The split between pan-democratic and pro-Beijing votes in geographical constituencies in Sunday’s Legislative Council election was 56.6% to 42.3%. The rigged nature of the overall political structure means that the pan-democrats end up with 33% of the seats.
They suffered numerous disadvantages: several factions hate one another more than they hate the pro-government folks; even the ones that are on speaking terms didn’t coordinate campaign strategies; their past records as legislators highlight poor judgment and inability to prioritize; their opponents had far greater organization and resources. Many pan-dem voters were not voting for the charisma, skill or ideologies of Emily, Alan or Claudia; they were voting against something – a force, a threat.
But around a third or so of them did cast their ballots positively to put a particular sort of individual into Legco. The result is that hardcore radicals from People Power and the League of Social Democrats (and to some extent the semi-radicals of the Labour Party and NeoDemocrats) make up a large part of the pan-dem camp in Legco. The PP/LSD grouping might in practice not serve as part of the pan-dem camp at all, but as disruptive banana-throwing, filibustering deniers of the validity of the whole system. An anarchic faction, but not necessarily a fringe one: Long Hair Leung Kwok-hung came top in New Territories East, with over 48,000 votes.
The one thing all these people and the 56% of voters have in common is a lack of trust in Beijing and in the local administration of CY Leung. After the Moral and National Education saga and the ‘4 million Shenzhen visitors’ plan, it seems self-evident to many of these people that the Chinese government is determined to push Hong Kong’s absorption into the motherland. The Chinese Communist Party has every incentive: its main reason to stay in power from now on is to enable its senior members’ families to continue plundering the country’s wealth; most Mainlanders have little idea how corrupt and criminal the kleptocracy has become, but Hongkongers know all about it.
Maybe paranoia about, and within, Hong Kong will ease after the transfer of power in Beijing. As Bloomberg writer William Pesek suggests, the MNE push backfired so horribly, complete with help from Pink Floyd, as to substantially reduce Beijing’s credibility among Hongkongers. Hong Kong people have been reasonably impressed with China’s leaders since the handover, but the whole Bo Xilai/Ferrari sex-crash/Chen Guangcheng/Mainland locusts/MNE series of disasters has changed that. Beijing appoints the Hong Kong government, so the potential repercussions of this are serious. It’s not so much that Hong Kong will, for example, sprout an independence movement, but that dissent will be such that Beijing perceives one. Marketwatch’s Craig Stephen goes so far as to warn that “Investors might need to reappraise political risk in Hong Kong equities as the gulf between its government and the local population widens…” because, the article concludes, “Hong Kong may become a Mainland Chinese city before it knows it.”
The only way out of all this is for Chief Executive CY Leung to convince China’s new leadership to reverse an approach that is clearly so counterproductive as to be dangerous. “Lay off Hong Kong (and get your own house in order),” he should say, “and leave me to swamp the new Legislative Council with lifestyle-type policy measures that people will really like and even the most radical politicians will find hard to oppose.”
(This is assuming CY can find Xi Jinping, the mysteriously missing next President. What the hell is it with this country?)