I suppose it’s too much to expect people who confuse a HK$25 billion deficit with a HK$70 billion surplus to be able to add and subtract various permutations of 60 legislators’ votes. With over a dozen pro-government lawmakers attending the National People’s Political Consultative Sleep-in up in Beijing, and a similar number of pro-democrats openly in an uppity think-I’ll-abstain mood, the vote authorizing HK$60 billion of interim funding to keep government ticking over from April Fool’s Day onwards had the potential to be close. In the event, the resolution failed to get a simple majority by two votes. (This, lest we forget, is a system where the elections are rigged to make life easy for the executive branch.)
An extreme cynic with a soft spot might wonder whether our dastardly and cunning leadership carefully calculated the vote to turn out this way so they and their friends in politics and the media could pour scorn upon the opposition to avenge the embarrassment that is the 2011-12 Budget. Any real cynic, however, knows that they don’t have that much gumption, and this was yet another plain, unadulterated screw-up.
Who were the two pro-government legislators who checked in yesterday afternoon but were missing from the vote? Regina Ip and David Li.
Regina was doing constituency stuff and also had some personal business (a hairdresser’s appointment?) to attend to. She was effusively apologetic for not being in the Legislative Council when needed. Not just politely sorry, but deeply, breast-beatingly contrite, rather as you would be if you had just watched any hopes former civil service colleague Financial Secretary John Tsang had of becoming Chief Executive evaporate overnight owing to stupidity, and you harboured such an ambition yourself and were petrified of putting a foot wrong. That kind of sorry.
Li, the bankers’ representative, is too important to hang around in Legco except by prior arrangement upon request from a suitably senior member of the administration. (There is a scurrilous rumour that he is expecting to pass on his legislative seat to his elder son next year, which would add the ultimate accolade – the hereditary principle – to the wondrous functional constituency system. No truth in it, I’m sure.)
In an effort to salvage something from the wreck, loyalists to the government are presenting the pro-democrats’ decision to sit on their hands as the height of irresponsibility, risking the well-being of the community and civilization for filthy, low-down ‘political’ reasons. According to this line, Emily Lau, Lee Cheuk-yan and the rest of the opposition are deranged, blood-crazed maniacs so desperate to give Treasury Secretary Caejar Chan a slap on the face that they would happily let hospitals and schools shut down, police and fire services cease to function and – horror of horrors – civil servants go unpaid. Helpless old ladies would lie screaming in agony for want of emergency surgery, our children would be doomed to a life of illiteracy and hunger, armed robbers in helicopter gunships would take over the New Territories, and millions of cute, furry bunny rabbits would burn to death.
The money will be voted through with no problem next week.