More totalitarian concessions

Young protestors in Hong Kong get a bit wild and drop the dreaded word ‘independence’ into their slogans. Result: the Chinese government takes action within weeks – curbing unlimited cross-border trips by Mainlanders despite infuriating Shenzhen authorities and public opinion.

(Chief Executive CY Leung claims that the decision was a year in the works and was delayed by the anti-smuggler protests. This is a perfect example of the difference between the Goebbels-style ‘Big Lie’ – an untruth so blatant and huge it might actually be believed Stan-CYvow– and the children’s desperate last-resort ‘Vast Fib’, which is so ridiculous that it is sad and invokes pity.)

Meanwhile, nearly the whole world – from activists in Causeway Bay to US leaders – calls for Chinese authorities to release five feminists who had the temerity to protest harassment. Result: released they are. There are probably several reasons for this climb-down, but the overseas reaction to this totalitarian ‘kill a chicken to scare the monkeys’ lameness clearly played a part.

So we come to Beijing’s latest concession: a sort-of less-restrictive-than-expected pre-nomination or ‘primary’ process for candidates hoping to run for Chief Executive in 2017, under the political reform proposals to be published next week. The idea is to add a bit of badly needed credibility to the nomination process.

Under the hardline framework announced by Beijing last August, the two or three candidates on the ballot must each be endorsed by over 50% of the 1,200-strong Nominating Committee. This is the same body with an inbuilt Beijing-controlled majority that ‘elects’ the Chief Executive under the current system. This blatant rigging of the choice of candidates goes beyond negative vetting that excludes specific undesirables into a positive clearance system that includes only specific acceptable individuals. So Beijing chooses (say) CY, Regina Ip and Antony Leung – then you pick one. If any one feature of the proposed package tipped the balance, spurred the Occupy protests and ensured pan-dem opposition, it was this.

It is hard to believe that Xi Jinping is all that fussed about whether or not Hong Kong gets this quasi-democratic system, a plan he inherited from his namby-pamby predecessors. Even a mock version of universal suffrage would raise questions in the Mainland about why Hong Kong gets special treatment. But someone has obviously decided to at least put on an appearance of effort in getting the package through (and continuing with the status quo is probably not that appealing either).

So the big deal is: anyone who gets 120 endorsements from the Nominating Committee will be shortlisted for the second round, in which the Communist Party picks its two or three ‘acceptables’ for the ballot. To discourage the inevitable herding instinct of patriotic shoe-shiners to anticipate and endorse Beijing’s ‘favourite’, there will be a cap of 240 endorsements per nominee. Bottom line: the numbers – 120 and 240 – are a bit lower than some expected (in case you’re wondering what the ‘big deal’ is).

Does this make a difference or not? It hasn’t impressed any pan-dem lawmakers, who seem as determined as before to veto the package. (A few renegades like the Civic Party’s Ronnie Tong and the Dems’ Nelson Wong seem to be doing a moderate-wavering-dissident-posturing thing, but presumably to no effect. Wake me when it’s over.)

From officials’ point of view, this sort-of concession should boost support for the package because, in theory, it could enhance the informal but really really real role of public opinion. The pro-dems, should they muster a modicum of unity, could easily wield 120 Nominating Committee votes in the primary stage and thus get a candidate onto the list from which the Beijing-controlled majority then selects the candidates for the ballot. If public opinion polls show massive popular support for one or two people on the primary list, Beijing would find it hard to reject them, as it would undermine the integrity of the subsequent candidates and general election.

That’s the theory: the Chinese Communist Party would find it hard to say ‘screw you’. It’s debatable. But it is undeniable that a publicly recognized, charismatic, capable, highly popular non-establishment candidate could get 150 endorsements and could complicate things (for example, force establishment rivals into embracing more populist policies). Beijing is to some degree gambling on the inability of the pan-dems to put forward a credible potential leader capable of outclassing Regina or Antony. And, sadly, we have to wonder just how much of a gamble that is.

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14 Responses to More totalitarian concessions

  1. Maugrim says:

    We also have to wonder who such a person would be. I can’t think of anyone off hand.

  2. Big Al says:

    Why do we need an “opposition” in Hong Kong politics when the incumbent is so adept as shooting himself in the foot? Instead of claiming credit for “listening” to the protests of Hong Kongers and “persuading” Beijing to change in policy for Shenzhen residents visiting in Hong Kong, he snatches defeat from the jaws of victory and claims the policy was already in the works before the protests and was actually delayed because of the protests. What a dickhead.

