The South China Morning Post has some sort of quota system that requires it to run a front-page story every couple of weeks to maintain the never-ending saga of evil Western victimization of the up-to-now weak and innocent Middle Kingdom. Recent examples include a report on a study showing that Hong Kong immigrants to the UK in the 1960s suffered racial discrimination (as if no-one else did) and the presence in the Mainland of a pedophile expatriate teacher or two (in a country that seems full of teachers raping students or making them work in fireworks factories).
Today’s scoop seems exceptionally desperate: a ‘racist’ General Motors TV commercial. (Not many other outlets bother with the story, but the trashy New York Daily News carries it.) To lend a 1930s air, the ad featured a period song called Oriental Swing and mentioning Fu Manchu. The lyrics would nowadays be considered childish and tasteless – though hardly likely to drive the listener to sign up to the Ku Klux Klan. (You might start tapping your feet; you can risk it here. For what it’s worth, the American performer was what would at the time have been termed a Negress and thus subject to all sorts of legal racism herself.) Basically, it is a business story about the perils of running up against political correctness in (yawn) Canada.
By putting it on the front page, the SCMP inevitably diverts something else to a less prominent position. Maybe it was the story about the Chinese Red Cross misappropriating funds. At a stretch, it could have been the item about how Hong Kong’s pro-democrats will soon publish their proposed blueprint for the Chief Executive election in 2017.
The pan-dems’ decades-long fight for universal suffrage has become almost as wearisome as Mainland propaganda chiefs’ self-pitying moaning about vicious foreign oppression of poor helpless China. The story is interesting, however, because the proposal will serve as a benchmark for whatever formula Beijing comes up with.
The key issue is the nominating committee, which the Basic Law requires to produce a list of candidates for voters to choose from. Beijing’s ideal form of election is one where it decides the winner in advance. At the very least, the Communist Party will have to satisfy itself that a candidate secretly working for evil foreign forces planning to undermine China’s rise to glory and greatness will not be able to take office. And it will want to avoid having to veto an election winner by exercising its power to refuse to appoint him, since, of course, that would look bad.
In the quasi-elections we have had since 1997, pro-democrats have been able to get onto the ballot. But because the ‘voters’ in such farces have mostly been hand-picked to obey Beijing’s directions, it hasn’t mattered. In 2017, 3 million people will have the right to vote.
The pro-dems will apparently propose a virtual nomination committee: one that is itself elected by universal suffrage and therefore might as well not be there. As with the current rigged Election Committee, it would have 1,200 members. (Would we get 1,200 votes each? Or would members represent geographical areas? Whatever.) The unwieldy number arises because of an obsession the pro-dems have about size; they think having fewer than 1,200 members would somehow be a step back. CE hopefuls would need the endorsement of one eighth of committee members to get on the ballot.
This proposal negates Beijing’s whole purpose in having a nomination committee, namely to be able to either pick a winner in advance, or pick a couple of potential winners, or at least specify who cannot win. The Basic Law says the committee must be ‘broadly representative’, which in Leninist tradition means composed largely of shoe-shiners and useful idiots from official organizations of workers, peasants, soldiers and intellectuals. If the names on the ultimate ballot are too unappealing, however, there is a danger that most of us will boycott the 2017 election, which would leave the resulting CE with even less credibility than at present.
The obvious solution, and one that many moderate pro-Beijing figures in Hong Kong are happy with, is not to bother screening pan-dems out of the election, and simply to trust the majority of the Big Lychee’s good people not to vote for someone who might oppose the Central People’s Government, let alone engage in a CIA/MI6/KMT plot to overthrow it. This is the sort of pragmatic, optimistic and liberal way of thinking that makes Hong Kong different from the rest of China. It would, of course, work. But the idea of controlling by not-controlling is alien to the paranoid Communist mind. It will be an interesting test of Beijing officials’ ingenuity and ability to utilize a bit of subtlety – not always their strong point – to come up with a counter-proposal.
(This just in: was GM taking revenge?)