While Typhoon Nesat allowed us to goof off and spend all of yesterday playing solitaire – or ‘stay in the safety of our homes’, I should say – the world was digesting the news that Chief Secretary Henry Tang had resigned to consider running for Chief Executive. While this was a long-anticipated non-story for most people in Hong Kong, it attracted a bit of international attention, giving us a chance to play a more interesting game: spot the gullible/sycophantic/lazy/sloppy journalist.
In order to win, you merely have to find an article in which a reporter writes that Hong Kong’s next CE will be elected through a process involving, obviously, an election, in such a way as to mislead innocent readers into thinking that a group of voters will determine the city’s next boss of their own free will. This is important because, as all right-thinking people in the Big Lychee know full well, no election actually takes place.
Well, one does: in the Politburo in Beijing, when a dozen or so top Chinese Communist Party officials decide who will be the next leader of Hong Kong, much as they confirm who will be the next mayor of Shanghai or governor of Tibet. But what happens in Hong Kong next March will not be an election.
It will be labeled ‘election’ in big bright letters outlined by flashing neon. And all the pro-establishment media will join in, following the quasi-campaign as if there is something to be decided and the result is as yet unknown. However, the overwhelming majority of the 1,200 people allowed to cast a ballot will have been made aware months before who they should vote for, and they will obediently act accordingly. The official word is that the ballot sheet itself is not traceable, but the loyalists who take part in the exercise will not be tempted to find out and tick an incorrect box (there will be ‘yes’ and ‘no’ options if only one candidate gets to that stage). They won’t, because there is something else they don’t want to find out: what will happen to them or their business interests if they are found to be disloyal. (The chances are, little or nothing – but no-one’s going to risk it). This is not an election; it is play-acting.
First, let’s look at how the Wall Street Journal put it:
A change in Hong Kong’s political leadership will come at a time when social tensions are simmering over surging inflation, sky-high property prices and a weakening local currency. Yet, Hong Kong’s eligible voters won’t have any say in the outcome of the next election, as the city’s leader is selected by a 1,200-member committee consisting mainly of people backed by Chinese authorities in Beijing. The current setup more or less guarantees that the winner will have China’s blessing.
Note that Chester Yung and Jeffrey Ng call it an ‘election’. Would they call Moscow the capital of Japan? Still, apart from that, if you delete ‘backed by Beijing’ and insert ‘controlled’, and throw out the superfluous ‘more or less’, this isn’t a bad summary. Personally, I’d use a few more adjectives like ‘ridiculous’ and nouns like ‘charade’.
Next, we have the Financial Times:
Under the special autonomy that Hong Kong has enjoyed since its return to China in 1997, an electoral committee of 1200 will elect the chief executive next March, but Beijing’s imprimatur will be the deciding factor. Beijing has been content to mostly leave the day to day administration to the local government since 1997, but has always indicated its preference for the post of chief executive.
If Mr Tang decides to stand for election, he will be competing against CY Leung…
As well as describing the farce as an ‘election’, Rahul Jacob contradicts himself: if Beijing’s imprimatur is the deciding factor, the electoral committee will obviously not elect the new CE. ‘Elect’ means ‘choose’, not ‘rubber-stamp automatically like a machine in a factory’. And Beijing does not ‘indicate a preference’: it makes the decision. In the FT’s defence, it appears that something went wrong there 25 years ago.
Journos: the phrase is ‘quasi-election’. No doubt they will get it right next time.