Hong Kong is in suspense as it waits to see which of two or three aging mediocre bureaucrats China’s Communist Party will use as puppets in a rigged charade of an ‘election’ for the city’s next hapless failed leader.
The pre-unveiling leak-announcement of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam’s ‘campaign team’ suggests a strenuous and calculated attempt to win over public opinion with a shock-and-awe assault of meek and mild moderation. Her supporters (reportedly) include renegade pro-democrat Ronny Tong, and Francis Ngai, an enthusiast of social-enterprises – caring sharing non-profits that don’t threaten crony-capitalist interests. Former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s Our Hong Kong tycoon-linked think-tank thing, which has also done research on how to mollify angry underclasses and sub-cultures, is lurking in the background.
Carrie’s two rival ex-civil servants stand naked by comparison. Financial Secretary John Tsang (avuncular, incompetent) tendered his resignation ages ago, and is yet to receive a positive response – which we are told he must obtain – from Beijing. (Cue witty cartoon in the South China Morning Post.) Regina Ip (authoritarian, hyper-ambitious), currently a legislator, can only watch as supposed allies like Allan Zeman and Bernard Chan sign up for Carrie.
Carrie is burdened with the Curse of the Ming Vases. Today’s scarcely believable Palace Museum semi-horror comes from (because there’s hardly anyone else left) the Equal Opportunities Commission. The EOC helpfully points out that one of the administration’s reasons for hurriedly and secretly picking Rocco Yim as architect – his wholesome Chinese-ness and genetic ability to understand Sinic culture – might be racism. With government stooge-bodies like the EOC for friends, who needs enemies? Beijing’s officials ask what manner of evil Western rules-based pluralist perversity this ‘Equal Opportunities’ thing is, and despair.
More great news for Carrie, and especially for long-term strategists in Beijing: you’re doing a great hearts-and-minds job – among the elderly and uneducated. Alienation of the young and schooled continues. And the best the Communists can come up with is Ronny Tong.
A fourth theoretical contender for Chief Executive is Justice Woo Kwok-hing. As a ‘joke’ candidate, he is the only one to come up with an idea – namely that New Territories villagers be allowed to build high-rise towers instead of their traditional ‘small houses’, thus solving Hong Kong’s housing shortage. It’s not actually an original idea, and no-one can work out whether it’s insane or brilliant. But you can be sure that none of the three ‘serious’ candidates come up with anything at all on the subject.
Which brings us to the issue of land, and the incredible prices being paid by Mainland developers for plots at Kai Tak. In case you missed it, the SCMP’s Shirley Yam asks what’s going on. It’s not just potentially yet-higher apartment prices, or increasingly desperate capital flight from the glorious motherland, or even a simple-and-honest crooks’ stampede from the anti-graft police – it’s weirder. A reminder that there is still hope of salvation and release for Hong Kong in the form of economic implosion north of the border.