Fawning elite fall at the feet of Stanley Ho
Incestuous, self-regarding and smug, the Hong Kong elite seems not to have the faintest idea of how it must look to the outside world.
That is a world where there is real competition for political power, where oligopolies are not the norm and where the billion-dollar deals between bureaucrats and businessmen are subject to closer public scrutiny.
I refer, in this instance, firstly to the full-page advertisement which recently appeared in this and other newspapers. It read: 'Congratulations to Dr Stanley Ho on the award of Grand Lotus medal of Honour by Macau SAR Government.'
The A to Z of roughly 200 names of individuals, companies, associations and (yes) charities who presumably paid for, as well as signed, this message began, fittingly, with Sir David Akers-Jones and ended with Mr Ho's very own Sociedade de Turismo e Divers?es de Macau.
It included such pillars of the business establishment as David Li Kwok-po, Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, Lee Shau-kee, Tung Chee-chen and Vincent Lo Hong-sui, corporate has-beens such as Henry Keswick, and those former leading upholders of the law Elsie Leung Oi-sie, Li Kwan-ha and Yang Ti-liang.
It should scarcely come as a surprise that Mr Ho gets such an award from Macau.
But what is somewhat surprising is the zeal of so many of Hong Kong's leaders to want to fawn over someone whose personal history, role in Macau and business associations are well known to almost all of them.
Do these Hong Kong luminaries want it to become more like Macau?
Interesting, too, was the absence from the list of prominent leftists (if the word still has any meaning) and some well-known names closely associated with the mainland.
Normally, these days, the old elite and the new aspirants are all too keen to associate with each other, one lot for protection, the other for political leverage and social climbing.
Does this absence suggest that the 'patriotic' camp is worried that the middle class and the masses are increasingly disillusioned with the entrenched, self-sustaining elite among the bureaucrats and in domestic business?
It might be nice to think so. But do not expect much from a leftist camp which knows it can manipulate the elite in order to keep democracy at bay.
Just look at the way officials and mainland representatives are grovelling before the young who have formed themselves into the so-called charity, the Centum Charitas Foundation, qualification for which appears to be support for Beijing and Ferrari/Lamborghini/Maserati ownership.
Nor is there much sign of any sense of shame at the top at the blatant manipulation of bureaucratic power by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to entrench the elite.
One may have thought he might be more than a little embarrassed at having David Li Kwok-po, banker and member of Hong Kong's most influential family, run his campaign in last year's phony election for chief executive.
He might even have felt some unease when Li become embroiled in allegations of insider trading in shares of Dow Jones, of which he was a board member.
But no. Now the very same Li - plus his brother, former education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, and fellow executive council member Ronald Arculli - are to fund a new radio station.
This, at a time when the government is threatening to dismantle RTHK, a public-service broadcaster, and closed down Citizens' Radio, a tiny independent voice which had the temerity to challenge the bureaucratic thugs.
In the media business, it seems that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator