Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 4:19am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 6:15am

White paper triggers heated debate

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

We have been dragged into the debate over the white paper by a sharp-eyed reader. He notes that the government's executive power appears to have diminished in the white paper.

The Sino-British Joint Declaration stated in Item 3 (3): "The HKSAR will be vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication." Six years later, the Basic Law declared in Article 2 of Chapter 1: "The National People's Congress authorises the HKSAR to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, in accordance with the provisions of this law."

About 24 years later, the white paper says in the second paragraph of Section 1 that "the HKSAR would be vested with legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication", omitting the usual reference to executive power. Maybe it was a Freudian slip, given the impression that "one country, two systems" is wearing rather thin these days.

Others have observed that the document does not contain anything that has not been said before. Yet that does not seem to be true, as the Hong Kong Bar Association has indicated in its sharp disagreement over the way the judiciary's role is described in the document. But just suppose that we agree that there is nothing new in the white paper, what is its purpose?

It reminds everyone that the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by Hong Kong is authorised by the NPC, and there seems to be an implication that it could be removed by that body. And as yesterday's Insight article in the South China Morning Post suggests, the white paper attempts to recast the debate over political reform in Hong Kong and make it an issue of national security, which is synonymous with the maintenance of the Communist Party. Together with references to the People's Liberation Army garrison here, the document is intended as a warning to Hong Kong people to pull their heads in and stop protesting.

Occupy Central is a particularly touchy issue, which ironically appears to have received a boost from the white paper. But just suppose a few hundred thousand turn out for that, with the possibility of more for the July 1 protest march. These events will be viewed by mainland visitors. It is not too much of a stretch to wonder how a leadership concerned about the need to maintain the perception of control might worry about an Occupy Guangzhou or Occupy Tianjin.

You just have to hope that there are enough people within the leadership urging restraint with respect to these matters in Hong Kong, though as Zhao Ziyang found to his cost in 1989, this approach did not end well for him.

 

In the pink

Some of you may have been wondering about the pink messaging on the sign at the top of the Bank of America building over the past few days. This is Bank of America Merrill Lynch doing its bit in support of Pink Dot Hong Kong, an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) event that will take place in Tamar Park tomorrow.

The event is co-organised by BigLove Alliance and Pink Alliance, and supported by the Boys' & Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong.

The theme of the event is "We are Family: The Freedom to Love" and, according to its website, it is "a casual non-political outdoor event for families, friends and colleagues of LGBT to show their support for inclusiveness, diversity and love equality". One of the high points of the event will be the formation of a giant human pink dot. Anyone going along is asked to wear pink. More details can be found at pinkdot.hk.

 

Lucky numbers

Now for something completely absurd. The website Luxify.hk provides a platform for those wishing to buy and sell new, vintage and second-hand, or what it calls pre-owned, luxury goods. Items for sale include cars, boats, fine wines, jewellery, handbags, art, collectibles and so on.

However, it also has what it describes as a "unique product" in the form of a "rare lucky" phone number containing five "8s", one "3", one "9", which are all lucky numbers, and one neutral number. Luxify is under the impression that this would make an "exceptional" gift for Father's Day. The number is modestly priced at HK$1.68 million.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com
 

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