The happy man is Executive Council ‘Convenor’ CY Leung, who is wading into the election race for Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive as if there really will be a race and an election. He knows as well as anyone that the result is determined in advance in Beijing, but he just can’t refuse the opportunity to at least appear to be in the running. As a loyal patriot since his teen days in the 1970s before it was even fashionable, and who has publicly hankered after leading his home town since at least the mid-90s, this is his chance.
He presumably detects a microscopic possibility that Beijing’s anointed one, Chief Secretary Henry Tang, will goof up so badly in the short term and provoke so much public hostility that the powers that be will make a last-minute U-turn and choose CY instead. More realistically, he probably foresees Henry in office displaying the worst incompetence and cluelessness of our first two Chief Executives combined, opening the way for some CY-style reformist populism in 2017.
Why didn’t the Central Government’s Liaison Office, which usually micromanages this sort of thing behind the scenes, talk CY out of taking part? Leung pre-empted them a good couple of years ago when he started making it slowly but increasingly clear that he would try for the job. As Leung has no doubt explained to them, to arm-twist him off the stage now would bring the CE ‘election’ charade into even more disrepute; conversely, letting him take part makes the whole process look at least superficially more legitimate. (Around 80% of the 1,200 members of the Election Committee will vote as directed by Beijing’s local representatives. It will involve a bit more phoning around than usual, but the Liaison Office can easily contrive an outcome whereby CY comes, say, a respectable second. Or Santa Claus wins, etc.)
The people who are currently suffering are the loyal shoe-shiners of the pro-Beijing camp who still can’t be totally sure who they are supposed to support. A brave few have hinted at a preference, but most of them are waking up at night in a cold sweat after dreaming that they expressed approval of A and then found the Communist Party leadership decided on B. The fear of not being seen to say the Right Thing is hard for the 95% of us who live on Planet Pluralism to understand. There was a time when the dictatorship of the proletariat made people kneel on broken glass if they failed to voice the right opinion; now, the unspoken threat is unspecified trouble for your Mainland business interests.
For one clue about why CY Leung can be rated a 10-1 outsider, let’s look at a little aside in today’s Standard story on him:
…he drew flak for backing the administration’s idea for the supply of at least 85,000 public and private flats every year – an aim announced by the SAR’s first chief executive, Tung Chee- hwa, in his opening policy address.
The target was widely blamed for a slump in property prices in the following years…
This is a guy who imagines that affordable homes are a good thing – that families and the economy will benefit if people have more money left over to spend on other things after paying their housing bills. A total weirdo, clearly.