In case you hadn’t noticed, Beijing is planning changes to Hong Kong’s ‘electoral’ system. This might seem superfluous. The CE is hand-picked by the CCP, with a small-circle rubber-stamp ‘election’ following. The Legislative Council has always been rigged, and is now largely cleared of pan-dems. District Councils are largely powerless, and now due to be cleansed of pan-dems as well.
But just rigging outcomes is not good enough. Underlying polling figures still show that Beijing ‘loses’ whenever a free vote is allowed, making the process itself humiliating for the CCP. So we are now hearing talk of rejecting nasty Western-style democracy and replacing it with a healthy ‘consultative’ approach – essentially to strip universal public participation out of the formula.
Presumably, District Councils will end up being ‘elected’ by (Beijing-friendly) functional/United Front bodies – thus becoming like Municipal People’s Congresses, which send delegates further up the pyramid to rubber-stamp the regime’s decisions, like selecting Chief Executives. The symbolic presence of popular representatives in the Chief Executive ‘election’ procedures will end.
This is not about control so much as appearances. The abandonment of just a pretense at a Western-style electoral system (outlined in the Basic Law) sends Hongkongers an obvious message about their cultural/national identity. And simply the sight of opponents within the essentially ceremonial structure drives the Leninist mind nuts. The system is perfect, so by definition there is no place for opposition or dissent. In order to maintain this state of bliss, it follows that accurate public opinion polls will also have to cease.
In other Hong Kong matters…
The FT reports (paywall) that the HKMA, SFC and Financial Services Bureau are phoning bankers and fund managers leaving Hong Kong for Singapore and Tokyo, to ask why they are relocating.
The calls … described as new and unusual, asked for a full picture of the decision-making process behind the moves and the significance of the timing.
Sadly, no mention of the answers the agencies received. It would be a bigger story if these agencies weren’t keeping tabs on this trend.
And a Bloomberg op-ed wonders whether Beijing is more nervous about suppressing Hong Kong than we might think. The circumstantial evidence is that the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – the organization behind the annual Tiananmen vigil – survives.
Of course, the June 4 gathering itself is suspended owing to Covid. But continued toleration of the vigil was one of Governor Chris Patten’s dozen or so tests of whether Beijing was upholding One Country Two Systems. Another example of Beijing’s supposed restraint would be RTHK, which remains editorially independent and vibrant (notwithstanding attacks on specific programming and staff members).
So maybe the CCP is slightly mindful about upsetting international opinion. Or maybe it just has a long list of hostile forces to work through.