Committees pretend to do stuff, get taken seriously

To illustrate what rule of law means in Hong Kong, take a look at Macau. A small group of pro-democracy activists, inspired by the Big Lychee’s recent ‘civil referendum’, launch a small-scale poll to gauge the public’s opinion of bumbling Chief Executive Fernando Chui. Beijing is giving Chui a second term of office via a make-believe (not to say uncontested) vote by a 400-strong rigged ‘election committee’.

As soon as the street poll started, Macau police detained activists and intimidated other participants, citing supposed ‘personal data’ infringements. Not only the
Judicial Police but the Personal Data Protection Office had to take part in this obvious abuse of state power. In Hong Kong, the courts would send the government packing – which is why Occupy Central can safely ignore pro-Beijing ranting about self-styled referendums being illegal. Macau is a banana republic in comparison; its Portuguese colonial regime represented a military dictatorship in Lisbon and lost control of the place to Communist elements by the late 1960s. It has nothing like Hong Kong’s tradition of an independent judiciary (or press, for that matter).

News reports persist in describing Beijing’s reappointment of Chui as if an election process is underway (‘standing unopposed’, ‘people … eligible to vote’). The international media do the same with Hong Kong’s own rigged non-elections for Chief Executive (‘Under the current system…‘), and they are doing it now by reporting that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee is meeting this week to debate and vote on what sort of political reforms the city can have for the 2016-17 elections.

It is true that a body called the Standing Committee of the NPC is gathering. The rest, we can safely assume, is baloney. The cautious wording of the Basic Law suggests Beijing anticipated a possible transition to a guided form of democracy decades ago; the outline of this 2017 reform package probably dates back to 2007, and the details would have been approved by top Communist leadership well before the Hong Kong government’s ‘consultation’ started late last year. Even any surprise last-minute sweeteners will have been carefully scripted in advance.

So the NPC Standing Committee is just a Leninist charade, like any Macau or Hong Kong Election Committee pretending to freely vote for a candidate when Beijing has already decided the winner. The South China Morning Post explains that Rita Fan is the only Hong Kong delegate on the committee and thus entitled to vote, and the other 12 locals will only have the right to speak. In reality, the delegates may have to listen to droning speeches, may have the opportunity to say how much they agree, and may hold their hands up (if full members like Rita) at the end. They will also be dragged to a lot of meals and have plenty of time for afternoon naps. But that’s it: the process is pure make-believe.

‘City holds its breath’, the SCMP claims. Over something decided ages ago, and we all know pretty much what it is.


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