So deep-rooted, no-one knows what they are…

Big Lychee, Various Sectors

Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive Carrie Lam announces that she has finalized her team of top officials. Rather than find fresh talent, she has decided to be ‘practical’ and go for fellow veteran bureaucrats. To such similes as ‘faster than a speeding bullet’, or ‘quicker than greased lightning’ we can now add ‘hit the ground running like a cabinet of Hong Kong civil servants’.

Rather unpropitiously, former top Mainland official Chen Zuoer chooses this moment to declare that Hong Kong must tackle its ‘deep-rooted problems’. We do not know whether these are the same ‘deep-rooted problems’ then-Premier Wen Jiabao told then-CE Donald Tsang to fix in 2005.

Communist Party practice is not to specify problems or ‘contradictions’. The vagueness is face-saving to all concerned, yet also comes across as menacing. (The phrase also appears in the classic Learning English With Regina Vol III, by Madam lawmaker Ip. Less subtle than Beijing officials, she tantalizingly continues the vocabulary lesson with references to the wealth gap and the shiftiness of Leung Chun-ying.)

So it could be that our deep-rooted contradictions are those reflected in the strange situation whereby a poor elderly widow is arrested by six urban services enforcers for selling a piece of cardboard, while owners of luxury cars park illegally with impunity. Or it could be that the contradictions concern the riddle of how we need to diversify our economy because sky-high rents disconnected from the real economy have driven out all but a narrow range of economic activities. Or it could be the apparent contradiction whereby Hong Kong’s plight is due to its people’s inability to understand the Basic Law, the meaning of which is carved in tofu and subject to change at the emperor’s whim.

No doubt Carrie’s new cabinet will work it out in a hypersonic blink of an eye.