【明報專訊】I couldn't help but amused to the point of laughter when I, about to dissect my delicate scallop tartare for lunch in my daily restaurant, spotted the front page article titled "China Can No Longer Be Embarrassed" on the New York Times the other day. What daredevil is bold but cool enough to expose the obvious? The article is gently signed off with the name Yi-Zheng Lian which, after my conversion from robotic Pinyin to lively Chinese, well, signifies the veteran commentator who is reputed for once being the chief editor of the Hong Kong Economic Journal and would go on to be more renowned for being sacked by C.H.Tung from the Central Policy Unit after he dared to show his face (unmasked!) in one of the too many demonstrations against the Tung administration. He remains defiant with his dry sense of humour as revealed in the aforesaid title.
His article is on the mystique of Mr Meng Hongwei's recent disappearance from his office as the deputy head of the Interpol in Paris. Now we all know that Meng is perfectly safe, only well captured by the Beijing government for alleged corruption charges. Nothing mysterious but well orchestrated! Mr Lian's argument is indeed circular, though I practically won't mind: They have no shame and they are thus never embarrassed! Cheers!
Unlike Beijing, the Saudis are embarrassed for having savagely murdered the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the foreign soil of Turkey, though in their own consulate, a few weeks ago. Such embarrassment is testified by their filling up their princely big event aka Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh with their many natives as quite a troop of Western dignitaries chose to shy away from the event. They are aptly embarrassed not because they have more shame. They only regret that they have performed the much-planned-ahead murder in such a clumsy and disastrous way, leaving every footprint and bloodstain to be discovered by their rival Turkish host. The freshly painted wall in the consulate to conceal the bloodstain, the care-free decoy donning the victim's clothes to tour around the town and the nice audio recorder planted discreetly by the Turkish agents in the consulate recording the victim's scream from finger sawing... Anyway, not really good stuff for the next season of CSI!
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Saudis is no less a tyrant but maybe of lesser articulation. His Highness has much to learn from Beijing even though he once showed the equal acumen in abruptly consolidating his power among rivals and competitors. First, better not to murder your native on foreign soil as your sovereignty or impunity need not extend to where you don't reign. Second, better not to kill at all when you could readily assassinate many characters at once by pressing the all-embracing charge of corruption against them. Probably taking a clue from Lord Acton's verdict, the absolute power now tends to edit corruption to cut its own absolute figure. The charge further parades the beauty of rule by law, informing and even enlightening your natives of that might is right, awe is law! No blood shed while salutes wickedly earned.
Being a tyrant is never an easy job as the power struggle and its maintenance is a terribly long night never seeing its dawn. Only the perfect tyrant could accomplish so much so artfully and become so shameless. Winnie-the-pooh apparently couldn't and thus got legitimately banned from showing his innocence in one kingdom.
■By Lawrence Lau 劉偉聰
Lawrence is a life debater who has to debate with his life. Being a barrister makes him a living while reading and writing gives him a life. This is his cat Dworkin.