“A man’s got to know his limitations.” – Dirty Harry, Magnum Force Clint Eastwood’s immortal line could have been a motto for the Hong Kong government. Since the fateful selection of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as chief executive in 2005, Beijing has had no choice but to pick career administrative officers to fill the posts of bureau chiefs to run Hong Kong, culminating with Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as the city’s leader. Unfortunately, a career civil servant is a completely different species of animal from a real political leader. Lam admitted as much recently when she said she was an administrator but not a politician. After the horror of the months-long civil unrest that began last year in what had been one of the world’s safest and most stable societies, who would disagree with her self-assessment? For those opportunists, liars and ignoramuses who claim Beijing didn’t keep its promise under “one country, two systems”, it has been the opposite. Beijing has been so committed to “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” that it allowed the city to run amok for almost a year before decisively intervening with the national security law in July . It was when the Hong Kong government had proved itself completely incapable of dealing with the mayhem that Beijing had no choice but to intervene. Sadly, administrators, however brilliant and competent, have proven themselves completely incapable of dealing with the worst political crisis in Hong Kong’s history. The real tragedy of Hong Kong is that while we have world-class political problems, we have only pitiful and pathetic amateurs playing realpolitik in both the local opposition and the Hong Kong government. The city could have had the best of all deals: respect for our autonomy from the central government and an independent customs status and financial hub for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, we have decided to squander it. In one camp, we think we are part of the Western world and must have their so-called freedom and democracy. In the opposing camp, we insist we are Chinese and must do our patriotic duty for the motherland. Oh dear, we could have the best of both worlds if we just play it cool, letting democratisation to slowly work its way while integrating into the rest of China. But no, our opposition has to invite in American intervention and our government invites Beijing’s. Now we have the worst of both worlds.