We all love a good conspiracy theory, so here’s one from a highly respected commentator: the Chinese government might have engineered last week’s Legislative Council voting farce in order to humiliate Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung and chuck him out.
‘Beijing to defenestrate CY’ is not a new story. Furthermore, the replacement of Tung Chee-hwa with Donald Tsang in 2005 serves as a precedent. In fact, the downfall of the Crop-Haired One has some almost-eerie parallels with today: the huge July 1, 2003 march with the 2014 Umbrella-Occupy sit-ins; the failure of the Article 23 national security law with the failure of the political reform package; and for Twilight Zone fans, the rebellious role played by James Tien and the Liberal Party both times. Cosmic stuff.
Few can doubt that China’s leaders will view the Umbrella Revolution and the rejection of the political reform package as a loss of face. Hong Kong authorities enlisted the city’s international business organizations and foreign consulates, respectively, to endorse the Chinese government’s official line on these issues. The world was watching – and Beijing couldn’t get its cosmopolitan financial centre in order.
On top of that, we have to consider the possible role of Zhongnanhai factional intrigue. CY, as a sort-of political protégé of Tung, is part of Jiang Zemin’s old sphere of influence, which is out of favour in the Xi Jinping era. And there’s the possibility of bureaucratic rivalry. CY is also a creature of the Liaison Office, which had a hand in his stealing of the 2012 ‘election’ from Henry Tang and has since micro-managed the United Front crush-the-democrats campaign that has produced such an anti-Beijing backlash in Hong Kong over the last couple of years. Maybe the conspiracists and plotters are out to get the Liaison Office rather than just hapless CY. Maybe the episode is just a little sideshow in the much bigger Cracking-Up of China.
Of course the notion that Beijing is going to dump CY is entirely believable. No contrived Legco voting walkout disaster is necessary. It should already be obvious that they would only give him a second term if they wanted to take the face-losses to even greater heights, such as riots and a growing independence movement.
One reason to doubt the Legco-vote conspiracy theory is that it involves an even more-shameful public loss of control. To the extent the Legco farce humiliated CY, it humiliated China too. If Beijing wanted to pull the plug on CY with maximum prejudice, they would make it personal – as with Henry Tang’s basement, or Bo Xilai’s murderous wife.
Finally, how on earth could anyone plan, organize and execute such a chaotic screw-up as the walkout from the chamber to wait for Uncle Fat after voting has started? It would require weeks of rehearsal to choreograph such a sprawling mess, and Oscar-standard acting skills for 31 pro-establishment lawmakers to pretend so convincingly to be clueless idiots. The only way you could do it would be to implant a microchip in each one’s brain so they could be controlled remotely.
No conspiracy here. A plain and simple political FUp. Happens at every level of government and business and in every country. From not filling the toner cartridge so you can’t photocopy the meeting agenda because the warning light wasn’t functioning to leaving top secret documents in a taxi because you were rushing to avoid the rain. Outlier events that are unforeseen. Great fun here, though.
I don’t buy it. They won’t fire 689 because having to remove Tung was embarrassing enough already. It would mean having to admit their own incompetence in picking leaders. The best we can hope for is that Leung will develop a sudden desire to be with his family and won’t run for a second term. Which would still entail a minor loss of face because 3/3 Chief Executives would have failed to complete a full two terms. That alone might be enough reason for them to re-inflict him on us.
Also, yes, the chances of being able to convincingly engineer an incident of such monumental stupidity is incredibly low.
Nice comment I heard the other day: “CH Tung – the Jimmy Carter of HK politics.” Discuss!
Probably, but paradoxically, in favour of this witty conspiracy theory would be the media-orchestrated lack of spotlight on CY, after all the most humiliated person. Carrie is so pleasant, in a plastic sort of way, that she can be eliminated.
But the whole affair is one massive grinding-in-the-dirt and then pxxxing on it for China, much worse than a mere slap in the face since magnified so much on the world stage. “28-8”, together with waiting for uncles, may even supplant Tienanmen as the local catchword to counter Chinese triumphalism.
But this very mutilation of China’s already shredded reputation would be much too high a price to pay for sorting out a small “city” about as far from the emperor as you can get without falling off the edge into the barbarian pit.
The best conspiracy theories parody detective investigations (motive, motive and motive) by appealing to chercher la femme (for decadent evil foreigners) or to money and personal vendettas (for Celestials), and hence pinpointing a hitherto-unsuspected mastermind (the system is never to blame). The worst ones pile unbridled speculation on hypothetical coincidence on zeitgeist happenstance, by for instance resorting to Chinese factionalism or inscrutability or the CIA, to explain all or nothing.
