Governments throughout the world yearn for their bitterest opponents to confront them through the ballot box rather than on the streets.
However, in Hong Kong, the hardline CY Leung administration is doing everything it can to keep its political foes out of elections and push opponents onto the streets as it ramps up the tension surrounding the political process.
There have been attempts to disguise Leung Chun-ying’s love of confrontation but in light of the current Legco poll there can no longer be a scintilla of doubt as to where his true intentions lie.
Leung is clearly no fan of elections because he seems to be unhappy that practically every political organization in Hong Kong (except that Communist Party which uses its proxies in the DAB for this purpose) has attempted to take part in the election.
This can be taken as a sign of a functioning democratic process but returning officers, who are civil servants, and the supposedly impartial Electoral Affairs Commission, were suborned to get them to screen out candidates from the radical localist and independence camps.
The legality of their actions have yet to be established but what is clear is that the administration does not want its more radical opponents to be allowed to participate in the democratic process, it is, in effect, inciting them to take to the streets.
CY Leung also does not want to engage his opponents in discussion; he often bluntly says precisely this.
He constantly refers to the way that Hong Kong is under threat and to this day has yet to come forward with any evidence to support his frequent assertion of a foreign guiding hand during the Occupy Movement, however dark assertions of foreign meddling in local affairs are his stock in trade.
When there are instances of violence in the streets – factually speaking, these are few and far between – the Chief Executive, who is generally reluctant to interact with the media, rushes to stand in front of the cameras. He seems pleased to be there.
Leung’s love of confrontation has now reached a level where it is of concern to the pro-government camp.
Members of the camp running in the election squirm when asked whether they support the Chief Executive.
This week there was a bizarre development when the pro-Beijing Sing Pao newspaper splashed a commentary accusing CY of deliberately “inciting” the independence movement to enhance his chances of retaining the top job for another term by convincing Beijing that they need a tough leader to combat unrest in the SAR.
Unfortunately for Leung, there is no real unrest in Hong Kong so his minions have been busy creating an atmosphere that appears to be disruptive.
Prior to the elections the police were ordered, in full public view, to conduct exercises displaying how they would cope with violence surrounding the polls.
This followed similar dire threats (from the government) of possible violence accompanying the visit of Chinese Olympians to Hong Kong.
The police chiefs must have been disappointed that there was not a single violent incident during these events so they quickly moved on to staging exercises with little purpose other than to suggest that the elections presented the threat of rioting.
Meanwhile, organizations representing both the disciplined services and the wider civil service have been suborned by officials urging them to get their members to vote for pro-government candidates.
This departure from the norm suggests a disregard for the integrity of the civil service, which rests on the idea that it is above party politics.
One branch of the disciplined services, the immigration service association, was specific in recommending pro-Beijing candidates.
Others were careful not to be direct in issuing specific voting instructions but the message from the organizations was clear enough.
Leung and his dwindling band of allies like to portray the Legislative Council as a battleground where gridlock prevails.
They and their media friends focus on the disruptive tactics of a handful of councilors and ignore the fact that the government managed to push through 83 of the 89 bills it tabled.
When the Democratic Party leader Emily Lau proposed enhancing the work of Legco by forming an all-party group to focus entirely on livelihood issues, with a view to streamlining the legislative process, pro-government parties were ordered to stay away because this initiative did not match the Chief Executive’s narrative depicting a gridlocked legislature.
This article was written ahead of the election results so it remains to be seen who will prevail in the polls but whatever the outcome, one thing is sure, Leung badly wants a fight and he may well get it.
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