Friday, 25 May 2012

Absurdity Beyond Limit

Every now and then the political arena of Hong Kong attains new records of absurdity and stupidity and puts the tolerance of any sensible person to the most daunting test. Too often I found myself so overwhelmed by frustration and irritation that I can hardly utter a word.

Yet the latest challenge came today when Ming Pao Daily News reported that Cantonese opera master Yuen Siu-fai was barred from being registered as an individual elector of the functional constituency of Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication. Notwithstanding his personal achievements in this traditional art form of Guangdong and Hong Kong, Mr Yuen's reputation and on-stage presence of more than 50 years should have made him one of the most qualified members of the electorate.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Once again, common sense has to give in to absurdity and nonsense in Hong Kong politics.

I can't help verifying the eligibility of electors to this particular functional constituency by checking out the web site of the Electoral Affairs Commission. To spare the reader of this blog the trouble of ploughing through the 19-page document, let me summarise the qualifications of an eligible elector as follows:

Any person is eligible to be registered as an individual elector for the functional constituency of Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication if he/she is registered as a elector in any geographical constituency, AND, at the same time, a voting member of any registered body or association listed in the document.

The first requirement that any person who wants to be registered as an eligible in any functional constituency has to be registered as a geographical constituency elector is fair enough. However, the Chinese Artist Association of Hong Kong, the sole organisation that represents performers, musicians and workers in Cantonese opera, is not included on the list. This alone explains why Mr Yuen, as deputy chairman of the Chinese Artist Association of Hong Kong, is unqualified, assuming that he is already registered to the geographical constituency – although it seems unlikely. If he were told, as Ming Pao Daily News reported, that he is not eligible simply because he has not received any grant or subsidiary from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council or relevant government departments over the past few years, it is sheer nonsense.

I must confess that I haven't paid any attention to the functional constituency until most recently, when I received a letter informing me that I am eligible to be registered as an elector in the education sector and asking me whether or not to opt for registration to the District Council (Second) functional constituency. The fact that I am now an employee of a local educational institution but not engaged in any teaching or research work still qualifies me is by all means incomprehensible, if ridiculous. Now having read the news about Mr Yuen, I think I have made the right choice of opting out of the Education functional constituency. The absurdity of local politics merely goes beyond any human imagination.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Farce of Filibuster

Over the past two weeks or so, local news headlines have been dominated by the filibuster launched by People Power legislators Albert Chan and Raymond Wong, along with chairman of the League of Social Democrats, Leung Kwok-hung. Their attempt to delay and even prevent the passing of certain "malicious" bills, such as the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2012, was dramatically thwarted by Legislative Council chairman Jasper Tsang, who cited Article 92 of the Rules of Procedures that stipulates,

In any matter not provided for in these Rules of Procedure, the practice and procedure to be followed in the Council shall be such as may be decided by the President who may, if he thinks fit, be guided by the practice and procedure of other legislatures.

Pardon me for not having followed the news story close enough, simply because the news coverage has once again failed to focus on what really matters. What a waste of time I think it was to read the needless-to-say nonsense pouring out of the tongues of those hardly honourables. If we really care about what is going on here, the city we all call "home", the first thing we need is a critical and sensible mind equipped with the essential intellectual tools.

I simply don't understand is why media and public attention has focused on whether or not the filibuster is "meaningful", implying "right" or "wrong". Of course I know time is precious and the incumbents are counting down to the end of their current term of service. To me this shows exactly how easy it is to manipulate public opinion in Hong Kong by taking side with the so-called "core values" of the local people. So many people out there take it for granted and fail to smell anything wrong in such an argument.

For most Hong Kong people, including myself, efficiency is paramount at work. But isn't it obvious that there are always plenty of exceptions to every single rule and principle? To rush through the backlog of bills, for example, is by no means what legislators are supposed – and elected – to do. As representatives of their respective constituencies, legislators are entrusted with the authority, supported by their calibre and experience in certain professions, to ponder every option and scenario and then come up with the best possible provisions. Compromises are inevitable, but, albeit ideally, that should be the result of a meaningful debate, which provides an opportunity for everyone – including members of the public – to think out loud before making up their minds.

