As affairs between tycoons and starlets in Hong Kong go, this liaison in particular has gone down as the one that can provide the juiciest fodder for gossip: the tycoon in question dangled $20 million (in 1990s dollars) in front of an actress who was, by many accounts, the most beautiful star of her day; let me shove two golf balls into you, he proposed, and the money is yours. She said yes. After the proceedings, however, she discovered to her horror she couldn’t remove the inserted objects on her own. She went to a hospital for help, which was how her story got leaked.
I was reminded of this sordid tale when, two months ago, the Water Supplies Department awarded a $4.5 billion contract to the construction firm owned by the husband of the Secretary of Justice Tersesa Cheng said of the announcement). In the light of the fact that late last year, this same firm found itself under investigation for anti-monopoly practices shortly after (according to the Financial Times) Cheng begged Beijing to let her resign – Beijing denied her request and ordered her to go back to work – it is difficult to escape the impression that by alternately applying carrot and stick, Beijing is bullying Cheng into doing its bidding. So, despite my contempt of Cheng – among other things, I loathe her for raising the spectre of a criminal charge to deter people from protesting in the streets – part of me began to pity her. Just as, to this day, every time the said starlet flaunts her life of luxury, people will gleefully recount the golf ball incident on social media, so, Cheng’s wealth will forever be perceived as tainted, associated with her willingness to debase herself for the CCP.
I don’t think CCP’s nefarious practice of holding people hostage by preying on their weakness for money and sex was on Shih Wing Ching’s (施永青）mind when, after bemoaning the prevalence of anti-government sentiments among Hong Kong youths, he opined “it’s very difficult for youths – who still lack financial independence – to think independently, because only after they enter the workforce and receive a dose of reality can they be capable of developing well-considered views on politics.” The reality is, when CCP controls society by placing loyalists in key positions and penalizing those who refuse to toe the party line, then having financial means doesn’t necessarily beget independence of mind. One look at people like Cheng, and you’ll understand why Hayek titled his book on the dangers of letting a government dominate the economy “The Road to Serfdom.”
Shih’s piece did give me food for thought, though. Particularly illuminating is his view that, unlike young people, the mature folks, “will, for survival’s sake, monitor the workings of society and avoid coming up against a wall.” Translation: the Shihs in Hong Kong support the CCP not because they morally approve of it, but because they see CCP’s tentacles in every corner of society, and decide to resign themselves to its vileness. Why not just (in Jiang Zemin’s famous phrase) “keep mum and make money” (“闷声发大财”)？ Granted, their thinking goes, every now and then, one of them will end up like Cheng – their status as CCP plaything playing out in public in the most unpleasant manner – but that’s bad luck. Again, bad luck is just part of reality
Luckily, the wall CCP haters are up against is showing signs of cracking. As western powers unite to halt the CCP’s global expansion, even the profit-oriented in Hong Kong are coming to understand worldliness differently. Witness David Leung’s (梁卓然）resignation from his post as the Director of Public Prosecutions, citing conflicts with Cheng. Mind you, Leung is no moral crusader – “by no means assume that those who jump ship are honorable. Just earlier this year Leung was so ruthless in going after protesters,” the exiled activist Nathan Law warned. Chances are Leung left because he didn’t want to endure the equivalent of the golf ball treatment in the legal field, only to find a financially-strained CCP unwilling to pony up a reward for those of his rank. And a photo collage of the civil servants who recently banned pro-democracy figures from qualifying as election candidates is even more telling: only people of this calibre are willing to do dirty work for the CCP now. Within the civil service, the capable and talented are making an effort to avoid being stigmatized as CCP lackeys. From the way things are progressing, it’s only a matter of time that even the Shihs will allow themselves to give up putting up with the CCP.