Like Chief Executive Donald Tsang, I decided not to vote in yesterday’s by-election/de facto referendum in view of its unique nature – specifically that it was being held on exactly the same day that I was due, with a little effort, to attain Genius Pixie level in the addictive pastime known as Flood It. To the surprise of no-one, 83% of Hong Kong’s voters stayed away from the polls. For every person who abstained on principle, like Sir Bow-Tie, many more stayed away because they couldn’t see the point in turning up for a one-horse race.
More than a few also resented the fact that, in each constituency, the ‘horse’ concerned had been solely responsible for holding the race, leaving the whole event looking like an exercise in self-indulgence. This was not just because Beijing pulled the plug on a contest by ordering its supporters not to run. It was also the fault of the pro-democrats taking part for their insistence on framing the non-clash in their usual rarified, abstract and idealistic rhetoric.
For example, the pro-democrats urged us to cast our ballot to somehow pressure Hong Kong/PRC officials to define what they mean by ‘universal suffrage’. This is begging the question; Beijing cannot and will not offer a definition because to do so would implicitly accept the right of the people to peacefully change their government if they choose. It won’t happen. So long as China is under the rule of a Communist or any other one-party system, any election in Hong Kong must and will be rigged. Asking Beijing to describe how it will not rig our elections is cretinous.
As, sadly, is the pro-democrats’ whole strategy of demanding that a dream be turned into a reality, complete with timetable and legally watertight fine print. Far better to start with the reality and try to turn it into something better and attainable.
Hong Kong is currently run by a little group of out-of-depth bureaucrats who allow a cabal of tycoons to rip off consumers and hog opportunities and private and public wealth. If the government’s political reform package for 2012 is passed, we end up with exactly the same system. This should be the loudly and clearly and frequently proclaimed reason why the pro-democrats will vote to veto the package. It could be a spicy message, complete with names of officials, developer buddies and wasteful projects, and vivid examples of the harm done to ordinary people’s lives through the bad housing, schools and hospitals that result. The pro-democrats have parliamentary privilege, right? Use it.
But no: they are too absorbed in their noble fight for pure righteousness in the form of democracy in our small patch of totalitarian state. Their arguments are impeccably logical but irrelevant; the enemy they think they are struggling against is barely aware they exist. As yesterday showed, they perceive both success and (even better) a dash of martyrdom where the rest of us see a time-waster intruding into the important things in life, like making Genius Pixie. You have to wonder whose side they are really on.