While the pro-establishment legislators have regrettably succeeded in mobilising mainstream public opinion to support their cause, exposing the appalling naivety of the local people, the pro-democracy camp does not come clean in the farce either. It is perfectly fine that they don't participate in the filibuster if they don't think it is the proper way. But don't they share an obligation to keep the public mind abreast of what issues are at stake? Have they ever attempted to steer public opinion that has been led astray deliberately back to the right course? Pardon me if they did. But as someone who reads the newspapers every day at work I don't recall any meaningful reminder. Only hours of tedious search on the poorly designed and enormously user-unfriendly web site of the Legislative Council can inform me of which bill the filibuster was meant for. Amendments were minimal, but it was the objective of the bill that is highly controversial,

The object of this Bill is to introduce a restriction to prohibit a person who has resigned, or is taken to have resigned, as a Member of the Legislative Council from standing for a by-election to be held within the 6 months after the resignation in the same term of office of the Legislative Council.

Those who are interested may also find a copy of the Legislative Council Brief submitted by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau on 1 February, which provides a detailed and useful account of the development of the issue. This only reminds us of how easy it is to manipulate public opinion and take it out of context for one's benefit, and thus how important a clear and cool head is among all of us if we don't want to become a laughing stock and, worse still, scapegoat.

The recent farce of filibuster, therefore, pinpoints not just the frustrating mediocrity of the legislators but also at our own lack of intellectual capabilities to defend against such mediocrity.

Monday, 21 May 2012













Sunday, 20 May 2012









Friday, 18 May 2012




據場刊介紹,《李廣王》由羅家英編劇,取材自莎士比亞名著King Lear。少年時唸英國文學的課文是Macbeth,多年前羅家英也曾改編為粵劇《英雄叛國》。King Lear沒讀過,但故事梗概也略知一二。多年前日本導演黑澤明的名作《亂》,也是取材自King Lear。以戲論戲,《李廣王》的人物設計似乎更接近《亂》,例如原著King Lear的三個女兒,《亂》和《李廣王》都給改成了兒子。《亂》男主角的長媳為報滅門之仇,挑撥丈夫背叛老父,又與其二弟有私,把兄弟、父子玩弄於股掌之間,不就是《李廣王》裡城府極深、陰險毒辣的雪姬麼?




Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Not When, But Will They Ever Learn?

Today Ming Pao Daily News published a commentary by Dr Wilson Wong on the latest controversy over Chief Executive-designate Leung Chun-ying's proposed restructuring of government bureaux. I can't agree more with his views that we need accountability but not more officials who are loyalists and protégés of the leader.

Yet Dr Wong raised an interesting question after making his point, "When will they ever learn?" It seems to me that Dr Wong is expecting someone in the administration taking office on 1 July this year would come to realise what accountability truly means and for whom it should have been in the first place. Pardon me for my scepticism, but I just think this is something stupid to ask. From my observations over the past years, I don't think it is a question of "when", but whether they would ever do.

And my proposed answer is "No".

Although "accountability" has become a buzzword since the first batch of so-called "accountable" principal officials were appointed in 2002, no one in the administrations of Mr Tung Chee-hwa, Sir Donald Tsang and now Mr Leung seem to have a clue of what they are really talking about.

In fact, we don't need a degree in political science but common sense to understand that accountability in the political context is meant taking responsibility for what the administration does for the people. The ultimate subject of accountability is, therefore, the people, but not anyone at the top of the administration at any point of time.

But how does it work? How do we know if the officials are taking responsibility for what they do for us? Sorry, I don't know. I don't think anyone in the government would do either. Although the official rhetoric has maintained that the principal officials are not civil servants but appointed on contract terms. Resignation, as the rhetoric says, is an expression of responsibility. Over the past 15 years, Mr Antony Leung, former financial secretary; Mrs Regina Ip, former secretary for security; and Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, former secretary for health, wealth and food did resign as a gesture of claiming responsibility for their personal and policy blunders.

Wait a minute. Is that all? Not being part of the civil service is just a device of political expediency, isn't it? What does it have to do with accountability? Of course I understand the fact that we in Hong Kong are still denied of a truly accountable political system based on universal suffrage, but is it possible that we come up with some sort of feasible mechanism to make up for the regrettable vacuum of governance mandate? Have we ever tried? By emphasising the "independence" or "detachment" of principal officials from the civil service, does it mean civil servants are not accountable for what they do? Is it some sort of implicit justification for all the inertia, inefficiencies and ridiculous red tapes?

Instead of pondering and tackling the fundamental problems with the so-called principal officials accountability system, once again the new government leaders are repeating the mistakes of their predecessors of sweating over nitty-gritty details of little importance. In the current case of expanding the number of policy secretaries, with the exception of establishing the long-due Bureau of Culture, it only seems to me that, as Dr Wong said, they are highly distrustful and sceptical of those currently working in the government and thus can't wait to install loyalists and protégés to key posts to ensure an ease of mind.

To be honest, I can't see any strong connection between the proposed government structure (again with the exception of the Bureau of Culture, which is by all means welcome) and Mr Leung's vision for Hong Kong. Why can't he try and work with the current system first, identify the weaknesses and then propose viable solutions for improvement? Why can't he wait?

For these reasons, I am pessimistic over the possibility of an old lesson to be learnt. It is not really a question of "when", but whether they ever will.

Thursday, 3 May 2012


Days have passed since I heard the most ridiculous remarks made about me. I must confess that I am still upset.

For the first time in more than 15 years of working, to my huge surprise, how my face looks has become a matter of concern to be discussed in a job review. I was told that I look stern, cold and intimidating. Someone finds me "scary" because I don't chat with that person as I do with other colleagues. There were also complaints about my agitation and assertiveness at times, which can be misinterpreted as being abrasive and even offensive.

Fine, point taken for the last one, although personally I'm not convinced that to compromise or submission without making my point across is in any sense constructive. The manner of articulation may be adjusted, but I stand firm to what I truly believe.

Back to the first point: I have come across very harsh, mean and unreasonable people at work in previous jobs, but none of them ever criticised my face. A few colleagues who end up being close friends of mine did tell me that I look a bit cool and serious at first glance, but over time they know what my true self is. Even though I may look grumpy, I'm not really angry with anyone but how things go. I never yell at people at work, even when they make mistakes. I try to understand why, show my empathy and sort out a solution with them, so that they can learn how to avoid repeating the wrong. I make mistakes too and this is how I want to be treated. I just think this is the best way to get things done properly. Pointing accusing fingers or venting one's emotions just doesn't do any good.

Everyone has his/her own logic and way of seeing and interpreting the world. Everyone is free to express what he/she thinks. But whether or not such comments should be taken seriously is another matter. I assume the fact that those remarks were relayed to me because the speaker somewhat agrees with the view, feels some sort of magnitude and wants to resolve the "problem" so that everyone would be happy. But sorry, no. I am not happy hearing this. How can I? How can I be happy when someone is unhappy seeing my face and telling me so?

I just do not understand at all why my face looks to one person or two should become a concern to be discussed, improvements expected as it was hinted, in a working context? What am I supposed to do? Laugh like a dog running after its tail? Pretend to be very interested in talking to someone who knows little other than work and does not share any common interest with me? Or perhaps even a facelift or plastic surgery - subsidies required, of course - to bring the downward-pointing corners of my mouth upside down like Joker in Batman? What if someone tells me two weeks later that, "Hey, why are you always laughing like that? Are you nuts?"

Isn't it obvious that whether this matter, little more than how one or two persons see me through their subjectivity, should ever be brought up in a job review is highly questionable? It is good to be honest, but honesty does not mean telling every single detail of what you think or believe, regardless of the context and whether it is appropriate to do so. Not to mention how the message is conveyed also matters. In this particular case, I do not agree that honesty helps. It may make someone feel more comfortable having the concerns voiced, but I must say I am very uncomfortable hearing all those comments about how I look. It prompts me to call into question the sense of judgement and management capabilities of the speaker. To me, the fact that it is a matter of discussion at work is utterly inconceivable. The grudge, if it ever exists, is not narrowed but widened, or relocated from one to another. Any hope to wipe out any uneasiness in the team is nothing more than wishful thinking.