If anyone suggested this time last year that we would be getting CY Leung as next Chief Executive, they would have been considered a bit eccentric, at the very least. Even around six months ago, when the outline of the two-horse pseudo-race took shape, it was obvious that Henry Tang was the anointed one and Leung was there as the too-creepy-to-be-feasible fall guy, to make the process look more like a real election. Indeed, just six weeks ago (Henry’s basement hit the headlines mid-February) the idea that Beijing would choose someone other than the tycoons’ favourite seemed fanciful.
The Chinese leadership had not expressed a preference, presumably seeing 2012 as a test for the guided, semi-rigged form of universal suffrage likely for 2017. And, crucially, Beijing made it known that the next CE should have a fair degree of public support. Despite all this, the deciding factor was Henry himself. Whoever it was exactly in Hong Kong, the Liaison Office and the Mainland who took part in the planting and detonation of the basement bomb, and whatever their precise motives, they still probably could not have succeeded without his ineptitude. Henry was like a Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin character blundering from one painful, slapstick accident to another – more sad than funny.
The Hemlock mega-feature in July’s Time Out said of CY Leung’s chances: “We should be so lucky.” Philip Bowring in today’s South China Morning Post puts it neatly by saying: “It would indeed be nice to see the tycoons’ dislike of Leung to be well-grounded.” But not everyone is so blasé about the mysterious, Transylvanian-featured, Communist-admiring, wolf-man deliverer of (no doubt Li Ka-shing-made) plastic flowers.
As Beijing finally – and unsubtly – came out in favour of CY last week, some folk took fright and argued frantically that rule by tycoons would be better, since at least we would keep our freedoms of speech and assembly and basic economic rights. Former Chief Secretary Anson Chan, for one, pleaded with pro-democrat members of the Election Committee to cast their votes tactically for Henry, thus aligning themselves with the smug, parasitical tycoon-bureaucrat establishment that has been feeding off Hongkongers for the last 10-plus years. The pan-democrats, while sticking to their undisciplined mix of abstentions and votes for Albert Ho, talked of ‘white terror’ and unprecedented interference by Beijing in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
Part of the reason for this panic must have been the heavy handed methods used by the Liaison Office officials to whip pro-Beijing voters into line at the last minute and apparently persuade a newspaper to twist its editorial position to pro-CY. However, the truth is that Beijing has not interfered in this election more than in previous ones. On the last three occasions, China openly picked a winner from the start – how much more can you interfere? This time, the charade was more sophisticated and the more-feasible candidate made himself utterly unacceptable to the populace at large late in the day, requiring far more visible and hasty manipulation of the quasi-vote.
The main reason for the fear of CY’s illiberal and authoritarian potential is CY himself. Anyone monitoring his speechmaking over the weekend would have noticed a sudden and new-found obsession with Hong Kong’s rights, liberties and core values – even democracy. For a sense of the anxiety he causes, here is an email (slightly amended for clarity) received by an elected politician from a constituent over the weekend…
This is a mini 1949 KMT (Kuomintang) vs CCP (Chinese Communist Party) situation. Then, the Chinese people were duped into believing CCP because KMT was too corrupt, ineffective, like the HK people is being duped, because the Bow-Tie govt was inert, ineffective and bad. HK people, including Dr Choi Kin etc, are willing to risk freedom of expression to have a change. [Choi Kin announced the Medical Association’s decision to back CY.] The situation is this bad.
The Commies are not to be trusted. The Pan-Dems should vote Tang, keep quiet about this beforehand, and publicly rebuke and warn Tang and associates afterwards. Irrespective of the voting result, they have betrayed HK and sent HK people into the arms of the commies. Please pass it on to the Pan-Dems.
Heaven bless HK
Hongkongers can be hyper-sensitive about perceived threats to their freedom and rule of law, and this is one of the main reasons many assume that CY, while hardly the warm and cuddly type, can only be better than continued misrule by tycoons. He won’t dare mount a Communist clampdown; look what happened to Tung Chee-hwa and indeed Henry. But not everyone is so laid back. There are quite a lot of people out there, many of them educated, middle-class and middle-aged or older, who are in a state of dread about CY Leung’s arrival in Government House. Nervous ninnies who can’t accept some post-1997 realities and symbolism, or wise elders who know something the rest of us don’t?
For anyone who has problems sleeping at night: the normally mouth-frothing nationalistic Communist propaganda organ Global Times says Hong Kong’s distinctive pluralism and radical ideas are really cool.