I can’t remember the last time I got the knowing but strained look and the barely audible whisper, ‘NOOUD!’ ‘Not one of us, dear’ (or ‘darling’, depending on the company). But there it is, pretty much, in the Standard’s irresistibly nasty Mary Ma column’s comment that poor old former Executive Council convenor CY Leung “has failed to fit into the higher echelons of society.”
The Hong Kong media are reporting the outcome of the 2011 Election Committee Subsector Elections as news, maybe even big news – maybe a shock. Known or suspected supporters of CY Leung for Chief Executive won fewer seats in the electoral college than pro-democrats, let alone those who back former ex-Chief Secretary Henry Tang. And the silent, spineless and obedient undeclared majority are simply waiting to learn for sure who Beijing has decided will win the quasi-election next March, so they can cast their make-believe vote accordingly. In other words, barring a miracle, CY can’t even get enough nominations to be on the ballot.
But it’s not really news: it’s all part of the script. Presumably, headline writers have to join in the pretense that it’s not all rigged from start to finish and a one-party state might leave something to chance.
Scripts can of course be tossed away at short notice. Folks with long memories will recall a day in March 2005 when it became known that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was standing down and would be replaced, after a CE ‘election’ of course, by none other than Chief Secretary Donald Tsang, fresh from his belittling but triumphant urban hygiene project Team Clean. The pro-Beijing loyalists were reduced to tears (literally, in at least one case) to see their beloved Communist Party elevating a running dog of the British colonialists over their heads. But the most morose face that day, when Sir Bow-Tie was seen strolling into the office smirking and whistling the Chinese national anthem, was Henry’s.
The chances of seeing that twice in a lifetime are tragically slim. (Henry is like the Euro: common sense tells you it is a disaster and will inevitably fail; cynicism and experience tell you the people making the decisions regard the alternative as unthinkable, and so common sense must and will be denied, whatever the cost.)
Sunday’s strange little election – with its low turnout, partly non-human electorate and curiously concentrated blocs of votes seemingly orchestrated by a hidden hand – leaves CY Leung with few alternatives. He will carry on for a while, perhaps angling for broad public approval in the face of a growing number of tycoons, stars and fading bureaucrats coming out as Henry supporters. Maybe even come up with a platform (now there’s an idea).
Maybe he will go down fighting like a man, failing to get enough nominations but occupying the moral high ground in the public ratings. Or perhaps, encouraged by a tap on the shoulder, he will save face and side with Henry for the sake of harmony in a time of economic uncertainty, maybe even accepting a position in the new administration. Scripts can be flexible. You can even have a happy ending where the cheeky but loveable underdog ends up being accepted into the higher echelons of society.