It will all come out in the wash. If CY shakes off his whipped-puppy look, if a mega-epidemic or senior witch-hunt or skirmish with brown-skins is engineered just in time, if the ministerial rats lurking in the hold can be manipulated to cannibalise each other, then only the choice of candidates for the 2017 CE selection will show whether Carrie will be on the next plane out, whether China has pulled its last bait and switch, whether HK will be given one last chance before direct rule is imposed – or whether they just give up and wash their hands of the whole disaster.
It’s all very Chinese, appoint a guy because he’s totally subservient to you and then try and undermine him because he’s not popular. China can’t have their lapdog both ways. I can’t believe that Michael Tien, someone who truly believes he’s smarter than the average bear, would set himself up like that, to be derided forever for that one act.
I’ve met Journalist Mark and he’s certainly been around the block. But I don’t buy this and I’m not sure he does.
It took nearly 2 years for the inept crop haired one to develop his bad back and walk (?). Partly, I think, due to lack of trust in Donald (perceptive but for the wrong reasons). CY has just two years left and I too think it’s going to be the old “more time with my family” chestnut. Head Prefect Carrie is bruised and battered and off to England and John is older, had chest pains and an noticeable inept prat. They need a healer, a laying on of the Han’s. The crop haired one is offering up Lexus whilst I think Khun Bernard Chan is likely. Khun Bernard is not a devote believer and is going to need a better bottom line on Democratic reform from the CCP which I think he’ll get and then run.
Of course I could be as wrong as Hemlock in his Pulitzer Prize Chief Executive Piece in Time Out magazine 2012.
I think sadly for this conspiracy theory the weapons grade stupidity exhibited daily by the Anti-democrats AKA the Beijing bozos means that they are too stupid to have plotted to do anything. Look no further than the HKFTU’s own inaction hero Poon Shiu Ping for the sort of intellect that is so sharp, it’s even safe for toddlers.
Upon further thought, if Beijing wanted 689 gone, his Australian kickback scandal is plenty embarrassing and much more thematically appropriate for Xi’s anti-corruption crusader image. If they’re not milking that, it means they want him to stay.
Second, Mark O’Neill gives 689 too much credit for Occupy Central and the constitutional reform uncompromise. He didn’t botch them because they weren’t his to botch. The decisions were coming from the Liaison Office, if not higher up. 689 was just the hatchet man. It’s his job to be hated.
Third, the Waiting for Uncle Fat stunt was so ridiculous that no conspiracy plotter could have come up with it in advance. If you were a spymaster trying to sabotage a political figure, of all the dastardly methods you could’ve chosen (sex scandal, corruption charges, radioactive poisoning, flying monkey attack), would you have picked “aggravated stupidity”?
This is all spin. Jiang Zemin plotting to overthrow the HK gov wedded to Xi’s plan in collusion with CY et al. I’m having a laugh. This is just disinfo. Shame on this O’Neill character (but thanks for the gossip, git).
Beijing poobahs lost the plot by interfering in the internal affairs of HK outlined in the Basic Law. Their shoe challenged point men and gals betrayed them knowing full well they have to face their fellow HKers. Unless they have their escape passports, they better not build a swimming pool in their basements, nor an illegal roof-top aerie, or surf the porn.
The Overlords may indeed jettison 689, but this little stupid spin is just to justify the fact. boom.
Nah, no plot. They are just not smart enough. It’s Comedy Capers, fools falling flat on their face and everyone’s having a laugh. The bozos at the Liaison Office are a bunch of clueless retards.
However, I do believe they are ready to dump 689 at the earliest opportunity. If he goes before Christmas, my bet is on John “Mr Pringles” Tsang. Plastic Carrie is tainted by association, no power base and as attractive as a semi-inflated sex doll.
Forget about Vagina: she will never, ever hold high office again.
The “Grand conspiracy to get rid of Lufsig” argument is an implausible one in my view, because as @PD says, if this is about destroying the Lufsigtator, just so much easier to leak a few choice tidbits from what i am sure is a very thick file up at MSS (or CCP party disciplinary office) in Beijing to the local press, or to merely threaten a serious ICAC investigation and criminal prosecution into his payoff by the Aus company.
