Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Discord in the Wolf Den

The sudden stepping down of two government ministers yesterday provides fertile fodder for speculation, particularly as Chief Executive CY Leung was typically less than forthcoming in his announcement: "I shouldn't discuss in public the background, the details of these changes, but suffice to say that both gentlemen will soon issue a press release in their own names and you will soon be able to find out the reason why".  Except we didn't find out - Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-sing merely said he was "glad to retire", while Civil Service Secretary Paul Tang  cited unspecified family circumstances and expressed a desire to spend more time with his family - always a popular excuse for politicians eager not to discuss the reasons for their departure.

Leung should of course discuss the circumstances in public - firstly because we pay the government's salaries and are entitled to know what is going on; and secondly because uncertainty breeds rumours which can often be more damaging than unpalatable truths.  The mystery is compounded by the fact that the men were variously described as having been removed, retired or resigned.  Given that the two cases came at the same time, one must suspect that they reflect disagreements within Leung's inner circle rather than mere coincidence.  It's doubtful the ministers were sacked for incompetence, because there are far more obvious candidates for that fate - useless (National) Education Secretary Eddie Ng and Financial Secretary John "Never a Correct Forecast" Tsang spring to mind.  Maybe, according to Regina Ip's bizarre theory, the two were just too introverted for their posts.  Or perhaps Tsang Tak-sing, like his brother Jasper, showed occasional heretical signs of thinking outside the Beijing box, despite being a lifelong loyalist. 

Loyalty is hardly a quality one can attribute to Tsang's replacement, Homer Simpson lookalike Lau Kong-wah - an opportunist turncoat who (it is often forgotten) began his career as a democrat before switching sides to the DAB, making him probably the only politician to have lost LegCo elections on both sides of the political divide.  Despite being soundly rejected by the voters in the last LegCo poll, he wormed his way back into a position of power when CY indicated his contempt for the electorate by appointing Lau as Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs.  Having demonstrated his incompetence in this role with the failure of the government's political reform package, he is now being rewarded with a promotion.  Curiouser and curiouser.

Another strange appointment announced yesterday is that of former Housing Director Duncan Pescod as the umpteenth chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority - supposedly after a worldwide search, which sounds unlikely.  Strange because we had people with an arts background - none of whom stayed long - appointed during the phase when construction of the buildings was the main concern, and now we have someone with a housing background when we are supposedly getting close to seeing some actual cultural activity on the site.  But then this mega-project has been mishandled from the beginning - true to Hong Kong's preoccupation with enriching the property developers, debate on what should be constructed on the site took precedence over actually determining the community's cultural needs and wishes first and building to meet them.

Acknowledgement - the picture is from the Wolves Throne blog.

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