The week starts with a fairly average Hong Kong Chief Executive ‘election’ mouth-froth. Carrie Lam, the Chinese Communist Party’s apparent pick for the job, says she decided to take part because it would be a disaster if there was no-one Beijing trusted on the ballot. Cue widespread outrage, as this is interpreted as a slur against rival John Tsang, whose American upbringing, past service to last colonial Governor Chris Patten and perceived disloyalty to current CE CY Leung are presumed to count against him.
In a genuine democratic election, it would be acceptable and obvious to attack a rival candidate for being somehow unsuitable for office. The uproar in this case is a mark of how perverse the quasi-election is. (Perhaps inadvertently, the South China Morning Post gets a better angle by stressing Carrie’s legitimacy problem if John Tsang has higher opinion-poll ratings. It’s worth mentioning here that opinion polls in this rigged system tend to beg the question of which candidate respondents think Beijing will pick, not which one they personally prefer.)
Despite all the whining, Carrie is simply telling the truth: Beijing choses the winner, and post-1997 experience shows that the Communist Party places sycophancy above competence – absolutely and always. The lady’s mendacity is in suggesting that she entered the ‘race’ for fear of what would happen without her on the ballot. Beijing told her to offer herself, and she obeyed. If she had not, the Chinese officials would have prodded another high-sycophancy/low-competence stooge into the role. The prospects of ornamental rivals like John Tsang would be unaffected.
Carrie had told an audience of insiders that God advised her to run/‘run’. Sadly, the Almighty neglected to help her out on such basics as: ensuring her household supply of toilet rolls; attending the correct funeral home out of a citywide choice of two; and knowing how to use an Octopus Card on the MTR. We are told she is an enormously capable administrator, yet these simple life skills are beyond her.
Her pro-democracy and radical detractors are now faced with a terrible choice. They will plan to taunt her for years to come with symbols, props, memes and other cruel and vicious reminders of her shortcomings. With CY, it was his inability to win more than a dismal 689 votes in a rigged poll of 1,200 ‘voters’. With Carrie, it could be something inspired by toilet paper (how can you go wrong/where do you start?), or it could draw on her ignorance of public transport and stored-value cards, and presumably day-to-day life for humankind in general. And she may yet struggle to reach 800 votes in the fake election.
Opposition activists seeking ideas for distasteful imagery with possible toilet-paper subtexts could do worse than check out today’s double-page ad in the middle of the SCMP, which invites us to view a grubby item of men’s underwear and consequently feel compelled to rush out and buy Calvin Klein products…