Some free advice for both sides

The Civic Party

Not surprisingly, the CP can’t resist mishandling the extremely generous present it has been given – a live, one-on-one TV debate with Chief Executive Donald Tsang on political reform. Examining this gift horse minutely in the mouth, they might have noticed that its jaws had ‘victory’ written on them and a presence between them of something called ‘defeat’, which they would be well advised not to touch. But no, they have to toy with it, demanding that the debate be held in a university, with a live audience and with a particular host. Incredibly, they do not even seem to be averse to opening the event up to other parties. Only Sir Bow-Tie’s bizarre fixation with putting CP leader and by-election/referendum troublemaker Audrey Eu on a pedestal can save the idiots.

Surely, the correct CP response to the invitation would be simply to agree to whatever Donald suggests. You’ve just been offered a free, half-hour, prime-time TV commercial: shut up and don’t argue. You prime Audrey with facts and figures about developers’ profit margins, the affordability of homes, hospital waiting lists, wasteful capital expenditure and specific examples of collusion and favours, and you make sure she can link it all up with the functional constituencies and the rest of the political structure. Then, as Donald presents his dazzling oratory on step-by-step progress and consensus and win-win situations, she can give it to him right between the eyes: this is a corrupt system – why won’t you change it? Make people angry.

Just as Donald seems to have a death wish in putting himself in a position where this might happen, so the CP seem to be trying to give him room to escape. (All that real-estate-linked legal work the glamorous barristers get probably concentrates the mind a bit.)

The HK government

While we watch this battle of incompetents both trying to lose first, it is worth recalling that all this weirdness is driven by the Hong Kong government’s extraordinary determination to get the 2012 political non-reform package through. The more cynical you are about Beijing’s interference, the more obvious it must be that this is because the Central People’s Government wants it implemented.

Some commentators like to say that Beijing would not be too upset if the package failed, as it would be an excuse to delay further ‘gradual and orderly’ progress towards whatever rigged quasi-democracy the national authorities have in mind for us one day. Yet the Liaison Office’s moves to woo the supposedly moderate pro-democrats – and the hyperactive efforts of the ever-obedient local administration – suggest this is not the case. And here, if Donald wants to be truly devious, is an opportunity for him to get that vote after all. He needs to spread a rumour, or a notion, or whatever people want to call it.

According to this rumour/notion, Mainland officials have become aware of the dysfunctional state of the current political structure here and are secretly regretting that they insisted on minimal change for 2012. Perhaps the increasingly obvious ineptitude of the pro-democrats encouraged them to see the issue less in terms of a theoretical challenge to CPG power and more as a practical problem of the perceived weak legitimacy and thus effectiveness of their appointed local administration.

Since the Communist Party is infallible, Beijing cannot reverse its previously stated position that the 2012 reforms must be as limited as they are. Yet Beijing is even more boxed in than that. It would also find it difficult to respond to a veto of this package by the pro-democrats with a more meaningful proposal for the 2016-17 elections, because that would implicitly admit that this current one was a mistake and the emperor must now produce what could be interpreted as a bigger concession to the will of the people.

Seen this way, China’s officials are actually quite desperate for the package to get through. They can then, while still seen as being in full control, arrange for a more serious move towards guided democracy for the following elections to give the city’s administration broader support as it tackles the ‘deep-rooted contradictions’ that even Premier Wen Jiabao seems to find such a concern. This means there might actually be some substance there if you read between the lines of the thoughts of the NPC Standing Committee’s Qiao Xiaoyang about ‘throwing open the door to universal suffrage’ – or even in the monotonous ramblings of mustelid Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Stephen Lam about ‘moving forward’.

Such a rumour/notion is what the Big Lychee’s leaders should get their oily go-betweens to spread among the pro-democrats to convince them to vote for, or abstain, next month. It might work, because it could even be true.

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12 Responses to Some free advice for both sides

  1. Sonald Dang says:

    “mustelid Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Stephen Lam” is an uncalled for and unjustified insult….. to mustelids.

    Mr Lam shares the same genes as a Gromphadorhina portentosa.

