Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, goes up to Beijing to meet some top national leaders. It will be a three-day visit, yet she doesn’t think there will be concrete discussion about a particular topic. So – hours upon hours of sitting and sipping tea, and awkward silences.
She will enjoy one interlude of stimulating conversation in a meeting with Hong Kong Affairs boss Wang Guangya, who apparently wants to hear (by which we mean hector her) about her team of senior officials.
Under this make-believe political structure with its rigged ‘election’ and the presence of a shadow power-centre in Beijing’s Liaison Office, citizens look to the choice of ministers for signs of what is really going to happen. (We are talking about policy secretaries or ‘ministers’, not the part-time amateurs given places on the Executive Council for symbolic head-patting purposes.)
The appointment or promotion of anyone known to have actual fresh ideas, or simply a personality, would raise hopes for some sort of ‘fresh start’ or reformism. A token open Beijing loyalist or ex-pro-democrat-turned-shoe-shiner may get one of the more lightweight positions in which to flounder. Most likely, Carrie will recruit mainly from among the civil service she comes from.
We will hear some agonizing over the difficulties of finding ‘talent’ – especially how successful people don’t want to join the administration. But the pool is artificially narrow and shallow. Only Chinese citizens are eligible, ruling out large numbers of foreign passport-holders. And, as Wang Guangya will surely remind Carrie, candidates must be acceptable to the paranoid and insecure Communist Party, so forget anyone with originality and flair.
The real problem is that Hong Kong does not have a governmental structure in which parties nurture politicians through free elections to local and higher-level legislative and executive offices. And Beijing’s clear intention is that the city has no such thing in future. Note how talk of political reform refers to ‘universal suffrage’ rather than, say, ‘democracy’. At best, the aim is for everyone to take part in a rigged election.
Carrie’s mission for the next five years will be to deliver more-of-the-same blandness and inertia on issues that people care about, while continuing to divert resources into cronies’ pockets – and keeping the kids happy and avoiding any of that Umbrella/independence stuff. With a cabinet full of out-of-touch bureaucrats.
On the subject of hiring members of a new administration, behold some of the magnificently cruelest satire I’ve enjoyed in a while.