Everything is in principle alright; HK rejoices

China Daily reports that members of two Hong Kong political parties are complaining to the authorities about suspicious registrations of multiple voters at single residential addresses. Both individuals lost in recent District Council elections, and the insinuation is that opposing forces cheated. This story has been running for several days now; following complaints by pro-democrats, there have even been arrests. The twist here is that in the China Daily story the implicit victims of the apparent vote-rigging are from the two main pro-Beijing groups, the Federation of Trade Unions and the Democratic Alliance for the Blah Blah of HK.

A mean-spirited skeptic crazed by malevolence and mistrust might imagine that this is a slightly lame attempt, cobbled together in a bit of a panic, to give the impression that the vote-rigging is some neutral, across-the-board phenomenon and most definitely not – no way, not ever – orchestrated by pro-Beijing elements. The assumption that local Communist Party proxies have been organizing attempts to sway elections illegally is not helped by the government’s initial reluctance to take pro-democrats’ complaints seriously, and by circumstantial evidence, like the fact that one gaggle of falsely registered voters (who didn’t vote) were all listed as living in a property owned by a member of a Guangdong city’s People’s Political Consultative Conference.

(An above-averagely mean spirited skeptic with a dash of verve and imagination might wonder whether this last case is actually an elaborate pro-democrat sting to make it look like dirty Commie rats are manipulating elections. After all, it wouldn’t be too hard to find the address of an obscure pro-Beijing loyalist’s property, and the whole point of this affair is that the government doesn’t check – you can register under any address you want. Sadly, such monkey business is too much to hope for of the pro-democracy camp.)

It also, of course, doesn’t help that lurking behind the scenes we have Chinese officials and United Front workers with a long tradition of subterfuge. It is easy to string together a list of factors that point to an increasingly aggressive, broad, centrally managed campaign against the pro-democrats – as a breathless Wall Street Journal article does. Is it any surprise that there are a lot of mean-spirited skeptics around?

To save us from sinking deeper into this swamp of conspiracy and paranoia comes Justice Barnabas Fung, voice of sanity and reason, and boss of the Electoral Affairs Commission. “We have to strike the right balance between voting rights and corrupt practices,” he tells the South China Morning Post.

What a wondrous insight. Indeed, isn’t this the truth about everything? We must strike the right balance between clean sidewalks and dog excrement, between affordable housing and developers’ excessive profit margins, between feeding starving Somali children and letting them die, between good and evil. The list goes on and on. Voting rights and corrupt practices can co-exist in happy harmony if we get the proportions right.

Justice Fung is busy. Elsewhere in Electoral Affairs Land, he is trying to strike the right balance between barring foreign non-human bodies from taking part in electing the people who will pretend to elect the next CE, and having registered them. Queensland’s local emissary – Sir Les Patterson, no less – voices shock at the idea that his trade office is listed on the electoral roll as living with 23 other people with different family names in a disused cinema. Or something.

Meanwhile, RTHK finds that Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Holdings (which presumably excludes Hutchison and much else) and the Kwok Brothers’ Sun Hung Kai control 70 votes in various subsectors. The SCMP count 130 developers’ votes out of 860 in one subsector before collapsing with fatigue. Screwing the cap back on his bottle of Prozac, Justice Fung assures us that such multiple votes are in accordance with the rules. Which indeed they are. So no problem! We have struck the right balance between letting half a dozen families in real estate run the city and letting a few hundred lesser mortals also have a say.

Breaking news: Justice Fung says it is “in principle alright” for overworked and easily confused voters to take a list of indistinguishable bores into the polling booth on Sunday as an aide-memoir provided you are discreet about it. I would guess mnemonics are probably OK too (though don’t quote me).

Click to hear the Remains’ ‘You Got a Hard Time Coming’!


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15 Responses to Everything is in principle alright; HK rejoices

  1. Disillusioned says:

    Do we still think Singapore is pathetic? That adjective – and other, worse descriptors – is increasingly front of mind in respect of our formerly beloved Big Lychee. Almost time to pack up and head off to sunnier climes.

  2. Stephen says:

    After this act of the farce is concluded on Sunday it would be nice to think that the pro-democrats would see how many people, who share their view, have managed to win. Then promise that voting bloc to either The Horse or CY in exchange for major concessions when the CE put his proposals forward for democratic reform to the post 2012 Legislative Council.

