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Opinion | The Top Bureaucrats' Death Watch: Who is the next to go?

Good Night!「Location: Hong Kong」(DDN)

By Philip Yeung, a university teacher


Hong Kong's "Party-gate" has claimed the first scalp in Tsui Ying-Wai, the Secretary for Home Affairs. Two other fellow attendees escaped with just an official warning. The fate of the other 12 "unlucky" officials is still pending.

In the Year of the Tiger, it seems, Carrie Lam, until now a sleeping tigress, has decided to roar. Long may her roar continue, to the bitter end of her term.

Some accuse Lam of making a mountain out of a molehill--by making an example of Tsui. Some question her new-found toughness as pure political expediency, to boost her chances of re-election, due next month. The storm brewing over Boris Johnson's wine and cheese parties is also in the equation, to show that she can handle it better.

Regardless, Tsui is the first senior official to be ousted under our toothless accountability system. Some see his sin as a mere technical violation which does not rise to the level of a terminal offence.

I feel a bit sorry for Tsui, but this sympathy is hard to sustain.

Until this political "tempest in a teacup" Tsui's career was in the ascendancy. He joined the Home Affairs Bureau in June 2008 as a political assistant, remaining there until August 2017 when he was made Under-Secretary of Labor and Welfare. Embarrassingly, on that happy occasion, he couldn't tell reporters what Hong Kong's minimum wage was, or how much a family of three received in welfare assistance. The optics are bad. But he was still made Secretary for Home Affairs in April 2020.

Then, in November of that year, in a moment of idiocy, he posted pictures of his favorite desserts on social media, just as a fatal fire broke out in Yaumati. His claims of being good at "multi-tasking" ring hollow.

As bad as Tsui's optics are, he is at least harmless. Law Chi Kwong, the Secretary for Labor and Welfare is far more toxic. On paper, he is perfect for the post. A member of the Commission on Poverty since 2012, and elected a legislator in the Social Welfare Functional Constituency three times, he knows grassroots politics and rides on the halo of the Gold Bauhinia Star awarded him in 2014. A tenured professor of Social Work at HKU and its department head for four years, he is reputed to have an IQ of 160. The joke that "If God had intended politicians to think, he would have given them brains" obviously doesn't apply to Law. But God is wrong. He is the biggest disappointment in the Lam administration with the highest IQ.

Law only needs two parts of his body to do his work, or non-work: "his shaking head" and "his moving lips". He has the uncanny ability to endlessly talk the talk, but never walk the talk. To him belongs the title of "the do-nothing minister". Tsui may be naive. What is Law's excuse? By his CV, he knows the plight of the poor. But Law is no friend of the vulnerable, clever at justifying his inaction. He sneers at the need for unemployment insurance, claiming it encourages laziness, despite it being standard among advanced economies. It begs the question: without jobless benefits, why is there income tax?

He leaves the jobless at the mercy of the market with nothing but the wretched welfare system as their ultimate humiliation.

I wonder if he ever looks at himself in the mirror.

Law lavishes nearly $400 million on Dairy Farm International for pandemic relief, but penny-pinching it with the poor. Needy seniors get an extra $40 per month for their pitiful "fruit money". These days, local papers report daily suicides only skeletally, with no tear-jerking story of economic or emotional despair. In a city of sky-high rent, a subdivided unit eats up $8000 in rent. With the $3800 welfare handout, you can either choose to eat or rent a windowless room, but not both.

Without Unemployment Insurance, Law also has no way of tracking jobless numbers. He can lie freely with his statistics.

Despite his high IQ, Law has been outplayed by big business, channeling $268 million to Cathay Pacific to help the airline keep its employees working during the pandemic. But after pocketing the money, Cathay turned around and closed down its subsidiary Cathay Dragon, axing 5900 jobs. Not a single job was saved, not a single dollar recouped.

Next, he gave supermarket chains truckloads of cash to keep food prices low. Law has the rare talent of turning the simple into something grotesquely and unnecessarily complicated and convoluted. Instead of simply issuing consumer vouchers, he chose to hand supermarkets huge subsidies and ask them to make give-backs to shoppers. But they were accused of hiking the prices before receiving the money and then reducing them afterwards. Insisting that the give-backs be quantifiable and transparent, he wanted them to publish the names of collaborating organizations and the numbers of beneficiaries. Civil servants must monitor the fluctuating prices of individual food items such as orange juice or eggs. He further stipulated that 50% of the subsidy be spent on discounts, and that 50% of these discounts must target the underprivileged, with 10% going to their frontline staff. These complicated calculations make your head spin. What a waste of manpower, what a dizzying mess! Even housewives know that supermarkets prosper during the pandemic because few are eating out. They are the last business to need government subsidies. But Law, with his brains, is living on another planet.

How I wish Law had attended the infamous birthday party! His four and a half years in government is a blank, unless you count his crazy bureaucratization of supermarket subsidies an achievement. He is useless to Lam and a curse to the poor. His Gold Bauhinia Star should be repossessed, his IQ rechecked and his job removed.

In 2004, as a member of the Democratic Party, he was barred from entering Shanghai. In retrospect, he should have been barred from entering government service. His only genius is in reinventing himself politically for his own benefit.

Law shouldn't stay another day on public payroll. It's time to give this Gold Bauhinia Star political player the rusty bronze good-bye.

As for other worthy candidates for Carrie's chopping block, stay tuned for our next instalment.


The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.

Read more articles by Philip Yeung:

Opinion | Stupidity is not democracy: Hong Kong rioters are no heroes

Opinion | Boris Johnson's Last Gamble

Opinion | Who are the world's good leaders?



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