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.

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17 Responses to Corrections

  1. Stephen says:

    It will go something like this;

    The candidates kick off – CY talking sense but in that sinister, authoritarian way of his and scares the living daylights out of HK public;

    The Horseman talks toss like; “you too can be a rich as Li Ka Shing” and the HK public groan;

    HKU’s Robert whats-his-face runs his opinion polls and find public acceptibility for both candidates is split;

    Risk adverse Beijing decides to go for the Horseman;

    The Horseman wins;

    1 July 2012 – Half a million on the streets. Beijing knows the Horse is lame but as got itself in a right pickle by picking the detestable St Stephen Lam as CS that, they soldier on to the next “democratic” farce in 2017.

  2. Real Tax Payer says:

    As I read that very illuminating article on what went wrong with the FT 25 years ago ( how true! how true) I could not help substituting words from our current ‘Selection’ ( or should be Celection?) charade .

    For the pro-euro zealots write “BJ” and for their stooges write : “Tung, Donald Duck and Henry and the whole property cartel, not to mention the sycophants our political leaders surround themselves with”.

    For those whose voices in the wilderness were reviled but thankfully followed, including the likes of good ole’ Maggie, we could substitute – at a stretch, CY . Because there really are some things that need to be fixed in HK , not least of which is rewarding weasel Lam for his total ineptitude with the top CS position – which is surely taking the Peter Principle far beyond it’s logical conclusion. ( Lam has already risen far beyond his level of incompetency , as have most of the govt secretaries ).

    So I can see CY predicting the awful consequences of Selecting Henry, promoting Lam and just giving us more of the awful same we have been enduring for the past dozen-odd years.

    Which does mean that finally we plebs – the true workhorses and tax payers of HK – will finally rise up and march again en masse as per 2002/3 days and CY will sit there and tell everyone : “I told you so”.

    And the day of reckoning , when it finally comes, will not be a spring tide, but rather a tsunami.

    ( that’s if the world does not end before then on 21.12.2012…… )

  3. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    I’m still waiting for CCTV to issue a correction on this:

    Can any Americans name the tune they’ve set this glorious video to?

  4. maugrim says:

    It is quite likely that Henry will have to deal with the effects of a world wide recession. Tung ii?

  5. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Ah, they’ve corrected it in the last 20 minutes. They must have read the Guardian tip off article:

  6. We are a grandmother says:

    ah yes, good ole’ Maggie.

  7. Roger says:

    Tiu Fu Fong, America the Beautiful, perfect.

  8. The Donald says:

    I suggestion we encourage use of the word “erection” in place of “election”. Apart from being one of those gloriously immature plays on Chinese pronounciation difficulties that Mickey Rooney so aptly utilised in his Breakfast at Tiffany’s performance, it is representative of the fact that the “members” who will be “standing” will do nothing but “spew forth” their meaningless babble about caring for the future of the Hong Kong people, and yet will remain so safely ensconsed within their little “safe plastic bubble” of tycoon and civil servant worship as to not risk actually making contact with same – and risking a “V for Virus” incident. Bring on the erection, and may the CCP waste no time in putting their fingers on the member that appears most responsive to their brand of self-serving (indeed, self-loving) leadership. Oh, and let’s also have a mass debate!

  9. Allen Pinsent says:

    What do Tung Che-Hwa, Sir Donald and wide-mouthed, forever-grinning Henry Tang all have in common? They are all inept ‘yes men’ who will mould Hong Kong public policy according to the directions of Beijing’s politburo. And that can only mean even greater incursions into civil rights, underming of legal independence and incompetent governance.

    The CE elections are a farce. One country two systems is crumbling. So let’s not kid ourselves and think that “universal suffrage” is even a distant possibility…

  10. Edmond says:

    Is it a necessary attribute for a CE to be represented as a cute cartoon like animal? I always thought Tung had something of the tortoise about him, slow and plodding. Donald is definitely a duck, lame or otherwise. And it would seem that Henry the horse is a cert, unless someone can come up with an animal alter ego for CY. Lizard, perhaps?

