The government has let slip recently a whole new way of looking at the impact of its inactivity on the people. It admitted to a hospital’s confusion over reference readings for liver enzyme analysis which went unnoticed for years. That sounds a slimy, yucky sort of business you would want off your hands as quickly as possible so a reluctance to linger over detail is understandable. The Health department went on to reveal that 9,400 patients were involved in the screw up – but 1,425 of them had since died before it was discovered.
Notice the interesting, upbeat implication here for mortality. If you have died, you will not know what it was that was missed and you will be beyond caring about whatever might not happen in the future. The more people who will benefit in this way as time goes by, the more acceptable will be the impact of any slowing or total absence of government action.
There is evidence to suggest that this is a growing dynamic in government policy making. For example, it is thought to be the covert thinking that lies behind the total arrest of progress towards democratic reform. Recent entries from the blog of the Director of Immigration have been revealing. Much attention is being paid to his entries because he is understood to be very close to the occasional heartbeat of government and is confidently expected to be announced as the next chief secretary.
The blog notes that the last time anybody looked, 43,000 people a year die in Hong Kong. Between the voting down of the CE election plan this year and 2022, which is the next just imaginable date for a new system, 7 years will have passed. In 2022, events will inevitably conspire to postpone it further; late arrival of the south west monsoon, the discovery of bacilli in tinned sardine oil, an outbreak of soldered pipes in primary schools. The possibilities are encouragingly limitless. By the time 2027 arrives, 515,000 people will have died, untroubled by any change and unworried by that which may never come. The blog concludes that this will be an impressive result. The more people who get dead before you don’t do anything, the better. It is thought provoking, certainly. It might well include me.
Arts hub absurdity
Another indicator of the mortality strategy is the recent appointment of Duncan Pescod to head the West Kowloon Busy-Going-Nowhere Authority. Pescod himself appears to be in cheery good health and he is a thirty year practitioner of government in the style of ‘Noh’ theatre. It is actually moving but its slowness is hypnotic. After overseas foreigners have flapped, floundered and fallen off the arts hub, clueless as to how to handle stubborn, insular bureaucracies petrified by precedent and linked by grappling hooks, a home-marinated gweilo has been brought in who cherishes the obfuscation, is master of the obstruction and can savour the subtleties of the working group with a working group.
Pescod at the helm of this arts barge is an important sign for the government’s ‘passing on’ strategy. He has become the hot insider tip for Financial Secretary, displacing the previous bookies’ favourites, the Director of Water Supplies and the Commissioner of Census and Statistics. He will have the clout to berth the barge with its salaries for seven departments and the expenses of seven committees humming along under the tarpaulin, and let it lie quietly alongside, perhaps for generations.
No one can much remember when the ‘Cultural District’ began oozing improvement into its soggy reclamation but a good quarter of a million will have passed-on unbothered by what has not gone up around the creatively colourful ventilation shaft for the Western Tunnel. If they are lucky, at least two or three generations to come, or up to 3.2 million, will be deceased before they are troubled by the prospect of a day’s wages for a ticket to the opera.
Much the same might be claimed for Kai Tak, running to jungle, and even the high speed rail link which may never actually get there but terminate abruptly east of Yuen long, giving rise to a thriving fruit and veg market. Those political parties that support the government, wandering lost down corridors and going into broom cupboards to vote, might well adopt a new slogan for the next elections. ‘Vote for economic and livelihood issues. You might as well be dead!’