The suggestion of Beijing factional intrigue is more plausible. The claim that someone in the Jiang / Zeng Qinghong weakening power-base was driving Lufsig’s and HK Police’s cack-handed, incendiary approach to handling Occupy, behind the scenes, is compelling and plausible – Andy and Lufsig had nothing to gain personally by doing so, except for pleasing Caeser (or in this case, erm, Brutus), and have lost much – any remaining vestiges of local popularity, and the decimation of their long-term career prospects in the CCP, erm HK government (NB: in addition, Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the State Council, from whence the white paper originated, is a heavy-duty maoist who built his career by gradually moving up the Jiang faction food chain). After the failure of Occupy to force military intervention and consequently compel Daddy Xi to press pause on the purge, erm, anti-corruption drive, it is conceivable that the failure of the political reform package and the embarrassment and face loss to “China” is an intentional ploy to cause face-loss to the CCP leadership on the world stage.
However, there are a number of key flaws in this conspiracy theory. First of all, the expected benefits that might be gained from this fiasco, in terms of the possibility of slowing or impeding Xi’s party cleansing, must be reasonably considered as negligible. Moreover Jiang Zemin et al built a career out of heavy duty Maoist power plays (like the Falun Dafa extermination), using administrative directives and media dissimulation to manipulate “external social forces” and control “internal party forces” to achieve political domination, control, survival of the CCP, and consolidation of his faction’s power. And the fiasco doesn’t fit this MO nor have the right execrable smell about it at all.
But of course, the greatest implausibility stems from inherent untrustworthiness and unreliability of the pro-Beijing legislators, particularly when the walk-out is analysed from a game theory perspective. The writing has been on the wall for Jiang and his cohorts for the last year at least, and though I do not doubt that some DAB legislators may have heard of the concept of personal loyalty, the time-honoured Hong Kong tradition of kissing whoever’s ass is on top is quite obviously a deeply ingrained aspect of their personalities. And to effectively co-operate when one considers the benefits of “defection” against the group conspiracy (cf. James Tien’s shiteating grin), and the costs of complying (cf. Vagina’s beautiful, sweet drippings), the chances of organising an effective conspiracy with those fellows as the “feet on the ground” would be – and very obviously so, to any mainland political operator – very close to zero. Jiang’s faction may be in desperate straits and ruthless to the extreme, but such gargantuan stupidity is unusual for them (but not for the CIA, who I do believe registered the original patent on gargantuan, stupid and ill-conceived proxy political conspiracies) …
Most interestingly of all, it appears that the public pretense of one country two systems is beginning to wear very thin… DAB legislators reporting to the Liaison office for some whup-ass immediately after the fiasco, HKG gov publishing a pandering “annual work report” since then (LMAO!), and a consolatory text message to Vagina to get her to stem her, erm, discharges by the Liaison Office …
Erratum: “gargantuan, stupid and ill-conceived proxy political conspiracies” should read “gargantuanly stupid and ill-conceived proxy political conspiracies”.
On another topic, does anyone else find the timing of Ronny Tong’s resignation very convenient for the Liaison Office? Anyone know the man personally? Is it possible he has a skeleton that was used to get him to jump ship now and also bring the pan-Dem’s veto into question? Would it not have made more sense to resign from the Civic Party but see out his term and safeguard the veto until at least next year’s elections, which would seem to be a course of action more in-line with his publicly-espoused principles?
MU. Yes, from 1 Oct on the pan-dems lose their majority in the geographical constituencies, with the danger that the rules are rewritten forbidding eg anyone with long hair or impure thoughts to speak for too long or banning criticism of the CE.
Ronnie’s timing was in sum either malevolent or incompetent — hard to say which.
Stephen, So your first sweetheart, the sidereal one, has been shown to entirely lack the necessary presence, gravitas, presence of mind, maturity, intelligence, leadership or whatever. But B. Charnwut Chan may have too much of the foreign tarbrush in him for popular taste.
Carrie Lam is making plans to stay in Hong Kong. The CCP likes orderly transitions and she has demonstrated her loyalty. From Beijing’s perspective, that may be enough.
Interesting that Vagina refused to name the “senior official from Beijing” who, according to her, sent a consolation message after her boo-hoo weep-weep on camera. Most probably a lie, like 110%.
@Stephen is rather too polite about his colleague (“But I don’t buy this and I’m not sure he does etc ”
Come on, Mark O’Neill is a Grade A numpty for saying the vote cock-up was orchestrated by Peking.
Great post by Hemmers today. Another example where this blog is miles ahead of official media.
SD, Hear hear about Hemlock: always a joy to read, usually spot on, often brilliant.
@Joe Blow – so you think someone who would have been fired years ago as CFO of any private sector business for his consistently miles-off-the-mark financial forecasts is seriously in line for the top job? Heaven help us.
@OI: we are talking about the Hong Kong Government, so, yes. Make of that what you want.