Robert Chow’s pro-Beijing Alliance for Peace and Democracy is to mount another laborious joke-signature campaign in support of Hong Kong’s proposed political reform package. The fact that the Chinese government’s local officials think such an exercise will convince the public is proof of how amazingly out of touch they are – or of how few tools they have in their kit beyond lame United Front stunts. With shoe-shiner clowns like these undermining whatever integrity it might have, the reform package needs some serious help.
The South China Morning Post does its bit by devoting two articles side-by-side on its op-ed page to the cause. The first is by Tom Plate.
Vaguely recalling the name, we look at the bottom and find he is updating his book Conversations with Lee Kuan Yew in the ‘Giants of Asia’ series. This isn’t looking good.
In essence, Plate blasts the pro-democrats for rejecting the Chinese Communist Party’s policy, which is the ‘middle ground’ – so the pro-dems are extremists. If you can accept that it’s the CCP who are the moderates here, it all makes sense. Even more questionably, he describes the 1,200 strong rubber-stamp Election/Nomination Committee as “…arguably roughly reflective of Hong Kong’s sectoral sociology.” Which you may consider to be arguably roughly reflective of BS thinking; I couldn’t possibly comment.
To be convincing, a pro-package argument needs to dispense with the BS and look at the reality: China is a Communist one-party state in which the central core of power must control everything from the top down, no exceptions. If we have the imagination (helped by a little depravity) to step into Beijing’s shoes, it is possible to see this rigged quasi-democracy as a significant and scary step. First, even leaving the choice of three screened and hand-picked stooges to an unpredictable and partly hostile electorate is alien to the Leninist mind accustomed to leaving absolutely nothing to chance. Second, Beijing must be nervous about how allowing such a system in Hong Kong would strike the other 99.9% of their subjects on the Mainland, who already see the ex-colony as spoilt enough.
In order to complete a convincing pro-package argument, we then have to establish that the limited and managed competition between three Beijing-picked candidates will translate into a real race. In other words, candidates really will vie for votes by promising a more people-first approach than offered by the previous pro-tycoon/bureaucrat administrations. To be totally convincing, there needs to be some confirmation that Beijing accepts a need for such a shift in the style of local governance. (Apart from some vague hints, government officials seem reluctant to push this argument – yet if the reforms are not likely to improve governance, what’s the point? This argument could be turned on its head and used against the package by the pro-dems, but of course isn’t.)
If you want to just assault the pro-dems and damage their reputation as an end in itself (say to get Conversations with Xi Jinping rolling) there’s a simpler way. Just accuse the pro-dems of opposing the package, not because any candidate they nominate would be screened out, but because they don’t even have a candidate worth nominating. It’s not a totally fair allegation, but the mud would stick.
Across the page, Frank Ching claims that a vote against the package equals a vote in favour of the Election Committee. This appeals to pro-dems’ fondness for endlessly obsessing over the structure and symbolism of the electoral process. Of course, a vote for the package is also a vote in favour of the Election Committee – just relabeled ‘Nomination Committee’. Among other discussion about the thresholds and other technicalities, Frank repeats the stuff about the future potential for opening up the Committee to make it more broadly representative. This sort of thing is a diversion and invites yacking about cutting the number of fisheries’ seats and giving ‘youth’ some seats and similar rubbish. Bottom line: the Committee is a CCP rubber-stamp and will be so long as the CCP rules.
Frank’s column implicitly raises a good question: what is a vote against the package actually for? I’m not sure the pro-dems have a resounding answer to that.
So there we have it: Robert Chow and his goons collecting 20 million signatures; the SCMP offering unpersuasive arguments from Tom Plate and Frank Ching; and the opinion polls haven’t budged an inch.