Holden Chow, deputy boss of Hong Kong’s local Chinese Communist Party front, the DAB, refuses to say whether he thinks CY Leung should have a second term as the city’s Chief Executive. His reason is that CY himself hasn’t announced his own intention – which is irrelevant, or indeed all the more reason to answer the question. What he means is that he hasn’t yet been told what the official line is. The pseudo ‘election’ (outcome predetermined in Beijing) by a rigged body of 1,200 is still over a year away. Expect the DAB, FTU and other United Front appendages to be ‘still to make our minds up’ for a while.
For now, Chow is running in a real competitive race: the Hong Kong Legislative Council by-election that takes place late next month in the New Territories East constituency. The seat became vacant when pro-democracy Civic Party member Ronny Tong resigned as a grand melodramatic gesture to mark the establishment of his new Path of Democracy grouping, aiming to occupy some mythical middle ground between the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps.
The by-election will be more interesting than it sounds, for several reasons.
First, it will be a manly, straightforward, first-past-the-post, single-seat election. Legco geographical constituencies have multiple seats fought over by party lists of candidates under a complex system of proportional representation. The system was originally designed to dilute pro-dem candidates’ success, but if anything aids fringe oddballs on the ballot and confuses everyone. So the February 28 poll offers the prospect of a plain, simple goody-versus-baddy fight in which only one person can win.
Second, as we saw in last November’s district elections, there is a youthful/middle-class backlash underway against Hong Kong’s dismal governance and malevolent interference in local affairs by Beijing’s officials. On top of Beijing’s rejected fake-democracy package, unaffordable housing, the tourist plague, attacks on university autonomy, lead in water, etc, etc, we have the case of the five missing book publishers to attract protest voters (not to mention local reasons to be miffed). Centred on Shatin, New Territories East voted over 57% pro-dem in 2012, returning only two United Front candidates, plus ‘maverick’ James Tien of the Liberals, with the other six seats won by various pro-dem figures. So it should be a pro-dem walkover to humiliate and anger all the right people.
Third, Beijing’s local agents – who take elections far more seriously than anyone else in town – will probably go to great lengths to try to micromanage a victory for Holden Chow. All other pro-Beijing groups have obediently kept off the ballot, to give the DAB a clean sweep of non-dem votes. We can expect the usual desperate measures, like dragging centenarians from their beds, to maximize the DAB’s turnout.
The very broad pro-dem camp is inevitably more splintered. The mainstream pro-dems have agreed on a candidate, namely the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung, a smart and presentable counterpoint to the Communist running dog Holden – or as I hereby re-name him, Be-Holden. But two other pro-dems couldn’t resist getting onto the ballot, a ‘Third Side’ fantasist and a localist from Hong Kong Indigenous. The United Front forces would not be above finding ways to boost these two to reduce Alvin’s vote.
And three more candidates are running. There’s independent Christine Fong, prominent in local affairs and possibly able to lure a few votes from both camps – and she allegedly assaulted DAB member ‘Dr’ Elizabeth Quat, which is cool interesting. There’s some businessman bozo who claims to support a second term for CY. And there’s a barrister protesting his profession’s opposition to his other career in ‘body figuring’, which seems to be some sort of chiropractic-with-extra-added-voodoo baloney with Chinese characteristics, of course. Or maybe it’s the Body Figuring Association who are censuring him in disgust at his whoring as a lawyer. This is what they do to people they like…
Those of us outside NT East will just have to sit and watch.