    But there is ckuf all chance of that happening. Its far more fun having Freddy Fung and Al Ho fight it out at your nearest MTR this weekend for the right to take part in the second act of the farce (or tragedy) in March.

    Asia’s World City once again making itself look ridiculous with a political system and politicians more suited to a banana republic.

  3. Disillusioned says:


    I have no idea what makes you think this term is fit for HK, Stephen!

    Re: your suggestions, I know people who are campaigning and may find themselves in a position to lobby the two frontrunners, but the pro-dems have become so hopelessly fractured and confused that people who might share their broader views recognise there’s no longer a common vision or direction. As a result, these people are becoming more pragmatic, and I suspect it’ll be every interest group for itself, focusing on extracting minor, industry-specific promises and concessions.

  4. Plod says:

    You should see the amount of Govt resources being ploughed into this meaningless event. Manpower intensive and no cost spared – if only they put the same amount of effort into tackling some of this city’s social problems.

  5. Probably says:

    Surely it is money well spent – rather than those nasty little by-election things actually fought over principles.

  6. maugrim says:

    All coincidence, coincidence I say. Now, if we can take a look at the new shopping centre being built just over there……….

  7. Jason90 says:

    Agree with Disillusioned re: industry specific concessions – and I think I can guess who will be best at granting them… 🙁

  8. gunlaw says:

    Nassim Taleb is wrong about the financial crisis and black swans. The ongoing financial crisis is not the result of a perplexing phenomenon of complexity. It is the beginning of a train wreck we have seen for decades.

    We are not wandering into a surprise or horrified by the dark spectre of a Black Swan rearing its long tailed head; this macro crisis appeared on the horizon long ago, easily calculated by any actuary armed with the knowledge that governments were not investing tax streams, but stealing them for current consumption.

    Most monetary policies do not defend inflation; they fund deficit spending and protect banking institutions. That is their empirical purpose, and that is what technocrats are now struggling to accomplish in the EU and by default struggling to avoid in HK.

    Further, the monetary system imposed on HK and as constructed, is not modeled after complexity; it is an artificial hierarchical oligopoly with all the single process failure points that entails, pasted on top of complex economies and kept alive by increasing leverage and bailed out by equally non-robust, frail self-serving governments without the will or common sense to reform.

    We are not watching complexity at work; we are watching unsustainable bureaucracies self-destruct while they force complex economies to foot the bill. There is no Superman of bureaucracy. There are no rules or regulations that will prevent failure or negate investment on our road to prosperity that we do not already know. Our institutions have just consistently rejected them.

    After all, leverage and redistribution is much easier than successful investment. In a complex system, these bureaus would have died and been replaced by their betters long ago.

    The irony of HK’s Sunday elections is that they will choose persons who are committed to massive Government and massive surpluses and wealth creation. HK will eventually bail out its former colonial master.

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    Well there’s nothing like a straw poll. I did this today with my 10 HK staff who came out 7 : 2 in favor of CY vs enery with one abstention ( and one of enery’s 2 votes came from a lady who only voted for him because she said he looks “handsome” and because he “says the right things according to what other more intelligent people tell him to say”)

    Aaaaaaaaagggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh 🙁 🙁 🙁

  10. mumphLT says:

    What a thing to strive for – the balance between corruption and voting rights.

    One of the saddest things I’ve ever heard someone say because taken to it’s conclusion we might as well not bother any more.

  11. Disillusioned says:

    An exemplary judge in Saunders J takes mandatory retirement today, leaving the rule of law in hands such as these. A sad day indeed.

  12. Old Timer says:

    I want Henry to win, only because it will be fun to watch him crash and burn.

  13. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Old Timer : enery is just a puffed up bubble so he will either float or pop. There’s not enough solid stuff in him to crash, let alone burn


  14. Jason90 says:

    (I think) I agree with gunlaw and that his conclusion is presumably that unfunded healthcare and pension obligations are going to make todays financial ‘crisis’ look like a tea party.

    When Judge Barnabas Fung says ‘We have to strike the right balance between voting rights and corrupt practices…’
    what exactly does he mean?
    And if he actually means what he has said, what is the right balance? 50:50? 40:60? 99:1?

  15. judge dread says:

    Justice Fung & Judge Woo – twins separated at birth? Both total pillocks with impossibly plummy British accents – inevitably brought in to head various “commissions” and come up with “sound” conclusions. All I know is nobody voted for them!

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