It’s Henry – live with it

In a place where the phrase ‘so-called referendum’ means ‘by-election’, we should not be too surprised to find that the correct definition of ‘Chief Executive election’ is in fact ‘Chief Executive appointment’. Hong Kong’s two main English-language newspapers are reluctant to make this too clear, however, so visitors, the naïve and the unwary would read them today and come away with the impression that a free vote will be taking place next year to decide the city’s next leader.

The South China Morning Post is at least bold enough to remind us that Beijing officials will at some point in the meantime “express their preferences” and that the poll will involve a “limited franchise” (as we call a ‘rubber stamp’ round here). Anyone who read the last Time Out will already know this, just as they will have been given the distinct impression that the next leader of the Big Lychee will be Chief Secretary Henry Tang. The SCMP quotes a mysterious unnamed “Hong Kong politician familiar with the central government’s thinking” who also puts his money on Tang.

The Standard pushes the whole falsehood that Hong Kong will witness an election and that a race is currently underway among several candidates. This exciting battle, the paper invites readers to believe, is heating up, with former Legislative Council president Rita Fan apparently throwing her hat in the ring. Rita’s words yesterday may be summarized thus:

“Any idiot like CY Leung can come forward with fancy policy ideas. I, on the other hand, don’t have any!”

She has already admitted to being economically illiterate, and she could have added that her last experience anywhere near government was as a member of the Executive Council during the governorship of David Wilson, before our youngest voters were even born. Hongkongers have a soft spot for her because she came across on TV as a long-suffering, kind-hearted kindergarten teacher warning naughty lawmakers to behave during her days as speaker of the legislature, a position that limited her ability to take positions on controversial issues. But the idea that China would give her the top job is frankly laughable, and it is hard to see why she is going through this make-believe. Maybe Beijing is prodding her into it just to give the impression that all is yet to be decided, or perhaps the old biddy really thinks she might have a chance if Henry manages to screw something up on the scale that several of his colleagues in the administration have managed (note that he never gets anything too difficult to run – he’s just Minister of Trees and Culture Hubs).

The SCMP informant’s point is that Beijing will announce the winner of the March quasi-election as early as October in order to quell potential friction among people who would like the job (Tang and Leung both sit on the Executive Council, and the fourth (non-) possibility Regina Ip is an elected legislator. More to the point, most of them have various public figures, especially in the business world, discreetly lined up behind them (tellingly, Rita seems to have relatively few). These hidden backers-in-waiting will be getting nervous if they don’t get a clear signal of who they will have to end up officiallyand openly supporting later on.

Regina is similarly a non-starter. This is a bit of a pity, insofar as not having a less obtuse, slightly more imaginative version of Chief Executive Donald Tsang is a great loss. Sadly, the chances of CY Leung taking control look worse than ever. One of those precocious patriots who made the trek to the motherland as a teenager back in the days when most ambitious young folk aspired to shining the shoes of David Wilson’s predecessors, he is now popularly viewed as suspiciously close to the Communist Party and basically a bit sinister. And he would, quite possibly, be more authoritarian in style. But the property tycoons hate him, so he can’t be all bad.

The simple fact is that nice-but-dim rich-kid Henry, starting in 2002, was made Secretary of Commerce, then Financial Secretary and then Chief Secretary. It was not an accident; the people making the decisions were not putting him through all that just in order to place someone else in the top job next year.

Just in case CY does get in: crowd control barriers in Central are now being equipped with manacles…

Click to hear The Kinks’ ‘Who’ll Be the Next in Line’!


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8 Responses to It’s Henry – live with it

  1. Maugrim says:

    Seeing that early photo of Rita reminds me of the opening line to a joke “how do you turn a fox into an elephant?”

  2. Stephen says:

    Believe it or not Beijing would prefer someone who is broadly acceptable to the masses – remember Kind Old Uncle Tung, British Trained Knight Donald – OK they were both found out to be totally out of their depth.

    The Horseman is not doing too well in the court of public opinion, Rita is. She proved her slavish obedience to the divine right of the CCP to rule China (Forever) so she ticks two of the three boxes. The last box is the Property Developers, who at the moment prefer The Horseman, however if they are so instructed to line up behind Rita, they will.

    One thing is for certain is the result will be known well before “election” day. Isn’t this exciting, not.

  3. Roger says:

    Truely free people have the inalienable right to vote. Obviously, we are not, and because we fear economic retribution from the Central Government, we accept these sham elections. We are laughed at by the whole of the free world for this, and because we sit by and let it happen, (albeit for a few token protests by professional and/or paid protesters), are complicent in the outcome.

  4. Probably says:

    Why does the Horseman want the job? The Don I accept saw it as just an extension of Civic (Civil Service) duty. Surely Henry has the modicum of self awareness necessary to see that he has every possibility of being the next Tung? So why does he not just retire to the warm security of his family empire?

    Some may seek the CE post on an agenda of change, reform or even perpetuation of the same old thing. Henry wouldn’t know an agenda if it came up and gave him a haircut. Why would someone, who is untrusted by the majority of the “chattering classes” (both Expat and Chinese) to sit the right way around on a lavatory seat, would want to seek a potentially unpoular post seems very strange.

    Or maybe there is something more sinister going on…….

    Or maybe platform Is there something more sinister here

  5. Real Tax Payer says:

    I felt genuinely sad this morning as I browsed the SCMP and read in C2 that the business sector backs dear ole Henry and that they have “good feelings” about him. Meaning : they can push him around as they like and carry on doing what they have always done viz screwing the rest of us who pay our taxes and at least provide a modest proportion of financial support for Henry’s still even more modest intellect.

    I had lunch with someone last week who I reckoned to be reasonably “in the know” and whose opinion – and intellect – I respect. He said he was now betting against the horse, on the basis that that he is just too unpopular and self-evidently witless.

    Given the number of faux pas (that’s french for false paths, otherwise known as U-turns) that Henry’s lads have been up to, it’s surely only a matter of time before some of it sticks to him. Then imagine the march next year on 1 July when he is being ushered in….

    But maybe,just maybe, the horseman has the same uncanny ability as Mr Teflon ( I forget who it was who earned that doubtful sobriquet but Henry certainly has earned it ) and so whether the sh1t hits the fan or even goes as high as the top of IFC, none will ever land on dear ole Henry. Bless his cotton socks and shares in Cheung Kong, Henderson and SHK

  6. Ho! Ho! Ho! says:

    The trees will be pleased!

  7. Sen says:

    Most telling signal, has been the quiet removal of his fleet of nags, perhaps they are listed under his wife.
    There is even no mention of ever having consorted with horses
    but this snippet has been left

    oops! I stand corrected I completely forgot to include his nom de guerre “THE HON” into the mix,%20Henry

    well off I go to hunt for more equine conspiracies

  8. Walter De Havilland says:

    I hate to lower the tone of this debate chaps – but I must say Rita was a foxy lady (very much the past tense).

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