That 'invisible' wall is the Basic Law. I'd rather you didn't tear it down
with Jake van der Kamp
We are turning a new chapter in our collaboration with Guangdong. With determination and concerted effort, it will be just a matter of time before we tear down the invisible wall that stands in the way of joint development.
Chief Secretary Henry Tang SCMP, April 9
You know, sometimes I think our Donald isn't really the blockhead that so many people say he is. For instance, take this matter of the Framework Agreement on Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation. He was the master politician on this one.
Let us accept first of all that there are some things he simply cannot do. When insufficiently restrained transport engineers in Beijing take it into their heads to pillage the deposit base of China's banking system for a multi-trillion yuan investment in a high-speed railway network that will never pay its way, well, our chief executive has no choice. He has to go along and waste HK$100 billion of our money, too (HK$66.9 billion at last count but, never fear, it will get to a hundred soon enough).
He is appointed, not elected, after all, and he is not allowed to ask 'How high?' when Beijing tells him to jump. He is meant to know. This is also how we get the Macau/Zhuhai bridge and similar infrastructure losers.
But our Donald is not really like those whingeing CPPPPCCCC delegates who spend all their time trashing their hometown and moaning that Shanghai is so much better than Hong Kong (why don't you move there then, fellas?) or telling us, get this, that we will soon be eclipsed by Guangzhou - stop laughing.
Donald is a true Hong Kong lad and, when he gets his payback chance, he takes it.
Thus, here we have some of the stern resolves of the Framework Agreement on Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation, which was signed with much ballyhoo last week in the Great Hall of the People:
'Promote joint socio-economic development in Hong Kong and Guangdong ...'
Donald can dance this one with his feet tied and his hands behind his back. He has done it many a time. He gets up on a podium in a Guangzhou hotel and says: 'Onward into the future, dear friends, and now please raise your glasses and join me in proclaiming that it's a small world after all, it's a small, small world.'
'... expedite the development of financial service industries in Guangdong ...'
Sure, let's forget that China's capital account is closed and its domestic savings base the plaything of its bureaucrats. Let's pretend that real financial services can truly exist in such an environment. Why not? Donald can pretend as well as anyone.
'Facilitate the flow of key factors such as people, goods, information and capital across the boundary ...'
Let me tell you how to facilitate cross-border key factor flows in three easy steps without any help from Donald. It's so simple. You open the gate, you send the truck through, you close the gate.
But you get the picture. We will enhance, capitalise on, take forward, support, jointly explore, encourage, assist, work out, deal with, improve, proactively seek, pursue, press ahead, expand, strive, jointly plan, join hands to and, okay, I shall stop before I wear you out by reciting the whole list.
In short, we have committed ourselves to nothing at all and have promised not a cent while still looking as if we have pinned ourselves to real obligations.
Way to go, Donald. Well done, and what I particularly like is the straightforward manner in which you then decided not to spoil the effect by pretending to your own people that you really set any store by all this twaddle. For that job you had Henry.
Listen, Henry, about this invisible wall of yours, let us hope, fervently hope, that it is not one. Do you really want to do away with the Hong Kong dollar and adopt what is still a funny-money currency, the yuan, instead? Do you?
Do you really want to get rid of the rule of law and substitute it formally with a legal system that international commerce still shuns and the world does not hold in high regard? Do you?
Do you really want mainland standards of education for our children, mainland standards of food safety, mainland standards of medical care, mainland road accident rates, mainland-style corruption in our industries and mainland social welfare practices?
Our protection against these sorts of things is what we call the Basic Law. It's a very good wall, not invisible at all. We prize it highly, and I'll thank you not to demolish it.
Henry, the crowning glory of your career was that very good idea of making some money by selling silly licence plates. Rest on your laurels and be content.