Date
28 May 2017
Lau Wong-fat (seated, left) joins fellow pro-establishment lawmakers as they try to explain why they were absent from the historic vote in Legco. Photo: HKEJ
Lau Wong-fat (seated, left) joins fellow pro-establishment lawmakers as they try to explain why they were absent from the historic vote in Legco. Photo: HKEJ

The big boss at the center of the cock-up

Far too little has been said about the man at the center of the extraordinary cock-up made by pro-government legislators Thursday when they attempted to delay voting on the electoral reform bill to enable Lau Wong-fat to get to the building and cast his vote.

Mr. Lau, the “Big Boss” of the rural areas, exemplifies all that is wrong with the rotten boroughs, a.k.a. the functional constituencies that make the legislature such a dysfunctional body.

As leader of the Heung Yee Kuk, Lau exercises considerable sway over the rural areas, claiming to act on behalf of the indigenous residents – as long as they are male.

The Kuk has the kind of elections much favoured in Beijing, as seen when a recent “election” was held to replace Mr. Lau as the Kuk’s chairman.

There was a single candidate, Mr. Lau’s son, who later claimed not to have benefited from his father’s patronage, as he had managed to fill in his nomination form all by himself.

Mr. Lau senior is one of the longest-serving members of the Legislative Council, yet his attendance record is shockingly poor, and his participation in debates and committee work is derisory.

However, he wanted to be present to help the government pass its bill or, at the very least, to be listed among those who voted for the phoney election scheme.

As ever, he was not in the building and sent a message asking his fellow anti-democrats to hold things up pending his arrival.

A request from the non-elected Mr. Lau is treated with great seriousness by the anti-democrats, and so naturally they obliged, although there was no logical reason for them to do so.

It was this that triggered the farce of trying to make the council inquorate, providing a delay so that Mr. Lau could cast his vote.

It is hard to think of a more appropriate person to have the dubious honor of causing the defeat of legislation purporting to offer democratic progress.

By the way, Mr. Lau has since declared that he could not be held to blame, and none of the anti-democrats have dared to contradict him.

A new narrative for the anti-dems

Before the Legco vote, in which the anti-democrats fully expected that the reform proposal would be defeated, they were busy developing a narrative that not only would explain why this happened but would also serve as a series of messages designed to put the pan-democrats in the worst possible light.

First up in this narrative is the often repeated assertion that only in Hong Kong do we see democrats voting against democracy.

It sounds good, but it’s a bit like a shiny car with a really dirty engine underneath the hood, ensuring that once the car gets on the road, it only manages to cough and splutter despite its fine appearance.

Secondly, the narrative contains repeated warnings of chaos and violence should the democratic camp prevail.

It was hard to find much evidence for this, even when the Umbrella movement occupied the streets, so it was astonishingly convenient that on the eve of the Legco reform debate, the police managed to unveil a bomb plot, accompanied by dark hints that the plotters were members of the democratic camp.

The following day, in an unprecedented move, police officers poured into the Legislative Council building, creating an impression of a state of siege and painting a picture of extreme danger while this issue was being debated.

Thirdly, we are being subjected to a growing number of assertions that somehow the democrats are busy liaising with foreign governments while declining to engage in constructive dialogue with the central government.

Dark hints of visits to foreign countries and consulates are murmured in tones quite loud enough for everyone to hear.

At the height of the Umbrella movement, there were repeated claims that “firm evidence” existed of foreign funding and support, yet months later none of this evidence has been produced.

Anyone familiar with the tactics of those finding rational arguments hard to come by will know that they often resort to allegations of foreign meddling.

This brings us to what passed for a debate in Legco, in which the advocates of the reform plan, almost without exception, had nothing better to say for the proposal than that it was better than nothing.

It was as if they had grown so weary of making this argument that they have ended up disliking the proposal almost as much as the democrats but felt they had to keep going.

The blame game now goes into full throttle, and the hope among the anti-democrats is that they will be able to isolate the democrats and blame them for creating stalemate.

The democrats, for their part, have to develop a new narrative of what they can offer.

In many ways, this is the more difficult task, because opposition groups are easily accused of being purely negative.

It seems to me that things are going to get a whole lot more interesting now.

– Contact us at [email protected]

FL

Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe