Skip to main content

Return of the Wolf 狼回來了

In one of the six vignettes that make up the 2015 dystopian film Ten Years, government officials stage a fake assassination to justify tighter state control. It all works according to plan, and the story ends with an ominous news broadcast: “This incident provides ample proof to the central government that foreign powers have infiltrated our city and that a national security law can no longer be delayed.” 

The short film paints a frightening future of Hong Kong, but its story line is nothing new. Manufacturing a crisis to legitimatize a political agenda is not only an old trick in the communist party’s playbook, it is also a tactic frequently and increasingly used by the ruling elite in Hong Kong.

And nobody does it better than C.Y. Leung—former chief executive and now vice chairman of the influential National Committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference (政協). 

No one does it better

Hardly anyone batted an eyelid when the Foreign Correspondents’ Club first invited Andy Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天), convener of the Hong Kong National Party, to speak at the club. After all, Chan has been in the news since the government announced plans to ban his political party, and the FCC did what a press club does: invite newsmakers to say a few words and take some questions—as Chan has done on numerous other occasions including the televised City Forum (城市論壇) held weekly at Victoria Park. 

Besides, the FCC has never been shy about hosting controversial figures. Over the years, actress-cum-China critic Mia Farrow, Donald Trump supporter Ying Ma, and the chief architect of Occupy Central and the bane of Beijing, Professor Benny Tai, have all taken the club’s podium. Last November, Joshua Wong was invited to appear at a literary event at the FCC after the student activist was barred from the Asia Society. 

But things began to unravel two weeks prior to Chan’s scheduled talk, when a representative from the Chinese Foreign Ministry paid a visit to the FCC and urged its board to “reconsider its decision” to host him.

Suddenly and curiously, C.Y. Leung came out of the woodwork and, like Trump with his trigger-happy Twitter account, began putting out blistering statements attacking the club almost on a daily basis. He hinted at evicting the FCC from its coveted Central address and compared hosting Chan to supporting Nazi propaganda and anti-Semitic hate speech. 

Leung’s ambush caught Carrie Lam and other Beijing loyalists off guard, as they had hitherto been muted over Chan’s talk. They—together with party mouthpieces like Wen Wei Po and Tai Kung Pao—scrambled to fall in line with stepped-up rhetoric. Not to be left out, Voice of Loving Hong Kong (愛港之聲) and other pro-Beijing groups heard Leung’s call to arms and descended on the club like angry villagers with torches and pitchforks—a scene lifted straight from Frankenstein

As a result of the unexpected media frenzy, more club members showed up at Chan’s lunch talk and more people around the world watched the live stream on social media than they did any other FCC event in the club’s 75-year history. If the idea was to starve the independence movement of attention or let it die by anonymity, then Leung would have failed miserably. 

Clearly, that wan’t his intent, nor was it the intent of the Secretary Bureau when it decided to shut down Chan’s party in the first place. Just when the phrase “Hong Kong independence” was about to fall off the radar, Leung and others government officials breathed new life into it. Like the staged assassination in Ten Years, the independence movement was resuscitated to justify a tighter grip on civil society and to earn brownie points from Beijing.

Some are wondering whether C.Y. Leung smelled blood after the government’s recent move against Chan’s party and wanted to jump on the bandwagon out of FOLO—Fear of Missing Out. After all, independence has always been Leung’s signature issue. It is his territory. 

The independence movement has served his political career well. After the occupy protests erupted on Leung’s watch in 2014 and his ratings plummeted in the aftermath, Leung made a big public display of his zero-tolerance policy against fringe separatist groups, not only to create a diversion but also to give himself a new mandate. He launched a one-man crusade against a crisis that wasn’t even there—a crisis he had created himself. It even earned him the nickname “Father of Hong Kong Independence” on social media. 

Leung's relentless attack boosted attendance

That may explain why the semi-retired Leung appeared out of nowhere to go after the FCC, knowing full well that his frontal attack on the international press corps would get himself maximum air time and reaffirm his role as chief counter-independence officer. 

But there may be more to Leung’s sudden return to the public eye than protecting his turf and staying relevant. Already, speculations are swirling over whether he is after a new role that Beijing may be setting up to oversee national security and territorial integrity in Hong Kong. If so, Leung wants to be first in line for the post—and all the funding and power that come with it—as a reward for his labor and loyalty. 

It is also possible that Leung’s goal was purely spiteful: to undermine his successor Carrie Lam and make her look weak and incompetent. As if acting on cue, Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明), a long time Leung ally and now director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (港澳辦), criticized the current administration for its “inadequacies” in curbing the spread of independence, an unusually in-your-face rebuke from a high-ranking Chinese official. Some observers have gone so far as to suggest that Leung might be laying the groundwork for his return to the top job to avenge being unceremoniously replaced by Lam in 2017. 

Whatever Leung’s motives may be, the FCC has taken a bullet in the crossfire of his one-upmanship. Whether the club will come out of this political storm unscathed depends on how much Beijing, with its growing confidence on the world stage, still cares about its image in the watchful eye of the international press. The only thing certain is that organizations like the FCC will be tested at greater frequency and intensity in the years to come. 

