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.