The Standard ponders the 2017 race to be Hong Kong Chief Executive. ‘Quasi-race’ would be a better phrase; Beijing will first decide the lucky winner, and a rigged Election Committee will then dutifully vote him/her in.
This means hopefuls must jockey for Beijing’s favour. And that means they must jockey for the favour of groups whose opinion (or at least usefulness as co-opted tools) Beijing values. A grossly oversimplified guesstimate of the division of influence among these ‘various sectors’ might be: one third to property tycoons; one third to a ragtag of political loyalists and commercial interests; one third to the general populace.
Beijing’s favour for property tycoons’ interests is plain to see in Hong Kong’s land policy, housing affordability, cartelized domestic economy, and artificially boosted tourism sector. Beijing’s deference to the masses – however reluctant and resentful – was clear in the failure to implement Article 23 national security laws, the downfall of CE Tung Chee-hwa, and the failure to get patriotic ‘national education’ into schools. The recent Occupy/Umbrella movement and legislative defeat of proposed electoral reform represent another exercise of popular power over Beijing’s will.
So anyone aspiring to be CE in 2017 has to win some sort of support from a critical number of – mostly unrepresentative – social and commercial groupings and interests.
The choice of CY Leung in 2012 showed that Beijing would override the preferences of the property tycoons. The post-2012 influence of China’s local Liaison Office suggests that Beijing fears the power of popular opinion in Hong Kong politics and seeks to crush it. That suggests that, if this is a zero-sum game, the ‘ragtag’ middle group mentioned above has more than a one-third share of clout. But this is not a cohesive group. Beijing buys the loyalty of grasping and shadowy rural interests with economic benefits and licence to engage in ‘traditional’ law-breaking. The Communist Party also commands patriotic political, labour and social groups, which are totally obedient, but whose top leaders will have some bottom-up advisory input along ‘people’s democracy’ lines.
In short, the hopefuls have everything to play for. The bad news is that Beijing’s paranoid criteria limit admission to their ranks to the inadequate, the depressing, the scary and the inept. Vision and imagination – and plain ability – are too suspect.
The Standard starts with CY…
Incumbent Leung Chun-ying looks set to run for a second term. In view of his ever-plunging popularity, he may put forward populist policy initiatives to please the public.
Or he might grovel for property interests’ approval by going back on previous promises and trying to boost the flood of mainland tourists/shoppers into Hong Kong, and denouncing Hongkongers who want their city back as hurting the visitors’ feelings. And he might send the cops to arrest Uber staff in order to protect taxi-licence holders and force the rest of the population to use unreliable and disliked regular cabs. In other words, displease the public.
The Standard turns to…
…another Leung – former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung – said he will leave the decision to God. That’s an interesting statement for he had earlier told the media he didn’t have any immediate plans to be CE.
In a recent interview, he was philosophical, saying that as a Christian, he must obey God if the Almighty wants him to run.
Perhaps he’s already receiving divine inspiration from the heavens, and is thus raising his media profile steadily. Will he get the deity’s final call?
Funny how God pushes so many people into politics around the world these days. There was a time when He guided the rich, in particular, away from power and wealth and into helping the poor, and even – as with Francis of Assisi – befriending little furry animals and birds. As Antony says, it’s all up to God. Maybe the Almighty will ask the former Financial Secretary to help lepers or some other old standby. If He does tell him to run, Antony will presumably get into office (why else would an omnipotent deity give the go-ahead, unless for a cruel laugh?) and be blessed with the inspiration and grace that, He surely knows, is Hong Kong’s only hope.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah is the other potential candidate that no political punter should miss after the firm handshake he received from President Xi Jinping in Beijing.
The handshake has suddenly made the dark horse a favorite.
Ha! Who needs God’s blessing when you can have the ‘Beijing Handshake’? John Tsang would be Donald Tsang II, though possibly – being of relatively nobler birth than Sir Bow-Tie – less besotted by tawdry second-tier tycoons. That is to say, he would have no clue about policymaking, let alone serious reform. But nor would he want to round up judges, shoot critics and ban the Internet. As the Standard mentions, even members of the establishment fear the alternatives. It’s a tragic thought that we could do worse. I mean…
There are also other names, including former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who recently tried to catch media attention by publicizing her health report. The trick turned bizarre after she forgot to hide the identity card number.
Widely hated for her role in Article 23, Regina’s main problem is her undisguised, drooling lust for the job. You, me, Beijing alike – it makes everyone nervous. Also, in the last few months alone, she has cried live on radio and shared pictures of her colon. Chinese officials’ rejection of Western-style democracy never sounded more welcome.
The Standard ends up with a simple truth…
It’s unlikely the central government mandarins will make up their minds anytime soon.
They have much else to worry about right now.