There is perhaps no better way to garner support for universal suffrage than to play up the prospect of a second term for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
While universal suffrage 2.0 and CY Leung 2.0 have no real cause and effect, local politicians, especially pan-democrats, find the subject disconcerting.
And Hong Kong people are no less concerned because they’ve seen it all before.
In March, a political heavyweight in Beijing warned that Leung’s chances of winning a second five-year-term rise in direct proportion to the prospect of the election reform proposal being voted down by the Legislative Council.
That’s because President Xi Jinping will be forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.
People still remember how Henry Tang’s campaign imploded after revelations about an illegal basement in his home and details of his personal affairs made headlines.
Beijing used the incident to back a “trusted candidate” and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the weekend, a letter from a certain “Carrie Lam” made the rounds of social media.
It offers a vision of Hong Kong seven years from now.
The writer tells her son “Yuek Hei” about her plans to leave Hong Kong for Britain after she “steps down as chief secretary”.
“You ask me why there is an exodus of immigration,” she writes.
“I know some people are worried that the police will increase the use of force after Article 23 is passed. Many people also ask me why universal suffrage was passed in 2015 but Hong Kong hasn’t changed for the better.”
(Article 23 is a proposed national security law shelved in 2003 after widespread protests.)
The letter goes on to say that Leung is still in charge, Paul Chan has been appointed chief secretary, the pro-establishment camp has taken over most media ownership and Shenzhen residents can freely enter Hong Kong.
Carrie Lam, of course, never wrote that letter but whoever did wanted to play on people’s fears.
By contrast, Peter Woo came out in the flesh when he recently discussed Hong Kong’s political reality.
The Hong Kong tycoon, who also serves on China’s highest political consultative body, accused the opposition of too much politicking and lacking principles.
“The opposition often says the system is not democratic enough,” he said.
But now they’d rather return to the old way of choosing the chief executive by a small circle instead of supporting universal suffrage, he said.
It was the third time in a month the former Wharf Holdings chairman had publicly spoken in support of universal suffrage.
Last week, fellow tycoons Li Ka-shing, Lee Shau-kee and Lui Chee-woo urged Hongkongers to embrace the election reform proposal.
Woo spoke for almost two hours to the media during Wharf’s annual general meeting on May 15, mostly reading from a prepared script.
Two weeks later, he released an open letter in which he said the Basic Law clearly states that Hong Kong should achieve universal suffrage step by step and a nomination committee is required.
In an editorial, Ming Pao Daily said Woo’s comments could only have been prompted by Beijing. It cited an unnamed businessman as saying Beijing is pushing for universal suffrage to preempt a second term for Leung.
We shall see come June 17 when the election reform bill is sent to Legco.
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