So two days in to his new term as CE of Hong Kong and CY is heading in the wrong direction. He may be rapidly uniting Hong Kong, but he's not uniting them behind his leadership. CY's continued to promise that he's bringing fresh air to the job, even though he was a major player since the Handover in one of the major problems, ExCo. Is CY's new listening tour an admission that he wasn't listening as ExCo convenor for the last 15 years?
First there is the cause celebre of the July 1st March: Hello Kitty. Why Hello Kitty? Because CY used Hello Kitty stickers as an excuse for not living up to his Mr. Clean billing. The use of excuses is a way of dismissing the concerns of others, which is the opposite of listening. Hong Kong's long suffering masses are used to excuses from their administration, like lots of people come out for marches because they want to take a nice holiday stroll in the sunshine. And if crisis management doesn't teach that people don't want to hear excuses, it surely teaches that apologies should NEVER contain the word "but". Yet CY (and his proxies Tsang Yok-sing and Bernard Cheung) used the word in his apology. "I was negligent, BUT I do not have integrity problems." It's like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Excuses and BUTs just piss people off because it shows you aren't willing to unequivocally take responsibility. This doesn't bode well for CY, since during the CE "campaign" his major positive was not being Henry Tang and his major negative was a slick ability to answer questions while avoiding answering the questions.
Then there's the police response to the protest march. It was the same old games with the numbers trying to downplay opposition. The FT BeyondBrics blog on the march and discontent coined a phrase: "one country, two realities". This is in response to official media not reflecting the reality that everyone else can see with their own eyes. Officials on both sides of the border are guilty of disappearing data, "massaging" data or fabricating data (like HK's CPU use of push polls). And after the police's unreal numbers, came the excuses. The clusterfuck of crowd control was everybody's fault but the police. This is Lau Nai-keung listening. Every one not supporting the government is a dissident and should shut up, so we can listen to the people willing to feed our vision of reality.
Next there's Carrie Lam in TKO with the Education Secretary in tow. As anyone who's followed the news in the last 5 years, the big issue in TKO is the landfill. She didn't bring the Environment Secretary, she brought the Education Secretary, like a job-seeker who couldn't be bothered to do even the most basic of research. Was she not listening at her last position in government? And again, when faced with the true concerns of the people, the government official goes on the defensive and pushes out excuses. The government can't do anything quickly, because it's a big problem. Again with the Lau Nai-keung listening. The problem here isn't the Civil Service getting stuck on their preferred solution, but the political appointee getting stuck on their preferred solution and refusing to listen and work with the grassroots.
Then there was CY himself. The confrontation with members of People Power may make the news due to being the big splash, but the real problem for CY was his answers on housing. The problem posed to him was housing not being affordable. The official response to the problem? That he wouldn't make housing affordable and then a deflection towards CY's programme to enrich his cronies.
Allow me digress here a bit in response to a Time magazine article on the march. The issue with mainlanders and property isn't a matter of them buying our expensive property. It isn't a matter of, "they're marrying our white women and moving in to our neighborhoods." Rather mirroring the US, where fraudulently easy credit in the mid-2000s skewed property production towards McMansions that became asset deadweight after the bubble burst, the fraudulently easy credit on the mainland since 2008 (see AlsoSprachAnalysts' graph on China's M2 growth) skewed property development in HK towards luxury estates to the point the government had to place restrictions on a few less prime land sales to provide non-luxury flats. And the excess cash in Hong Kong that was floating in from across the border was dragging the prices in the rest of the property market up from the top. And this was true, not just in residential property, but also in commercial real estate, where rents skyrocketed and shops were being skewed to provide luxury bling for the status-seeking nouveau riche of the mainland.
The real problem here comes back to the issue of one country, two realities. How do we know mainland money is skewing these markets? Look at the luxury jewelry stores popping up like 7-11s in tourist districts that have killed off mom and pop shops in nearby streets in a domino effect of gentrification. As for residential housing, all we have is a survey by one property agency of records that used putonghua for the anglicized names instead of their cantonese names. e.g. Lin vs Lam. When I wondered if there was official data on how much HK property investment came from mainland Trusts and investment vehicles that promised big returns, I was told there isn't any. If mainland officials told CY that many struggling mainland Trusts and investment vehicles couldn't survive bursting HK's property bubble and it would cause very bad problems for the Party on the mainland, what do you think CY's policy action would be? Take care of HKers and make housing affordable or take care of the Party?
We can't know why, but making housing in HK more affordable is off the table. Instead we are offered a resumption of the Home Ownership Scheme, a lecture on how his family bought a house with a few years' hard work with plastic flowers and so should you and a lecture on a need to come up with a plan for the future of land formation, which sounds a lot like the government's laughable Hong Kong 2020 consultation on Morlocks and reclamation. Previous governments, that CY was part of, told us they were listening and then Lau Nai-keunged the consultation results to create the reality the government wanted, which puts CY's listening tour in a deep hole to start. But after one weekend of CY in charge, it's pretty much the same story. And if CY doesn't start to learn truth from facts, he's truly in danger of becoming the next Tung Chee-hwa and not making it to the end of his term despite being the Party's Golden Boy.