The murky, stage-managed but still subject-to-screw-ups charade that is Hong Kong’s Chief Executive ‘election’ campaign is slowly getting underway. All sorts of international media and other observers who should know better will obscure and distort the picture by unwittingly peddling falsehoods about the process as facts. The prime example: that it is an election, albeit with just 1,200 voters…
That’s what the Chinese Communist Party wants you to believe. The fact that commentators note with surprise or disapproval the tiny size and unrepresentative nature of the franchise actually lends the sham credibility. The reality is that the 1,200 members of the Election Committee take part in a purely make-believe poll. The result will have been decided in advance by a handful of China’s top leaders – just one, the way Xi Jinping seems to be going.
Other parts of the process will not be as they seem. One or more ‘candidates’ might run because Beijing tells them to lend the farce the appearance of some sort of competition. We will see a candidate or two apparently courting interest groups for support, when in fact it is the interest groups who are the supplicants, displaying loyalty to Beijing by shoe-shining the presumed chosen one. Ironically, the Hong Kong people – who officially have no role but to stand and watch – have a say. If surveys show that public opinion is absolutely hostile towards a candidate, Beijing will take note. In the past, that could doom a candidate’s chances; in the Xi era, hatred of (say) incumbent CY Leung might stiffen Beijing’s resolve.
Elder statesman Tung Chee-hwa peddles another half-truth in his comments about how the current system prevents the Chief Executive from doing the job effectively. He complains that the CE lacks a party support base in the Legislative Council, whose members represent interest groups. The result is that the CE can’t get policies through. (Beijing’s hang-up is that ‘executive-led government’ required under the Basic Law is hampered. Essentially, this comes down to the Communist abhorrence of separation of powers. They are even more creeped-out by an independent judiciary.)
The crop-haired one was always very good at doing a disingenuous ‘slightly muddled avuncular’ act, and these comments of his are a fine example. The falsehood is that Hong Kong’s governance is a purely internal process. This is obviously not the case: the CE is picked by Beijing, his cabinet approved by Beijing, and – you can bet – many of his key policies imposed/urged by Beijing. Tung is also confusing things in true establishment fashion by suggesting that popularly elected lawmakers represent interest groups: the small-circle functional constituencies are the main villains.
The problem is not the structure, let alone the personality. The CE would be able to get policies through if they were good policies. The pro-democrats and the directly elected pro-Beijing legislators would happily vote for measures that would benefit the mainstream population and economy (lower rents, better health care – fill in your favourites). In theory, the vested interests/functional constituencies in the legislature would veto attacks on their rent-seeking and other privileges. That is what you are supposed to believe (they account for many of the 1,200). But there is a simple and elegant way round that.
Beijing’s local enforcers need only phone up the tycoons and all the other co-opted interest groups. They would say: “You don’t want anything nasty to happen to your investments on the Mainland, do you? So shut up, back off and let the Hong Kong government push its reforms through.” The interest groups would not refuse.
Why doesn’t this happen? Maybe it has in a way – the tycoons are not feigning their dislike of CY Leung. But any good done by his somewhat/slightly more people-first policies is overwhelmed by his divisive and sinister Communist loyalist-psycho side.
The CE ‘election’ will be for show, like the moaning about how the system prevents the administration from doing its work – all distractions, to be faithfully reported by the world’s gullible press. Behind the scenes, Beijing will be deciding how to fine-tune or overhaul what its chosen-in-advance ‘winner’ actually does in office.
The nice thing about oligarchies is that they are easier to topple and subvert than democracies. Hong Kong is sinking fast economically because it has been paralysed by protest and discontent. This obviously takes some time to work its way through the system but it is getting there. Infiltrate, denigrate, demonstrate. We have all done a good job, including your good self. Yes, you too are a valuable part of our process.
The other thing getting in the way of good policies is the civil service. You will never meet a bigger crowd of butt-kissing, yes-ministering, stone-walling, in-fighting, arse-covering, rule-sticklering, unimaginative, inflexible, lamppost licking bunch of nincompoops this side of the Pacific Ocean.
They won’t pedestrianise Des Voeux Road because the Transport Department doesn’t want to do something that the Environmental Department will get credit for. They won’t build water taxi piers on the waterfront because this would technically be “reclamation”. They won’t even put moveable chairs in public parks (so that people can sit where they want) because they’re afraid someone might steal them, damage them, climb them, fall off them, fight over them, or beat each other over the head with them.
They refuse to do the most basic, common-sense things to improve quality of life because then they’d have to do something differently than how they’ve always done it. So on the rare occasion a minister actually has a good idea, they’ll never get it implemented.
@Cass: I think it was Keynes who said that paying someone too much is just as counter-productive as paying them too little. Our civil servants/ government unworthies are the highest-paid and most pampered in the whole world. Where else would an average senior police officer retire with a million US dollar handshake ? Where else would a government contract employee with an obscure ‘communications’ job in the CE office get a salary that exceeds POTUS ? Where else does an assistant secretary with zero accountability get $ 3 million plus perks per year for basically doing shit-all ? When you pay these absurd amounts of compensation coupled with life time tenure to people who work in a bubble of entitlement and inflated self importance, it is only logical that the system and the people in, stop working.
And maybe the worst thing is that nobody gets upset about it anymore.
I get upset about it. Bloody upset about it.
And I’m not alone.
Keep your ears open for the creak of the tumbrils.
In an odd way the CE alleged “election” may actually be quite important to the 1,200 “electors” as a gauge of how well-connected they are.
Consider the scenario — if you have the right connections in Beijing, you get told to vote for the winner, if you’re out of favour they tell you to vote for the loser… and as a special twist with the secret ballot only you know that you’ve been snubbed.
It’s like a four-yearly version of “am I hot or not?” for CCP sycophants: I can almost see the website now —www.ismytongueinfarenoughornot.com
Oh dear: it looks like I channeled Chugani today.
@Joe Blow 3:19 pm – You NAILED it. Bunch of peasants who now think they’ve earned the right to bump elbows with the hoidy toidy crowd.
The collusion is glaringly in-your-face these days.
No comment on Michael Tien’s MTR campaign? I’ve had to stare at his smug mug for the better part of half my trips across town now for the last few weeks. You’d think he was running for CE.