Beijing

Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2010, 12:00am

Wake up and smell the revolution

Let's start with a question: what the hell is going on? Actually, the answer is everywhere. But to see it you must first open your eyes. What's going on is a revolution. Not one of those sudden uprisings where mobs run wild killing and maiming. This has been a slow-motion revolution, something that's simmered but been ignored for a long time. Crying out for attention, it suddenly erupted. There's anger on the streets. People, mostly demoralised young adults, feel they have been suckered for too long by the old order. So far they haven't done anything really stupid, thank goodness. They've tussled with the police, let off steam at Beijing's liaison office, laid siege to the Legislative Council, and jeered outside Government House. They haven't stormed it. But who knows what they'll do next. Even they don't know. They're leaderless, directionless and daring. And they've tasted the raw power of defiance. If that doesn't scare you, it should. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen should be scared. Beijing should be scared. Our tycoons should be scared. All those tai-tais cruising upscale malls for designer handbags should be scared. Their husbands, who pay big bucks for those handbags but oppose even a modest minimum wage law for low-end workers, should be scared. Property developers who squeeze every last dime out of hard-pressed families should be scared. Bureaucrats in chauffeured cars who collude with these developers should be scared. Instead of asking what the hell is going on, we should ask how the hell we got to where we are. Why are young kids in school uniform marching barefoot, kneeling every few steps, to a drumbeat dirge in Statue Square? Why are young people suddenly so radicalised, clashing with riot police? Go ahead, blame the express railway. Fool yourself that they're just against the sky-high price tag. But you know the railway was only the final straw. Before the railway there was the growing rich-poor gap, which the chauffeured bureaucrats ignored. There was the lack of government accountability, the destruction of heritage sites, the handing over of remaining heritage sites to the tycoons to turn into upscale enclaves for the rich, the inability of most people to afford even a shoe-box size flat, the supermarket rip-offs, the delay in minimum-wage legislation, the declining wages. Let's just stop there, or it will just go on and on. So wake up and smell the revolution. It won't go away just because you shut your eyes.

Hear no evil, see no evil ...

The air is heavy with the smell of revolution. But our top leaders can't smell it. Maybe the polluted smog that hangs daily over our city has clogged their noses. They've ordered the youthful protesters to behave. Donald Tsang and security chief Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong say they won't tolerate defiance. Sure, that's right, talk tough. Blindfold yourselves, plug your ears, then wag your fingers and lecture them. That'll teach the children. That'll make them go home to their mummies with heads hung low. And if it doesn't, if the wagging fingers fan the street fury instead, simply tighten the blindfolds and talk tough some more. Or they could try something new. They could remove the blindfolds and earplugs. But that means they'll have to see and listen to others. The sights and sounds will need getting used to. They're out of practice. But we're sure they'll acquire the knack of it eventually.

Maybe this is why there's a little unrest

When you're trapped in Legco by defiant young protesters who are you going to call? Legislator Ip Kwok-him didn't call Ghostbusters. They would probably have hung up on him. He called police commissioner Tang King-shing to demand why the police hadn't cleared a path for him and other pro-government lawmakers to leave. Maybe he should have demanded a red carpet, too. Wonder if any of you can reach the commissioner so easily. No, you say? Maybe that's why there's a revolution going on.