Recipe for disaster being served up in Hong Kong’s incendiary political kitchen

Given the city’s toxic state of affairs, only those in denial could fail to see the depressing truth in chief executive’s comments about new justice chief, writes Niall Fraser

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 11:15pm

As Hong Kong shivers its way through a bitter cold snap, the phrase “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” would – under normal circumstances – have been deliciously funny.

However, given the current state of affairs in our city, only those in denial or devoid of critical faculties could fail to see the deeply depressing truth at the heart of comments made by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor before the meeting of her cabinet on Tuesday morning.

In a nutshell, Lam was asked the following: Does the illegal structure controversy engulfing new Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah show that the existing vetting procedure for top officials is not fit for purpose and does it raise concerns over Cheng’s integrity and questions about her capability to carry out the job she has been given?

No integrity issue, Hong Kong’s leader says, defending justice chief in illegal structure saga

This was Lam’s answer: “ … I do not feel this is an integrity issue, and that’s why it will not compromise Teresa’s position as secretary for justice. It is now very difficult to really attract talented people to come into the administration because of the political situation, and that’s why people describe this situation as being a very hot kitchen.

“For a very successful lawyer with an international reputation like Teresa to make up her mind to join my team is a very difficult and tough decision which could only have been made with one purpose in mind, and that is to serve the people of Hong Kong and to serve the country.”

Correct me if I am wrong, but in essence, Lam just admitted that she was forced to hire Cheng because in the increasingly toxic political environment in which Hong Kong finds itself, virtually no one wanted to take on one of the most important jobs in government.

Ipso facto, even if an official – whose core responsibility is to uphold the system of law and justice which has served the city so well over decades – is found to have broken the law, we simply have to suck it up and let her get on with the job, regardless of the damage it might do to the integrity of the system, because there ain’t no alternative.

In other words, if you are serving, or want to serve, as a public official in the incendiary political kitchen that is present-day Hong Kong, more likely than not your job will be to manage the out of control fire burning at the heart of the SAR until such times as the tinder box of contradictions at the heart of “one country, two systems’’ is dealt with.

No candidates for HKU student union leadership as fear of political repercussions cited

Adding fuel to this worrying fire was another story which emerged earlier this week.

It was widely reported that, for the first time since 2010, the University of Hong Kong’s student union could be left without an executive committee, with some believing a “fear of political repercussions has chilled participation”.

However inconvenient, in the absence of an alternative delivered from outside the city, which is beginning to look more and more likely, the unavoidable truth is that the custodians of Hong Kong’s future as a political entity in its own right will have to come from the next generation.

‘One country, two systems’ for Hong Kong could be scrapped if it is used to confront Beijing, official says

Old age and death are the certainties that will take care of that.

If our brightest youngsters are unwilling to become politically engaged at university – however idealistically and ideologically misguided that engagement might seem – where in a mature society they can hone the skills required to deal with the cut and thrust of adult political reality, our current chief executive’s concerns about finding the people to run the city will seem as nothing to her successors.