My Take

Don’t shoot the messenger: think tank head Shiu Sin-por’s criticism of pro-government camp justified

Chief of Hong Kong’s Central Policy Unit is just mirroring the dysfunctional infighting within the pro-establisment camp

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 1:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 1:18am

Shiu Sin-por has managed to achieve what even his arch-enemies, the pan-democrats, have failed to do: unite all the pro-establishment lawmakers – against him. In a newspaper interview, the head of the government’s Central Policy Unit lashed out at loyalist lawmakers for their failure to work together against the pan-dems’ filibustering and other delaying tactics in the legislature.

Predictably, those lawmakers, always a tad sensitive about such criticism, reacted in fury.

An angry Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has demanded an apology. Major loyalist parties such as the Liberal Party, the Federation of Trade Unions and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong have called him “insulting”. FTU lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said: “[Shiu] can’t just say things simply because he is drunk or high.”

Actually, it’s hard to disagree with Shiu’s criticism. My colleague, Yonden Lhatoo, recently wrote a well-received column expressing similar sentiments. But whether it was Shiu’s place to voice such criticism is a reasonable question. More importantly, it was just counterproductive.

Shiu accused the 40-odd loyalist lawmakers of “messing around” with their own agendas and failing to fulfil their duties, while still collecting a decent pay cheque every month.

Well, hard to argue with that! But does Shiu think the lawmakers concerned would clean up their act just because the head of a government research unit says so?

The CPU is often described as the government’s think tank. Its previous heads have been scholars and intellectuals. How scientific or politically neutral its research and surveys are is anyone’s guess, since most of them are not available to the public. But since Shiu took over, the unit’s image has changed from being a think tank to more a united front advocacy group for the government.

Shiu is a hardliner and makes no bones about using the full resources of the CPU to support the government and advance its agendas. In the past, it would be unimaginable for CPU chiefs like Lau Siu-kai or Leo Goodstadt to openly criticise lawmakers. But it’s all of a piece for Shiu.

The loyalist camp is already in serious disarray. Voiced around the time as DAB chief Starry Lee Wai-king quit the Executive Council, Shiu’s criticism merely reinforces the dysfunctional infighting within the camp.