Subtle Headline of the Week Award goes to the Wall Street Journal for Hugo Restall’s story ‘Hong Kong was Better under the British’. Ouch. Hugo’s other recent piece on the Big Lychee ponders ‘The Absurdity of Empire’ in the city – the absurdity being Henry Tang and the imperialism being that of Beijing, as experienced also by Tibet and Xinjiang. Some people just don’t care if they’re not invited to National Day cocktails.
One of the awkward side-effects for Beijing of the 2012 Hong Kong Chief Executive ‘election’ fiasco is the open, and surprisingly personal, hostility that has broken out between the rival teams of Henry and CY Leung. The tycoon-centred business community is a vital part of the Communist Party’s United Front in Hong Kong, and public, divisive nastiness within the trusted establishment ‘elite’ theoretically represents a potential threat to Party control over the city.
The allusions to wolves and oblique questioning of integrity seem quite tame by the standards of Republican primary candidates. But in face-saving Hong Kong it is serious: this is a small town, and these guys will need to get on together and see eye to eye in future.
Beijing’s typical response to willfulness and indiscipline is a clampdown. Remember the barrage of propaganda in the wake of 2003 about patriotism, who decides constitutional reform and the possible ‘sidelining’ of Hong Kong. As in 2003, Hong Kong has strayed from the path Beijing had carved, and this time big businessmen and the media took part. (Indeed, the pro-democrats, usually busy subverting the city at the behest of their American masters, have played only a minor role.) In due course, someone is in for some re-education.
Meanwhile, ‘Wolf-man CY Leung’ officially enters the rigged-but-farcical quasi-election with a relatively handsome number of nominations. The endorsements are lopsided, however. The agricultural and fisheries folk, for example, just want attention for their long-dead industries. The pro-Beijing labour unions want concessions on workers’ rights from Henry. And the few tycoons backing CY are the oddballs, loners and outsiders of their milieu. Walter Kwok – of the Sun Hung Kai family – never got over a traumatic kidnapping and disgraced the dynasty’s matriarch with an affair; Ronnie Chan is a clown. The public-sector figures in the CY camp no doubt have sincere views on the need for reform, but they are also gambling on the off-chance they could end up being medium fish in a small pond: they won’t get a position under Henry, so what is there to lose?
China Daily, in adding up the nominations, categorizes 140 as ‘reserved for Jasper Tsang [Yok-sing]’. Reserved for the phone call from Beijing’s local officials telling them what to do, would be more like it. In an unpredictable world, there are some things you can always rely on, and one is the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment Etc of HK. The National People’s Congress deputies are similarly, mostly, obedient. And eventually most of the patriotic labour people, tycoons and others will do as they are told, even if it takes some arm-twisting. The result will be what Beijing wants it to be; the ‘broadly representative’ Election Committee is too carefully assembled to produce any other outcome. But even so – what a mess. There will be repercussions, and they won’t involve a Central People’s Government pledge to stop trying to micromanage Hong Kong so obsessively.