say what we wanted it to say.
Every time the Basic Law has to be interpreted, Hongkongers get upset, and we have to go through yet another PR campaign to re-educate them.
All your laws belong to us
We started off with an easy one, offering the promise that the Basic Law could keep millions of compatriots from migrating south.
With that wooden horse accepted, we interpreted the Basic Law to make it clear that only Beijing gets to decide how the Hong Kong chief executive is elected.
Only a year later, we ruled that “clear and unambiguous provisions should be interpreted according to their literal meaning”, unless we don’t like them.
Things went quiet, until 2011, when the NPCSC ruled that Hong Kong courts have no jurisdiction over the dodgy investments or debts of state-owned companies.
In 2014, the NPC skipped the whole interpretation business and just redefined Universal Suffrage with their succinctly-titled (I’ll never get tired of this) Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Issues Relating to the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by Universal Suffrage and on the Method for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2016. That turned out well.
And then last year we had Oathgate. This was a stroke of genius, ruling that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Some pan-dems complained that language like ‘sincerity’ and ‘solemn’ are arbitrary and ambiguous legal concepts, and just for once, we’re in agreement.
Two years ago, my colleagues in the Liaison Office wrote a long speech explaining all this in some detail, but maybe nobody was listening.
And these reinterpretations won’t end there. As Comrade Lau Siu-Kai said yesterday, it’s increasingly irrelevant whether Hong Kong even implements the Basic Law, as the NPCC will have the power to reinterpret it whenever they like.
The glorious reality is, everyone reports to Beijing. The police, judiciary, legislature, the executive council and chief executive, everyone reports to Beijing. Even foreign airlines report to Beijing. What did you think we meant when we promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy? We mean patriots have a high degree of autonomy to run Hong Kong the way we want it to be run. You do not get to make your own choices. Have you read the Chinese Constitution? “No laws or administrative or local regulations may contravene the Constitution.” That includes the Basic Law.
The People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship. Get used to it.
When the cat’s away
By coincidence, Saturday was also the anniversary of the death of Sir Murray MacLehose, the Sinophile colonial governor who raised the Hong Kong issue with Comrade Deng in 1979. He also built Sha Tin new town.
So with the boss away, I took a trip up to Sha Tin, where I picked up a GoBee Bike and peddled along to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, to check out the Louvre exhibit.
I must admit, I cannot understand why we’re spending millions of dollars to celebrate 800 years of French culture. If someone gave me HK$640 million to celebrate the joyful and glorious reunification of Hong Kong with the motherland, I’d probably spend it on something with a Hong Kong theme. It is the Hong Kong Heritage Museum after all. But what can I do? You give money to bureaucrats, and they’ll just blow it on something bland and inoffensive.
As it turned out, the exhibition was about as much fun as my boss was having, listening to his boss lecture his Hong Kong delegation. The French are quite protective of their good stuff, so they just sent us a load of bric-a-brac that was cluttering up the Louvre warehouse. And I went all the way to the deepest New Territories just for that?
In my irritation, I was tempted to throw my GoBee Bike into the Shing Mun River, and watch it sink like the dreams of a young democrat at a polling station. But with scores of selfie-snapping tourists all around me, I didn’t want to get blamed for the whole bike-dunking craze.
Next time I’ll drive here. At least the Alphard has air-conditioning to cool me down.