There is zero academic-standard historical or archaeological evidence that the prophet Mohammed – or Jesus, or Moses, or Abraham – existed. (Richard Carrier is probably a good place to start.) Yet these figures and their associated mythologies are abundantly real to some 2-3 billion believers today. That’s so many that we politely express respect for their ‘faith’ rather than plead with them to get a grip and confront what is essentially a mild mental disorder. Until something happens, and you lose patience and have to ask out loud why, in the 21st Century, there are still people wandering around who think an invisible person in the sky listens and talks to them and even commands them to slaughter cartoonists.
Perhaps we put up with it because delusion is not restricted to belief in the supernatural. The Chinese Communist Party, which requires its members to be atheist, is convinced that enemies are everywhere. In particular, it sees Western powers engaged in a secret plot to overthrow it, possibly by using Hong Kong as a base. There is no reasoning with these paranoiacs, and mockery doesn’t work. Awkwardly, the Chinese government once indicated that Hong Kong could elect its leader by universal suffrage. We must now all take part in a make-believe process to decide how this will work, given that a one-party state cannot accommodate a free and open election, even in one city.
Except many people are refusing to take part. The pro-democrats’ boycott of the second round of consultations on political reform could: deprive the process of any remaining integrity and leave it totally farcical; enable a smooth, bickering-free process and enhance the ultimate appearance of consensus; or go unnoticed either way. Whatever happens, they aim to veto the eventual package.
The monumentally vapid consultation document is so lacking in even superficial or ornamental ways to make a rigged election system look a bit fairer that some observers conclude that the government wants the exercise to fail. (Surely, that would convince the pro-dems to vote for the package – but maybe that’s what officials want them to think.) The document certainly reflects Beijing’s post-Occupy determination to maintain tight control over the Election/Nomination Committee through such structures as over-representation of obscure functional constituencies and corporate voting. The document presents the option of keeping such devices intact as one that will encourage ‘an early consensus’…
In the South China Morning Post item, Constitutional Affairs secretary Raymond Tam hints that, following the Occupy protests, the Agriculture and Fisheries Subsector members are unwilling to see a cut in their representation to create a new Youth subsector. This is mendacious crap. It was only because of the protests that anyone suggested a Youth subsector. More to the point, these pro-Beijing groupings do not decide their own fate. They are shoe-shiners: if Chinese officials phone them with instructions to vote for their own abolition, they will obey. If something does or doesn’t happen, it’s because that’s how Beijing wants it; there are no other influences at work here.
The Standard has a cute diagram explaining the Chief Executive election in 2017…
However, the picture is missing a hurdle – one at far left that the (up to) 12 hopefuls must leap to be considered for the shortlist of two or three. It will take endorsement of only a small proportion (maybe 10-15%) of Nomination Committee members to get a hopeful in the running, which means a pan-democrat could easily qualify. It’s at the second stage that Beijing’s inbuilt majority comes into play and we get a bloc-vote of 50%-plus for each of China’s two or three favoured candidates. As Chief Secretary Carrie Lam wearily points out (though not in these exact words), it’s in the period between hurdles 1 and 2 that debates and public opinion polls create the theoretical potential for something to happen beyond Beijing’s micro-management powers.
Here’s the scenario: the pro-democrat among the 12 hopefuls is so dazzling, intelligent, handsome, scandal-free and charismatic that he gets rave support among the public and Beijing cannot leave him off the ballot without riots breaking out. Why does that sound about as likely as Mohammed or Jesus walking through the door?