Sadly, the real casualty of collateral damage is the city’s freedom of expression. Soon, it will be wrong or even criminal to interview or report on Chan and others on his end of the political spectrum, on the grounds that any mention of their kind provides a “platform to promote a dangerous ideology”.

The FCC saga has started Hong Kong on a slippery slope of Orwellian state control, restricting not only our action and speech, but also our thoughts. However far-fetched and alarmist Ten Years appeared to the audience two years ago, that version of Hong Kong is already here.
________________________________
This article was published in Hong Kong Free Press under the title "What is CY Leung up to? Hong Kong hasn’t had its Ten Years yet".

As published in Hong Kong Free Press

Popular Posts

About the Author 關於作者

Born in Hong Kong, Jason Y. Ng is a globetrotter who spent his entire adult life in Italy, the United States and Canada before returning to his birthplace to rediscover his roots. He is a lawyer, published author, and contributor to The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Free Press and EJInsight. His social commentary blog As I See It and restaurant/movie review site The Real Deal have attracted a cult following in Asia and beyond. Between 2014 and 2016, he was a music critic for Time Out (HK).

Jason is the bestselling author of Umbrellas in Bloom (2016), No City for Slow Men (2013) and HONG KONG State of Mind (2010). Together, the three books form a Hong Kong trilogy that tracks the city's post-colonial development. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies. In 2017, Jason co-edited and contributed to Hong Kong 20/20, an anthology that marks the 20th anniversary of the handover. In July 2017, he was appointed Advising Editor for the Los Angeles Revie…

Book Review: "Generation HK" 書評:《香港世代》

Unpacking the young generation in Hong Kong is a tall order, not least because a singular, archetypical “Hong Kong youth” does not exist. The cohort is as diverse and divergent as it comes, from socioeconomic background and upbringing to education and exposure to the wider world, to values, ideals and aspirations. It defies stereotypes and generalisations.

Ben Bland, a British correspondent for The Financial Times, is in a unique position to take on that ambitious project. Whereas Bland’s extensive experience reporting in Asia—including stints in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar—has given him a broad field of view, his relatively short tenure in Hong Kong—just over two years—allows him to look at its people through a long-range lens.
It is that unadulterated objectivity and his unquenched curiosity that make Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow a discerning and refreshing read. Released last summer under Penguin Book’s inaugural “Hong Kong series” to mark the 20…

Media Attention + Upcoming Events 媒體關注 + 最新動向

Upcoming events and speaking engagements in 2018

Launch of new website: jasonyng.com
Date: late September

Speaker at Wimler Foundation legal workshop
Topic: Know Your Rights
Venue: Philippine Consulate General, Admiralty
Date: November

Book launch of Hong Kong Noir published by Akashic Books
Venue: TBD
Date: November

Release of 2018 anthology by Hong Kong Writers Circle
Contribution: short story (title TBD)
Date: December


2018

Speaker for Enrich HK's “Ask the Experts” series
Topic: Understanding Hong Kong Culture
Date: 11 June

Speaker at Movies that Matter Film Festival 2018
Location: The Hague, The Netherlands
Topics: TBD
Dates: 23 - 31 March

Speaker at Wimler Foundation legal workshop
Topic: Understanding Hong Kong Culture
Venue: Philippine Consulate General, Admiralty
Date: 18 March

Book launch of 《香港二十: 反思回歸廿載》, Chinese translation of PEN Hong Kong anthology Hong Kong 20/20: Reflections on a Borrowed Place
Venue: Kubrick, Yau Ma Tei
Date: 4 March

Moderator at screening of documentary “T…

From Street to Chic, Hong Kong’s many-colored food scene 由大排檔到高檔: 香港的多元飲食文化

Known around the world as a foodie’s paradise, Hong Kong has a bounty of restaurants to satisfy every craving. Whether you are hungry for a lobster roll, Tandoori chicken or Spanish tapas, the Fragrant Harbour is certain to spoil you for choice.
The numbers are staggering. Openrice, the city’s leading food directory, has more than 25,000 listings—that’s one eatery for every 300 people and one of the highest restaurants-per-capita in the world. The number of Michelin-starred restaurants reached a high of 64 in 2015, a remarkable feat for a city that’s only a little over half the size of London. Amber and Otto e Mezzo occupied two of the five top spots in Asia according to The World’s Best Restaurants, serving up exquisite French and Italian fares that tantalise even the pickiest of taste buds.