  11. Claw says:


    I just checked it (1738hrs) and it’s still playing the same tune.

    Conspiracy or cock-up? Someone extracting the Michael ?

    Very amusing, whichever.

  12. Bigot says:

    Caricature for CY? How about a vulture?

  13. Joe Blow says:

    The Chinese are so evil that they won’t grant us universal suffering.

    Unlike the British, of course.

  14. Real Tax Payer says:

    OH NO………





  15. Real Tax Payer says:

    It’s saturday morning and I have just finished reading SCMP on-line

    Oh what lovely stuff ! From the main news section report on Lam’s “unpopular” appointment to CS (damning at the best, derogatory more like, and that is just the straight-faced report ) , to Ming’s lovely cartoon …. to best of all Steven Vine’s op-ed : a must read.

    Pity Hemlock seems to stay in bed all weekend . Today of all days he should be hard at work ( BTW : it’s also National Day !)

    Halleluyah !

    Communism ( in it’s literal sense) collapsed long ago because of it’s internal contradictions : it simply flies in the face of human nature, bad though human nature often may be. Meanwhile capitalism flourishes, as much in the Mainland ( not to mention HK) as anywhere in the West …or East

    Yeah! Let’s SElect good ole’ Henry !

    Yeah ! Weasel Stephen will be a great No 2 .

    Yeah ! Let’s show up the whole rotten system for the peanuts it’s worth in the next 6 years and then usher in CY in 2017 triumphant to clean out the house.

    Give Henry and Lam all the rope they need to hang themselves , because that’s what they will certainly do

    But, because it IS National Day, and I love both HK and China, let’s hope that this is the real October revolution that will eventually usher in a true new government system both in HK and China to the greater benefit of the Chinese People, albeit long after I am dust and ashes.

    Su Yatsen had that vision , so did Deng Xiaoping. (So do little I)

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    At the risk of boring everyone ( which I most certainly am) I could not help thinking this morning of one aspect which we often do forget

    Although the choice of our next CE is a farce of an election , all of us who “signed up” to stay in HK post -1997 at the same time agreed to BJ’s timetable on free elections and democracy. Just like democracy which Churchill desribed as the worst system of goverment – apart from all the other systems. one could say the same of HK under Tung, Don and Henry : it’s the most badly-led place in the world – apart from all the other places. Do you fancy someone running us like Lee Kwan Yu…. or G.W . Bush ? Not to mention 99.9% of all the leaders in the middle east and Africa.

    Although I can technically uproot and go back to the UK, there’s no way I could survive more than a few weeks there without suffering acute HK- withdrawal symptoms, and then get on the next CX flight back to my real home. And as for the USA – I have vowed never to go there again in my life.

    Indonesia? Malaysia? Korea? Taiwan ? Thanks but no thanks

    THE PHILIPPINES ? India , Bangladesh, PAKISTAN ? AFGHANISTAN ??? Ah yes….. perfectly governed countries , everyone of them . Methinks I will decamp to Kabul if Henry really is our next CE and weasel his CS.

    And joke though we might about our farcical leaders , I wonder how much better we will do in 2017 when we can finally elect someone of our choosing.

    And there’s not many countries in the world where a happy sunday afternoon walk from Causeway Bay to Central can depose a leader in mid-term without a drop of blood

    Let’s be grateful for small blessings : that Henry will not give us the best, but on the other had he will not give us the worst (actually….he probably cannot give us anything at all, except good wine and big smiles)

  17. Vile says:

    Joe Blow, why would the British give Hong Kong universal suffrage? They were our colonial masters. Or are you saying that Hong Kong is now a de facto colony of China and our CE should remain no more than a glorified governor?

    On a more amusing note, does anyone seriously expect to be electing anyone come 2017?

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