Yesterday’s South China Morning Post had a little quote from pro-democrat ex-bureaucrat Rachel Cartland on the prospect of ex-Security Secretary Regina Ip becoming Chief Executive. It’s ‘not a frightfully good idea’ in politics to give failures a second chance, she says, adding that other officials whose careers bombed are also sometimes mentioned as possible future leaders. Former Financial Secretary Antony Leung of ‘Lexusgate’ fame springs to mind.
But that raises a question: if not familiar, clapped-out losers from the past – who?
Beijing needs to find at least two, probably three, names to put on the ballot. Former civil servants acceptable to the Chinese government might include Chief Secretary Carrie Lam or former education chief Fanny Law, but would we drag ourselves out of bed on a Sunday morning to vote for them? Memories of Tung Chee-hwa and Henry Tang surely rule out members of the hereditary tycoon caste, and we should know by now that business expertise is no better qualification than public administrative talent when it comes to political leadership. Devout followers of the Communist creed would have a hard time winning hearts and minds, though lawmaker and DAB leader Tsang Yok-sing does a reasonable impression of being human. As for Beijing-friendly figures with pro-dem leanings and the brains to do the job – the pool is pretty small. Transport Secretary Anthony Cheung is considered the closest to it, and (current MTR troubles notwithstanding) he hits the Sunday snooze button big time.
Most of the people mentioned above are ‘older generation’. How about the up-and-coming 40/50-somethings? Look at some younger pro-Beijing figures. ‘Dr’ Elizabeth Quat claims academic qualifications she doesn’t have. Starry Lee, groomed as presentable and almost cosmopolitan, comes across as nice but… not dim, exactly, but – well, accountant. Priscilla Leung has mad staring eyes and wanders around Kowloon after dark with rat entrails hanging from her teeth.
One problem with this broken political structure is that anyone elected as a legislator is automatically a loser (since we can only elect an opposition), and the ‘winners’ appointed to government swiftly turn to losers as they lack a popular mandate. With a population of 7 million – roughly the same as Israel or Switzerland – Hong Kong has the talent, but not in the places Beijing officials will look. And so tragic has-beens like Regina Ip look vaguely credible by default. If the pro-democrats were better at linking abstract ideals to practical real life, they could bolster the case for public nomination of Chief Executive candidates by arguing that Beijing officials working alone will struggle to find three suitable names.
I didn’t mention any of the male next-generation pro-Beijing camp because they’re too grotesque for words. At least that’s what I thought. Then I saw their equivalents in Singapore, the People’s Action Party youth wing. I declare the weekend open with the amazing thought that Hong Kong’s spotty shoe-shining pro-Communist inadequates don’t look so repulsive and ridiculous after all (warning: this is disturbing)…