Carrie Lam ‘will not seek a second term’ – her words, quoted in numerous international media, which then take them at face value and fail to point out that a second term is not hers to seek.
We are now going to see a flood of overseas press reports referring to Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive being decided by an election, even if there is only one candidate. Reputable and normally conscientious outlets (Reuters, NY Times, etc) will attempt to qualify this by saying only a small group of Beijing loyalists have a vote. But this will still be incorrect. Even calling it ‘stage-managed’ or ‘rigged’ is misleading. There is no ‘election’. Sticking labels saying ‘ballot’ and ‘voter’ on inanimate objects doesn’t alter that.
Xi Jinping’s number-one skill is painting himself into corners. An insistence on meeting GDP growth targets creates a spiral of debt and wasteful construction that Beijing wants to stop but can’t. The delusion that ‘the West is in decline and China will replace it’ is trapping the country in a dangerously hubristic foreign outlook. The obsession with annexing Taiwan looks ever-less realistic. And now China is committed to two more utter losers – a zero-Covid approach to Omicron, and support for Putin’s genocide in Ukraine – with no non-humiliating ways out.
In its minor and localized way, the choice of John Lee as Chief Executive is part of this pattern. Presumably there will be a reshuffling in which the visibly less enthusiastic senior bureaucrats are replaced with obedient loyalists who take Beijing’s word literally. Whatever the cost in institutional, commercial or cultural capacity, the work of making Hong Kong less distinct must continue, to prove a point about the city as a Western-infested national security weakness.
As more residential communities are blocked off with metal barriers — some entrances reportedly even welded shut with iron bars — people are becoming increasingly unhappy about the policy.
Samuel Bickett considers the pros and cons of foreign judges resigning from Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal.
Thought for the Day from Isaac Asimov:
“When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent.”