Following on from yesterday, I see that Alice Wu, the Hong Kong journalist (not Alice Wu who is a Taiwanese-American filmmaker nor Alice Wu who is an economist and Harvard) has written an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post that I think gets to the very heart of Hong Kong’s problems.
“It is getting really ridiculous,” she says. “Where is our [Hong Kong’s] Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor? More importantly, what has she been doing while Hong Kong burns in the inferno she lit the fuse on? The word from the grapevine is that Lam has been busy meeting people, which translates into meeting people she sees as more important than, say, everyday citizens like us who are fed up and in distress … [and] … The Chief Executive’s Office still insists on releasing photographs of Lam’s “busy” meetings … [the caption on the official photo (left) say “Chief Executive Carrie Lam attempts to drum up support among business leaders at a lunch at Government House”] … which, unsurprisingly, makes the situation on the ground even worse. While people are battling the elements and tear gas, along with the hazards of other projectiles, while fireworks are shot into a crowd of protesters gathered in front of a police station, while people are making bombs, while university students, in this “revolution of our times”, take their vice-chancellors to task in ways reminiscent of a revolution in Mao Zedong’s time, while the city descends ever closer to the vestibule of hell in epic Dante style, devoured by the she-wolf (incontinence), the lion (violence) and the leopard (malice), Lam is dining and wining business leaders in the comfort of her official residence … [but, Ms Wu says] … This is not the fighter that Lam was known to be. And this is no “nanny”, the sexist nickname bestowed upon her when she was the chief secretary, for her special talent in cleaning up other officials’ messes.“
Alice Wu notes that the local Chinese Army garrison commander “[Major General] Chen Daoxiang warned against the escalating violent clashes and stated firmly that his troops in Hong Kong stand ready to protect the nation’s sovereignty. Beijing’s response has so far been measured, and carefully orchestrated. Make no mistake: former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s impeccably timed speech on what he believes to be “interference from external forces, and various signs are pointing towards Taiwan and the US” is part of Beijing’s view and formulated response to our current crisis … [and] … Given that sort of rhetoric, combined with Beijing having made itself clear that the city’s return to normalcy is the most pressing priority, there is no need to feign surprise over the arrests and riot charges. The unbridled escalation of violence, complete breakdown of trust, disregard for law and order, and submission to misinformation have got us nowhere.” Ms Wu concludes by asking Carrie Lam to step aside and, presumably, John Tsang and Woo Kwok-hing to step forward and play a more visible and challenging leadership role.
Alice Wu has been a frequent and regular critic of Carrie Lam’s handling of crisis after crisis, she has called for Ms Lam to step down, because, Alice Wu says, Carrie Lam has failed both the people of Hong Kong and her masters in Beijing, and her criticisms have been long-standing.
My guess, and that’s all it is, is that Carrie Lam’s mishandling of the current crisis, which I suspect is rooted in a basic misunderstanding of what the people of Hong Kong really fear and really want, means that she must go, sooner or later. Illness would be the best excuse. Kent Ewing, writing in the Hong Kong Free Press, suggests that Ms Lam has already offered to resign and has been told to stay until the situations ~ there are more than one ~ have been settled to Beijing’s satisfaction.
Carrie Lam has been an exemplary public servant; it will be a shame to see her long career end in failure, and I’m sure she and officials in Beijing are looking for face-saving ways for her to retire, early. Whoever takes over must find ways, there will have to be lots of ways, to address the very real and very legitimate concerns about the future of ‘one country, two systems‘ and the rule of law and the proper functioning of Hong Kong’s institutions, including the Hong Kong Police force. Order must be restored, order and confidence must be restored, together … but not by the Chinese army. Trust in the police must be restored. Most importantly, some level of trust must be restored in Beijing’s commitment to one country, two systems.
China is being buffeted by many forces today: the Trump trade war and problems with the economy and tensions in the South China Sea to name just a few. It might not be surprising that the leadership in the Zhongnanhai compound in Beijing lost the plot about Hong Kong.
Hong Kong should not be a distraction for China. It should be a ‘jewel in the crown,’ anchoring the enormous ‘Greater Bay Area’ project and serving as an example of how Chinese provinces and cities can work. But it is a thorn in China’s side, right now and that is, in some large measure, because Carrie Lam has failed to provide the sort of leadership that Hing Kong needs.
Anson Chan is almost 80 years old, but she is still brilliant and able and well informed about what ails Hong Kong and about what a real Chief Executive should be doing, right now (starting at 3:40 and going on to 11:25 in the video). She is respected by one and all … although probably feared and even hated by some in Beijing’s corridors of power. She may be getting on in years, but I am pretty sure Anson Chan has better ideas and instincts than Carrie Lam, Vice Premier Han Zheng, local Chinese liaison official Wang Zhimin and Chinese Major General Chen Daoxiang combined. She is just the sort of interim leader Hong Kong (and Beijing) needs right now, to put things right.