A predictable and unappealing – not to say slappable – gang of pro-Beijing business folk and politicians announce the formation of the Alliance for Constitutional Development to encourage the silent majority to contribute to the debate on the Hong Kong government’s proposed non-reforms to the political structure for the 2012 elections. One member, accountant Fanny Lai, said on the radio this morning that the idea was to get the views of people who “don’t feel comfortable,” as she more or less put it, “writing in Chinese or English.”
The phrase ‘silent majority’ goes back at least as far as Richard Nixon, who used it in a famous 1969 speech appealing to the non-chattering classes to support his Vietnam policy. That such a group exists and outnumbers those who follow (and drone on endlessly about) current affairs is undeniable. They are not necessarily inarticulate or semiliterate, but they are probably non-ideological. They probably abdicate themselves from participation in debate for a variety of reasons: they are too busy with family or work to think about politics; they believe nothing they do will make a difference; or they find sport more interesting. Unlike Singaporeans, Hong Kong people do not have to keep quiet out of fear.
One possible common characteristic of this unheard mass of our population is that they see no irony in apparently being reached out to by a few dozen rich, well-connected members of the ‘elite’ seeking to preserve ill-gotten privileges. Another is that, if offered the chance to bid in an auction for the right to whack a moderately heavy wet fish against the chubby, self-satisfied cheeks of Maria Tam (nasty floral outfit, above), they would decline.
Although they deny it, the Alliance initiative is prompted by the plan by two pro-democracy parties to force by-elections for the Legislative Council that would serve as a referendum on universal suffrage. With the pro-democracy camp split on it, and too far up their own backsides to connect with the ‘silent majority’ who have traditionally voted for them, the idea has a lot of faults. But there is one intriguing thing about it: it scares the government silly. The Alliance project, which has an element of astroturfing about it, could in theory raise awareness among the more timid residents of the Big Lychee and spur them into turning up to vote against the pan-democrats if the quasi-referendum happens.
Three newspapers – the Mainland-funded Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao (with no readers) and the tycoon-adoring Sing Tao – are participating in the effort to prompt the voiceless hordes to utter an opinion. Or will once they get their act together. So far, Ta Kung Pao is the only one providing an on-line petition supporting implementation of the non-reforms. Dissenting comments (and I tried) mysteriously fail to get through.