Hong Kong’s proposed ‘quasi-democratic’ political reform package undergoes its lengthy, ritualized public death by speeches in the Legislative Council. It is one of the rare occasions Legco makes good viewing.
Pro-democracy lawmakers stand and make (mostly) surprisingly good speeches, blasting the Chinese government for breaking promises and for high-handedness, and taunting their pro-Communist, dictator-obeying colleagues for purporting to favour representative government. Among the awkward subjects they have managed to bring up: the billions wasted on white elephant infrastructure projects, and Chief Executive CY Leung’s unfortunate comments about giving the vote to people earning below-median incomes.
The pro-Beijing loyalists are reduced to repeating the tired official lines-to-take, or trying to find ways to blame the pan-dems for the failure of the reform, which they struggle to praise – some of the weasel-like business representatives almost seem to apologize for it.
Outside the Council, the clever, young and handsome are holding an Umbrella family reunion, while the forces of darkness are bussing in gruesome and wrinkled Mandarin-speakers from afar. You really have to wonder where they find these people: many of the ‘blue-ribbon’ groups look like they’re on supervised day-release from some sort of institution (apologies to any real residents of institutions on day-release out there).
Did anyone solve the mystery of the pro-Beijing mob wearing sports-team-style numbered shirts? Was it (my theory) something to do with identifying their presence for hourly-payments purposes?
The parliamentary procedure allows for every member to speak for 15 minutes, and then there are interruptions for questions of order and delays for lack of a quorum. So the lifeblood drips from the proposed reform with agonizing slowness. The pro-dem legislators are essentially lining up to give Beijing one humiliating slap on the face after another, all day long. It’s strange: after years of pointless marching and general whining, this moment – rejecting the ‘universal suffrage’ Beijing has reluctantly agreed to offer – feels like their finest achievement.
Here in the office, a memo went out a few days ago to remind staff of the Radical Beast-like Mayhem in Central Contingency Plan. Company minions drag big blue plastic boxes out of storage. These are the emergency supplies that were never used during the Umbrella Uprising, when students inconsiderately occupied Admiralty and Mongkok, thus depriving those of us in the heart of the financial district of the opportunity to ‘work from home’.
I open up one of the big blue IKEA boxes and inspect the contents. Cup Noodles (spicy seafood, past the sell-by date), bottled water, vitamin pills, candles, cleft sticks, collapsible canoe. We have everything but rioters.