Talent, high moral standards and an ability to manage 160,000 civil servants. Perhaps not many of us, on hearing these words, will spontaneously and involuntarily blurt out the name ‘Henry Tang’, but businessman-Legislative Council member Jeffery Lam appears to be an exception, stating his support for the current Chief Secretary to take over as Chief Executive next July 1.
Both are former members of the Liberal Party, which describes itself as ‘pro-business’, but is essentially a grouping of people who inherited their fathers’ businesses and can’t imagine why the rest of us don’t live off daddy’s sweatshops and toy factories. Henry, a Legco member in the 90s, left in 2002 to join the government and get himself groomed for greater things. Lam and some others quit after the 2008 Legco elections in protest at what they saw as the Liberals’ dangerous drift towards wild progressivism.
Some original members of the LP, which grew out of the same social circles that produced the Democratic Party, had long hankered for a bit of legitimacy beyond representing small commercial interests. They had a taste of it when rich kid leader James Tien withdrew Liberal support for then-Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s ill-fated Article 23 security bill, thus dooming it and briefly finding himself an unlikely popular hero. In the 2008 election, Selena Chow and Tien tried to win democratically elected Legco seats, but failed to scrape even the 20% or so of votes needed under the bizarre proportional representation system that give losers as well as winners seats.
Scornful at this embarrassing attempt to become popular, Lam, along with several equally unlovable members like Sophie Leung and New Territories kingpin Lau Wong-fat, left to join Economic Synergy. While the LP has a stab at attracting broader support through district elections and other activities, Economic Synergy is the real, blatant deal: our snouts, our pig-trough, to hell with everyone else.
There’s not much to read into Lam’s championing of Henry; he’s not going to favour either of the other candidates. If Henry had a bit of awareness, he would probably prefer arch-conservatives like Lam, obsessed with keeping functional constituencies and calling for harmony and consensus as solutions to the wealth gap, to keep his support to himself, but such subtlety would be asking rather a lot. The hypnotic drip, drip of endorsements from lesser players and hangers-on will continue until Beijing decides we have been sufficiently numbed to be told.