Good name for a jazz band!

Henry Tang and his Basement Trio are all over the papers today. The scion and failed Chief Executive candidate assumes his cheesiest grin after the courts acquit three construction professionals of involvement in the mysterious unauthorized bunker at his Kowloon Tong house. Cynics and skeptics find it hard to believe someone would build the house first, then excavate a huge subterranean chamber beneath it. Think of all those workmen dragging dirt and rock through the living room. But in fairness, everyone does it that way in London. (With permits, of course, they install “…playrooms and cinemas, bowling alleys and spas, wine cellars and gun rooms,” which – firearms apart – sounds much like the Tang cavern.)

Did some gorgeous pouting PR floozy advise Henry to choose the occasion of this exciting legal decision to submit his contribution to the public consultation on electoral arrangements for 2017? By airing his political reform proposal at this time, he would distract attention from the basement/wife’s fault scandal. Or maybe it’s the other way round, and he chose the day of the court judgment in the hope that his embarrassing views on the voting system would slip under the radar.

Henry’s suggestions are, by his own admission, conservative. He proposes a Nominating Committee based on the current Election Committee, but slightly less egregiously rigged, with corporate votes replaced by human ones. And this body would put candidates forward as a group, all endorsed by a majority of the committee members; allowing someone onto the ballot with the support of just a minority would not be ‘representative’, he reasons. (Before someone goes round and hits him, we should point out that Henry was born into great wealth and comfort, and it’s a wonder he can do his own shoelaces up.)

This ‘organizational’ or ‘collective’ nomination idea is at the extreme end of the scale, because it abandons any pretense that the process is not completely rigged. Essentially, Beijing would draw up a slate of (say) three candidates, and the rubber-stamp Nominating Committee would go through a make-believe vote to make that list the ballot; the token pro-democrats comprising a 10-20% minority of the committee would look on helplessly.

It’s the joke selection process of Leninism or North Korea, or for that matter of Hong Kong’s National People’s Congress delegates. And it’s hard to believe that Beijing will impose such a heavy-handed device on Hong Kong for 2017, for three reasons.

First, unless they found a capable and popular contender to include in the list/ballot (which they never have before) such a ridiculous system would backfire. The minority pro-dems on the Nominating Committee would denounce the entire ballot, and large numbers of Hong Kong voters would boycott the ‘universal suffrage’ election, leaving the new Chief Executive with even less legitimacy than his predecessors.

Second, the eyes of Taiwan and the rest of the world will be watching, and such a farce would invite mockery and humiliation.

Third, they can rig the system well enough without stooping to such depths.

Henry has probably agreed to put this plan forward as part of Beijing’s ever-so subtle expectations-management efforts. All part of the shoe-shining and cringing. No-one makes noblesse oblige more demeaning than Communists. The rest of us don’t realize how lucky we are to have been born into our obscure pauperism.

The great man also obliquely shares with us the benefit of his opinion of the Standard/Sing Tao’s favourite contender for 2017, former Financial Secretary Antony Leung, and of the incumbent, CY Leung, who taught Henry all he knows about rigged quasi-elections.

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