SCMP August 13 2009
Once upon a time the idea of united front tactics was to use non-communist
progressive forces to strengthen the communist-led assault on feudalism,
landlordism, organised crime, monopoly capitalism and bureaucratic
corruption. Today, it seems that the purpose of a united front, as
understood by Beijing and as practised by its acolytes, is to protect
a new hereditary feudalism, the power of landlords and monopoly capitalists,
and of gambling empires that thrive on the ready availability of large-scale
money laundering, prostitution and related rackets.
Hong Kong was recently host to United Front Work Department chief
Du Qinglin, who was in the city to launch a local branch of the China
Reunification Council, another body seemingly designed to offer local
bigwigs new opportunities to ingratiate themselves with Beijing in
the hope of the usual commercial rewards. Mr Du provided an opportunity
for a group of leading landlords to express their dissatisfaction with
the Legislative Council for hindering projects that would favour themselves
and the bureaucrats who do their bidding, or for demanding health and
environmental safeguards. Legco's modest attempts to achieve transparency,
a level playing field and replace collusion with competition are an
obstacle to their interests.
Those reported criticising Legco included Executive Council convenor
Leung Chun-ying, close ally of the developers and possible chief executive,
and Henry Cheng Kar-shun, head of his family's property, bus and gambling
empire and fighting a Legco attempt to query him over New World's hiring
of a top official not long after he sold it a plum property at a price
well below that suggested by Exco. New World was the largest contributor
to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's re-appointment campaign and is also the
employer of his brother, former police chief Tsang Yam-pui.
It is true that Legco and other objectors are holding up some development
projects. But that is to be expected so long as the public can, as
it does, clearly see that the interests of the top policymakers and
officials are aligned with an array of vested interests of whom the
main ones are the developers and the Heung Yee Kuk. In the latter case,
the authorities seem simply afraid of trying to enforce laws on land
use and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of
Hong Kong has brought to its bosom and into Exco Lau Wong-fat, the
still-expanding great landlord of the New Territories and powerful
representative of a feudal relic that denies proper representation
to most of the New Territories inhabitants.
How claimed representatives of Hong Kong's grass roots can live with
this I do not know - except that they were likewise blind to the evils
of the Cultural Revolution. To be part of the united front assumes
abandoning critical faculties and claimed principles in favour of blind
loyalty to the leader, whether the personality cult of Mao Zedong or
the institutional cult of the party.
Beijing's cynical devotion to feudal principles and the merits of
the gambling industry is even more obvious in Macau. There the chief
executive-elect, Fernando Chui Sai-on, is from the same mould as incumbent
Edmund Ho Hau-wah - the families of the three 'patriotic businessmen'
who have fronted for Beijing since Mao's days. Mr Ho retained an interest
in Stanley Ho's main vehicle, Socieded de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau,
for a long time after becoming chief executive. He was also a shareholder
in Air Macau, recently rescued by Macau and Air China.
Dr Chui, meanwhile, distinguished himself by presiding over the construction
of facilities for the East Asian Games in Macau in 2005. They were
80 per cent over budget, thanks in part to a 50-million-pataca payoff
to then public works secretary Ao Man-long.
Even a few of the 300 hand-picked 'electors' declined to vote for
Dr Chui, who they saw as a non-entity ill-suited to lead Macau. But
in Hong Kong, Donald Tsang could be relied on to gush congratulations:
'With your devotion, resolution and wealth of experience in public
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