While world class international cuisine is there for the taking, it is the local food scene in Hong Kong that steals the hearts of residents and visitors alike. Whatever your budget and palate…

Past Events: 2017年活動

Media coverage and speaking engagements in 2017


Interview with Apple Daily 蘋果日報
Title: "下月8日提訊 料親身上庭 [Patrick Ho] to be arraigned on 8 January, expected to appear in person"
Publication date: 22 December

Interview with Ming Pao Daily 明報
Title: "依法限提訊後70日開審 律師指變數仍多 [Patrick Ho to be tried within 70 days of indictment, but timing is subject to change" Publication date: 21 December

Interview with Ming Pao Daily 明報 Title: "何志平案1月8日提訊 或3月中開審 料獄中過農曆年 Patrick Ho to be arraigned on 8 January pending trial in March, expected to spend Chinese New Year in prison" Publication date: 21 December

Interview with Apple Daily 蘋果日報 Title: "起訴書:何志平倘罪成須充公財產 Indictment says Patrick Ho's assets to be seized upon conviction" Publication date: 20 December
Radio Interview with BBC Radio Title: "Censorship and freedom of expression in China and Hong Kong" Show: The Cultural Frontline Presenter: Tina Daheley Broadcast date: 11 December
Moderator at Enrich HK panel …

Join the Club 入會須知

You have reached a midlife plateau. You have everything you thought you wanted: a happy family, a well-located apartment and a cushy management job. The only thing missing from that bourgeois utopia is a bit of oomph, a bit of recognition that you have played by the rules and done all right. A Porsche 911? Too clichéd. A rose gold Rolex? Got that last Christmas. An extramarital affair that ends in a costly divorce or a boiled bunny? No thanks. How about a membership at one of the city’s country clubs where accomplished individuals like yourself hang out in plaid pants and flat caps? Sounds great, but you’d better get in line.

Clubs are an age-old concept that traces back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The introduction of coffee beans to England in the mid-17th Century spurred the proliferation of coffeehouses for like-minded gentlemen to trade gossip about the monarchy over a hot beverage. In the centuries since, these semi-secret hideouts evolved into main street establishments t…

The Joshua I Know 我認識的之鋒

When I shook his hand for the first time, I thought he was the strangest seventeen-year-old I’d ever met.
It was 2014, and considering how much Hong Kong has changed in the last three year, it felt like a lifetime ago.
Joshua sat across from me at a table in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, with his iPhone in one hand and an iPad in the other. I ordered him a lemon iced tea with extra syrup.
He was eager to begin our conversation, not because he was excited about being interviewed for my article, but because he wanted to get it over with and get on with the rest of his jam-packed day.
During our 45-minute chat, he spoke in rapid-fire Cantonese, blinking every few seconds in the way robots are programmed to blink like humans. He was quick, precise and focused.

He was also curt.
When I asked him if he had a Twitter account, he snapped, “Nobody uses Twitter in Hong Kong. Next question.”
I wasn’t the least offended by his bluntness—I chalked it up to gumption and precocity. For a te…

Seeing Joshua 探之鋒

“We are here to visit a friend,” I said to the guard at the entrance. 
Tiffany, Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s long-time girlfriend, trailed behind me. It was our first time visiting Joshua at Pik Uk Correctional Institution and neither of us quite knew what to expect.

“Has your friend been convicted?” asked the guard. We nodded in unison. There are different visiting hours and rules for suspects and convicts. Each month, convicts may receive up to two half-hour visits from friends and family, plus two additional visits from immediate family upon request.
The guard pointed to the left and told us to register at the reception office. “I saw your taxi pass by earlier,” he said while eyeing a pair of camera-wielding paparazzi on the prowl. “Next time you can tell the driver to pull up here to spare you the walk.”
At the reception counter, Officer Wong took our identity cards and checked them against the “List.” Each inmate is allowed to grant visitation rights to no more than 10 friends and fam…

Let the Tanhua Bloom 曇花再現

When I moderated Kevin Kwan’s book talk for China Rich Girlfriend at a Hong Kong literary event in 2015, the Singaporean-American author was in the process of casting for the Hollywood adaptation of his first book.
Three years later, Crazy Rich Asians the movie—a cross between Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice and The Bachelor—is a runaway hit in North America. The romantic comedy topped the U.S. weekend box office in its opening week and proved to Hollywood studios that a film featuring an all-Asian cast can be just as bankable. 

For Asian audiences everywhere, CRA is more than a feel-good summer blockbuster. It is the coming out party a long time coming. If the people we see on the big screen look cool and sassy, we feel we all do. But god forbid if they come off as dorky or lame, we all do too.
It’s not just the moviegoers who get the jitters. The same is true for actors, directors, screenwriters, and novelists of Asian descent. Whether CRA is a hit or a flop may jumpstart or cut sh…

Who is Agnes Chow? 誰是周庭?

It was roughly six months ago when Nathan Law, chairman of Demosisto, lost his job. He and five other pro-democracy lawmakers had strayed from the prescribed oath during the swearing-in ceremony, and were ousted from the Legislative Council (LegCo) after Beijing issued a reinterpretation of the oath-taking provisions in the Basic Law. Many saw the unseating of six democratically-elected lawmakers, dubbed “Oathgate” in the local press, as a calculated political move to purge the legislature of the opposition.

The time to fill some of these vacated seats is finally upon us. Four by-elections will be held simultaneously on March 11, in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West, New Territories East and for the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sector.
Barely old enough to run, 21-year-old Agnes Chow (周庭) of pro-democracy party Demosisto has thrown her hat into the ring hoping to win back Law’s Hong Kong Island seat. Her decision to run has not come without a price: she has deferred …