Hong Kong’s momentous referendum: the aftermath

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.

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14 Responses to Hong Kong’s momentous referendum: the aftermath

  1. Trotsky says:

    The same old rubbish from you, denying revolution and the iron laws of history. There are at least fifty revolutions happening in the world right now and all your flabby mnd can say is ” it couldn’t happen here”. Wake up and smell the Molotov cocktails.

  2. NotThePRGuru says:

    I find reading about HK politics almost as exciting as reading about Paris Hilton.

  3. notaeuropean says:

    This is terrific stuff– polemical a bit but also very incisive. The pan-demos arent really demos in any meaningful sense. They seem mostly upset that THEY are not in charge here. Its a cliche but they seem driven by “face” “politics”.

    You are spot on that its so revealing that they refuse to name names, demand specifics, make a real analysis of what ails HK. Useful idiots maybe?

  4. Sir Crispin says:

    So for all the demonstrations and demands of universal suffrage, why didn’t everyone eligible to vote turn out and do so? Yes, it was a one pony, contrived show and lots figured it a waste of time, but surely the fact that so many failed to turn up adds fuel to Beijing’s claims the HK isn’t ready. Wouldn’t the 3 million + people eligible showing up to vote have sent a strong message that HK does indeed want and deserve the freedom to vote for their leaders? It seems their demands are full of hot air and that balloon has just popped.

  5. Xiao Yao says:

    A fine post about what ails HK.

  6. Maugrim says:

    To see Cheung Mo in action in public versus some less public moments leaves me wondering whether or not he is an actor who knows the role that he plays best and thus plays often. Like a pantomime Dame, I wonder whether the Dems are too caught up in their preceived role as the ‘good guys’ rather than as a rationally thinking group.

  7. Virgil Tibbs says:

    (Dr?) Trotsky: Beijing would sooner send in the tanks than allow any meaningful democracy on its soil. Drunk again?

    Anyway, how long before the SAR is dissolved? Thirty-seven years and counting. Why bother?

  8. Ushekim says:

    What happened to “other blog” links?

  9. chanboy says:

    Yes, I’m not surprised. One of the recurring problems with the pro-democrats is their inability to bridge their ideals and goals with action needed to get there. This may of course be structural, given the political system we have in Hong Kong. But that does not absolve the pro-democrats of their mistakes. Time and again, they have been out-matched by the establishment. Now they have “scored an own goal” with this low voter turnout. Is this because of poor timing? A lack of ability to connect with the voters and public at large? Inability to setting the political agenda? Or just wrong strategies?

  10. Rod Steiger says:

    “Thirty-seven years and counting,” says it all.

    That’s why “they call him MISTER Tibbs.”

  11. gunlaw says:

    More turned out to vote this time against vote-rigging than marched against the sedition law. The latter was a sensation. The vote is derided.

  12. noantenna says:

    Sir Crispin: a friend of mine tried enrolling to vote but couldn’t get through the bureaucratic mire and successfully register in time. Not sure if this was incompetence or passive resistance.

    Virgil Tibbs: the SAR is far too valuable to dissolve. Beijing will simply replace the Basic Law with a tighter ruling charter. Anxiety in the banking sector will make sure we know all about our new constitutional arrangements 20+ years before 2047.

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