It has long been an open secret that the government-friendly DAB often coordinates with officials about to appear in the legislature to face lawmakers' grilling.
But often it goes beyond that, such as proposing questions and answers beforehand to help the government get its message across and to pre-empt being cornered by pan-democrats in the house. But it's one thing to suspect it. Now, thanks to the ever mischievous "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, we have the proverbial smoking gun.
Early this week, the provocative Leung picked up instructions left behind by Leung Che-cheung of the DAB (Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong). Long Hair said someone dropped it and he just happened to pick it up. The DAB's Leung accused Long Hair of "unauthorised access" and complained to the panel chairman, but did not dispute the authenticity of the paper.
Under the heading "follow-up questions supplied by the Security Bureau", the paper sets out talking points for lawmakers at a panel hearing to raise on the much criticised system for assessing claims for refugee status. Leung said the paper was prepared by the DAB's research division, and it was used to "touch base" with the administration "to let officials prepare for our questions".
DAB lawmakers were advised to make specific comments: "I think the system is highly fair - but only to the claimants. It is highly unfair to taxpayers." They were advised to ask: "A claimant should apply for assistance once they arrive in Hong Kong. But information showed they applied after an average of 14 months ... why [did] they not do it as soon as they arrived?"
As political dirty tricks go, this is low-grade stuff. After all, pan-democrat politicians from different parties often gang up in their attacks on government officials and policies. But what it does expose is the basic contradiction in the way our mandarins deal with Legco. On one hand, they have great contempt for lawmakers, especially pan-democrats. But they also fear them and hate going before Legco. More than 16 years after the handover, you would think they had become used to the idea of confronting ignorant lawmakers and beat them at their own game. Not a chance! Our mandarins' self-perceived competence is greatly exaggerated.