  3. Cassowary says:

    More like, they’re gambling on the inability of the pan-dems to put forward a credible potential leader capable of outclassing Regina or Anthony who they also can’t blackmail or destroy through scandal.

    Where will the democrats find anyone with a totally clean record? Forget the mistress in Shenzhen, if they have so much as illegally downloaded movies on their home computer, bye bye political career.

    When all’s said and done, they’re not going to rely on a mechanism to keep the pan-dems out. They have other instruments for that.

  4. pd says:

    What a pathetic, low-down, insincere trick to play! Why now? And why is the PCMP suddenly dragging out the massed ranks of quislings, Mikes, Alexes and Glorias?

    A six year old could understand that allowing popular candidates to stick their heads above the parapet, and only then hack them off, is actually worse than just saying F**** you from the beginning.

    Nor do I think that CY could be allowed to stand against anyone who has not had the word “LOSER” stapled onto his/her forehead. Why he might lose, and then where would we be?

  5. Stephen says:

    “That’s the theory: the Chinese Communist Party would find it hard to say ‘screw you’. It’s debatable. But it is undeniable that a publicly recognized, charismatic, capable, highly popular non-establishment candidate could get 150 endorsements and could complicate things …”

    Complicate perhaps but at the end of the day even if Audrey Eu, Fred Li, Christine Loh (?) play a fecking blinder the CCP are going to say ‘screw you’ and it’s Lexus vs. Starry on the ballot. Lexus wins, low turnout and the Muppet claims a democratic mandate and we all live happily ever after. Veto.

  6. Cassowary says:

    Maugrim: That’s exactly it — the dems have been quarantined in the talking shop known as Legco so effectively over the last 17 years that they haven’t had any opportunity to build real credibility. The only person I can think of who has any leftover pre-1997 credibility is Anson Chan, and she’s getting on in years.

    Then I suppose there’s Christine Loh, but she’s probably been tainted too much by working for the government. Even in her Legco days she didn’t have broad popular appeal. Back in those days, environmentalism was seen as a slightly odd yuppie-banana affectation. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know who she is.

  7. NIMBY says:

    Clever, catching up and then letting go those 5 women. It conveniently diverted attention from several issues China wanted on the back burner, as the western press and apparently the diplomatic wonks can’t juggle more than one ball at a time. Can’t blame them to much though, when most Americans & Europeans spend about 10 seconds thinking about China once a month, while perusing the menu at the local Chinese restaurant.

  8. Mjrelje says:

    What’s wrong with Albert Ho? Or, if it’s got to be a shoe-shiner I’d prefer Jasper Tsang. Jake van der Kamp for Financial Secretary either way!

  9. PCC says:

    I nominate Ms. Iris Tam Siu-ying, latterly of the URA.

  10. Scotty Dotty says:

    As Hemlock and other commenters above note, the sad thing is that nearly two decades after the handover no eminent Democrat has emerged with the gravitas to run our fair town. Sad, it is

    But you’d have to say Audrey would do a good job – if only she wanted to.

    She is surely the only one who could assemble the votes while giving enough face to fellow democrat losers. Any other dems will just end up in a tedious bitch slapping competition.

  11. inspired says:

    I was on board til the proposition of the inability of the CCP to screw people over, but then began to suspect it’s just a ploy to give an air of populism to what will still be a rigged election in 2017…

  12. Joe Blow says:

    I have a feeling that the CCP is just as clueless about Hong Kong and its politics as f.e. 689 and his sorry bunch of asslickers.

    There are good people in the democratic camp but they are just not in Legco or at the forefront. Who wants to associate with those Keystone Cops ?
    Anson Chan comes to mind.

    And don’t even mention Christine Loh. She has been whoring herself to 689 and the CCP for the past 2 years during which time she has achieved absolutely nothing. Her credibility is zilch. As they say: the proof is in the pudding.

  13. Laguna Lurker says:

    “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

    —W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

  14. NIMBY says:

    “All ocean-going vessels will need to use low-sulphur fuel when they dock in Hong Kong from July. Legco’s approved a new law aimed at improving the territory’s air quality. Shipmasters and owners who violate the regulation could be given a fine of 200-thousand dollars and six months in prison. The Environmental Protection Department estimates emissions of sulphur could be reduced by 12 percent, while emissions of respirable suspended particulates will be cut by six percent.”

    Yep, Joe Blow, Christine Loh has no accomplishments to her name, Twas so easy to over come the shipping industry captains that a babe in swaddling clothes could have slammed them.

    “Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.” Plain critical without action is just… Joe Blow.

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