Rita Fan, grim Shanghainese battleaxe, is the people’s choice for next Chief Executive of Hong Kong. This is the finding of a Hong Kong Transition Project survey that – understandably – is far too sensitive and disturbing to be made available on the organisation’s website. The South China Morning Post reports that the multiple-choice opinion poll produced a 60% approval rating for Fan, 53% for Chief Secretary Henry Tang, 45% for the Civic Party’s Alan Leong and just 37% for Executive Council member CY Leung.
At first sight, the results look like resounding proof that the people of the Big Lychee are entirely unfit to vote and probably even to feed themselves. But other data from the survey on favoured political parties and housing policies suggest that the populace knows of which it speaks. The fact is that the next CE will be decided by the top Communist Party leadership in Beijing with a view to furthering the noble and sacred lifelong cause for which the party exists: the continuation of itself in power at any price.
Fan’s success in this little exercise reflects brand recognition. As the President of the Legislative Council for many years, she frequently appeared on TV enforcing parliamentary order impartially and patiently, if without great humour. Being speaker of the house, she had no role to play in partisan debate, and so no-one watching at home would ever get an inkling if she were in real life (speaking purely hypothetically) a callous, vindictive, power-crazed, pro-Beijing sycophant who pulls the wings off butterflies for amusement.
In fact, her background suggests she would be a preferable choice to some alternatives. At least she is not quite as close to the business community as fellow Shanghainese Henry. Her father was a major tycoon (with a thing about Rita Hayworth, we are told – hence the name), but her own career was as an academic.
As is the whole question of her being CE. She’s too old, and would be 70 even before her first term were over. Not that this would matter to the survey’s respondents. When the Transition Project was gracious enough to offer a free choice of future CE, the most commonly mentioned names were former Chief Secretary Anson Chan and ex-Democratic Party boss Martin Lee, both of advanced age, not to say a different era altogether. Why didn’t they just pick Murray MacLehose and be done with it?
The poor showing of CY Leung reflects a combination of his low profile and that unfortunate creepiness you would expect of one who got into pro-CCP patriotism in his teens when his peers still had two decades of shoe-shining the Brits ahead of them. Life under CY could well be oppressive and ideologically correct (Henry would be a Merrie Monarch Charles II versus his Cromwell, if you like that sort of analogy), but the property tycoons hate him, and the way things are going, gulags and jackboots would be a small price to pay.
Apart from Dame Conscience, bureaucrats are conspicuous by their absence in this poll. The interviewers omitted Financial Secretary John Tsang from their list of possible candidates, and the respondents did not seem in a great rush to mention lawmaker and former Security Secretary Regina Ip when the questionnaire threw the field open and let them suggest their own nominees.
We remain none the wiser, and it will all come down to what the top CCP leadership sees as its priority: a stable, not to say moribund, Hong Kong under a safe, indeed brain-dead, pair of hands (a civil servant or Henry); or a vibrant city that’s possibly going somewhere entrusted to a no-nonsense mayor with his own mind (CY). The Jockey Club will start taking bets on July 1.