  2. chanboy says:

    Suppose this whole 2012 business is passed by legco, what then? Will there really be a more serious move to “democracy’? Or will the Central gov. go back on it’s word? From the face of it, the central gov. won’t do such a move due to the loss of face and damage to their reputation. But on the other hand, they can say 2012 is “big progress” and use that as an excuse to rest on their laurels and stall further sufferage development.

    In either case, they have the democrats where they want them. By having this meeting, they can pressure the democrats to compromise and paint them as unreasonable obstructionist if they fail to reach an agreement. Also, they may also be able to splinter the pro-democrats camp with the more radical group portraying the democrats as sell-outs to their cause. Finally, the meeting puts the pressure on the democrats to reach some kind of agreement, whether they like it or not. Expectations has been raised, the democrats cannot afford to finish this meeting empty-ended.

  3. Maugrim says:

    Chanboy, in the HK and indeed wider SE Asian context, it could be argued ‘what is democracy’? I think the Central Government, the Civil Service/scions of industry nest and the Democrats all have entirely different ‘visions’ as to what kind of democracy they want and what they feel is democratic. (Unfortunately).

  4. chanboy says:

    Maugrim, you are opening a pandora box with how to define what is “democracy” :).

    That being said, I get the distinct feeling that “democracy” means very different things for the pro-democrats and Beijing.

  5. MarcFaber says:

    You don’t want democracy to work in Hong Kong because the British Government doesn’t want it to work. The UK Foreign Office strategy for China is to isolate, contain andor divide it. You hope that Hong Kong will either become a hotbed of unrest or another stone in Peking’s shoes, like Tibet and Taiwan. I guess you can only lose if we make progress with democracy. This is why you are so critical of the present manoeuvres towards democratic development. Just a question. What would a spin doctor writing for the British Foreign Office write? Yes. We already know by reading you.

  6. Maugrim says:

    Oh jeez MarcFaber, give it a bone will you? In fact, start your own blog where you can get rid of the chip that’s on your shoulder. The Brits have gone, we are talking about the here and now.

  7. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Surely the British Foreign Office would be more sophisticated than trying to undermine confidence in the democratisation of HK via a blog that is written in English and read mainly by members of HK’s expatriate crowd, who have zero input on the democratisation process and largely look on at the whole affair with amused condescension, wot wot?

  8. isomoliu says:

    Many conspiracy theories are being thrown around town these days, trying to “explain” why Bow Tie has come up with such an insane idea. Some said that this must be the Central Government’s directive, since Bow Tie and his team would never have the inventivenss and the nerve to do such a “creative” thing as to emulate Taiwan.

    Alas, I have learnt that the more inexplicable things are, the simplest explanation is likely to be accurate. With the royal command to get the reform package passed hanging over their oily heads and their obsession with approval ratings (some sort of report card grades they have to account for to those in Western), some smart ass spin doctor who wants to apply what he has learnt from the government-sponsored $6,000 Six Thinking Hats course, must have said, oh look at Ma Ying-jeou, whose approval ratings shot up after his debate with the DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, we can do the same and (re-)seize the initiative!

    But this still doesn’t explain why the vertically-challenged and temperamental Donald whose facial features do not translate well on any visual medium would choose the tallest and most congenial pro-democrat. Some things will always remain inexplicable. I eagerly await the debate to see if Donald will do the same as the diminutive Tsai Ing-wen did in standing on a box.

  9. Realbodyguard says:

    Mainly read by expats? I’m not so sure about that, Tiu Fu Fong. Expats can leave and go home whenever they want, (unless they have laid down roots in the city), whereas us in the city don’t have a choice. That being said, I think MarcFaber is a bit much with his constant harping on the Brits. He should give it a rest.

  10. Simon Coweell says:

    Donald Tsang has the perfect face for radio.

  11. Kelvin says:

    Bow-Tie has done what I would’ve never imagined CP to be able to do: restore CP’s reputation to being a mainstream pan-dem party for the middle to upper class, instead of a rich boys’ and girls’ version of LSD batshit insanity. Underestimate the Donald at your peril, folks!

  12. FarcMaber says:

    MarcFaber failed his job interview at the Foreign Office and has been carrying the baggage round in his bucket and floor cleaning mop ever since

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