The second round of Hong Kong’s exciting political reform consultation process starts tomorrow, with the release of more detailed proposals for the 2016-17 elections. A failure of this whole exercise would be humiliating for local officials and a spit in the face for Beijing. It is therefore crucial that the government wins the support of at least a few pro-democrat legislators to get any package through. So – what better time to round them all up in a witch-hunt against ‘instigators’ of the Occupy-Umbrella protests late last year? And, for good measure, send the Central Government a report on public opinion that can only be misleading and inflammatory?
Although they can’t remember why they do it, officials stick to the traditional routine of leaking bits of the consultation document to friendly media. Thus we learn of a proposal to cap the number of ‘recommendations’ a hopeful can get from the Nominating Committee in the preliminary or primary stage before final nomination of candidates for the ballot:
“The proposal aims at preventing the scenario of an aspirant getting support from an absolute majority of committee members, which would make it impossible for any other challenger to become a candidate,” a government source familiar with the matter said.
Think about this. Officials foresee a scenario where the majority of Nominating Committee members rush to back one individual wanting to get onto the final shortlist. They are implicitly admitting that the Committee will include a large number of shoe-shiners who will want to ingratiate themselves instantly with the ‘winner’ (as with tycoons in past quasi-elections clamouring to endorse Donald Tsang and – whoops – Henry Tang). And of course it is not so much the ‘winner’ they will want to shoe-shine, but the ultimate selector of the winner, Beijing.
In other words, the proposal under the South China Morning Post’s ‘allow more candidates’ headline suggests more than ever that the ‘universal suffrage’ on offer will just be a more elaborate version of the current quasi-election system in which control-obsessed Beijing identifies the winner first and voters miraculously pick the right person. Under the current system, Beijing simply has to control a slim majority of 1,200 members of the Election Committee (hence 689 votes for CY Leung, even though the tycoon sector plumped for Henry). To get 3 million voters to act as a rubber stamp is more challenging: it will soon become apparent that the only way to do it is to make the rigging of the system laughably obvious and clumsy. Little wonder that by now no-one expects the 2016-17 reforms to go through. It could have been different, but that’s another story.
(Few will regret the failure of the reform package more than aficionados of the vomit-inducing obsequiousness that grips members of Hong Kong’s tycoon caste when indulging in public displays of support for pre-selected winners of rigged elections. Under the ‘allow more candidates’ proposal, only a portion of them would be permitted to endorse the anointed (say) Antony Leung. Those permitted to do so (probably the top dogs) would be smug and proud, while those left out would possibly be bullied into backing (say) Regina Ip for form’s sake, and would be reduced to groveling discreetly to the aforementioned Antony to breathlessly assure him that they really, truly wanted to shoe-shine him, all along, endlessly, slobber slobber slobber. It seems we will, tragically, never get to enjoy this putrid and nauseating performance.)
Meanwhile, the Standard’s feng shui columnist cracks the murders of two women in a British banker’s flat in Wanchai’s J Residence – gua line and ba sha…