Harry Truman, on becoming US President, told the press: “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now.” Carrie Lam, pre-determined winner of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive make-believe election charade, should be feeling the same way.
Within a few months of taking office, Truman had to decide whether to use atomic weapons on Japan. Carrie says she will start with the simpler, less controversial issues. And that’s enough of that comparison.
The ritual of the CE pseudo-election was more absurd than ever. TV showed serious-looking government minions trundling ballot boxes around on carts. Carrie ‘won’ with 777 votes, a number (like most numbers in a syllable-poor, obscenity-rich language) that gives rise to unfortunate numerical puns in Cantonese. Hong Kong rules-based transparency intruded on the proceedings when officials insisted on broadcasting spoilt ballots – to prove there was no cheating – including one with a profanity scrawled upon it. Demonstrators rounded off the farce by pelting the local Chinese government office with one of Carrie’s best-known challenges, toilet rolls.
Straight after this inauspiciousness, we get a plethora of headlines and earnest columns about how Carrie’s main task is to unite this divided city.
She could improve the atmosphere by ending CY Leung’s United Front campaign to crush counter-revolutionaries. A South China Morning Post column recommends dropping the persecution of opposition lawmakers as a first step. It is obvious. Yet it is somehow unthinkable.
CY, under orders from Beijing’s commissars in the Liaison Office, tore Hong Kong apart through classic Leninist-style tactics of dividing the population into friends and enemies. This is how the Chinese Communist Party thinks and works. So the question is not whether Carrie can ‘re-unite’ Hong Kong, but whether she can convince Beijing to withdraw from local affairs, and go back to the earlier ‘One Country Two Systems’ principle of insulating the pluralistic city from Mainland one-party dictatorship.
In other words: Can Carrie convince the Communist Party to do some soul-searching, and decide that it has erred and should restore rather than continue to erode Hong Kong’s autonomy? It would be an impressive display of the steely determination for which she is renowned. She could further advise them that it might work with Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan, too.
Alternatively, maybe Beijing installed Carrie to be a warm-and-cuddly CY – continuing the Mainlandization of Hong Kong, but in a friendlier way that keeps us all happy. Idiotic Mainland academics give the SCMP a taste of this latter fantasy by opining that the answer lies in giving moderate (yesterday’s old has-been) pro-democrats some Gold Bauhinia Medals and Belt-and-Road job titles to play with…