Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing fired the first shot of the 2017 chief executive race last week by announcing his candidacy.
However, despite the fact that he hit the nail on the head with his criticism of the current government at his press conference, his lack of vision for Hong Kong may prove his fatal weakness.
Besides, under “one country, two systems”, the chief executive election is a small-circle election dominated and manipulated by Beijing, whose overriding concern when it comes to choosing the person for the job is whether he is absolutely loyal and has “red genes”, rather than whether he is popular with the people of Hong Kong.
In other words, it is the Beijing leaders on top of the power pyramid who determine the outcome of our chief executive election, not the general public.
As the mainland has witnessed a massive return to the leftist track under President Xi Jinping since 2013, party officials are once again predominantly measured by their ideology as well as the degree of their absolute loyalty and obedience to the party leadership just like they were during Mao Zedong’s era.
The same criteria apply to the chief executive of Hong Kong.
Under President Xi’s ultra-left party line, only those who have “red genes”, who are absolutely loyal to Beijing, and who are eager to carry out Beijing’s hard-line orders without question will be considered for the top job.
In the meantime, I feel compelled to debunk the popular myth that Financial Secretary John Tsang is likely to be Beijing’s favorite candidate just because President Xi shook his hand twice in Beijing on different occasions last year and this year.
In fact, those who buy into this notion, perhaps including Tsang himself, have completely misread the clues.
If anything, the handshake was likely to be a clever political trick pulled by Xi in order to warn Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that he had better do his job properly or else he will be replaced by someone else, and there is no shortage of candidates who can replace him.
Such political tricks have been commonly seen throughout the history of the Communist Party. Unfortunately, many so-called elite officials in Hong Kong seem to be completely ignorant about these tricks.
Since it is now “red genes” and loyalty that count in the eyes of Beijing, it is likely that Leung Chun-ying will eventually be given his second-term, while former security chief Regina Ip, or another pro-Beijing figure, is likely to be allowed to run as well in order to introduce some degree of competition to the election.
And if Beijing has decided that Leung is here to stay, then former Legco president Jasper Tsang will almost certainly not run.
Leung’s definite advantage over other potential front runners is no doubt his unwavering loyalty to Beijing and his eagerness to carry out its orders without question.
Just look at how he threatened to seek interpretation of the Basic Law from the National People’s Congress even before the High Court has ruled on his judicial review application against Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s decision to allow the two young lawmakers to retake their oaths, and you can tell Leung would go to any lengths to toe Beijing’s line.
As far as judge Woo is concerned, what he said during his press conference might have resonated with many in Hong Kong but I believe his CE bid would be an uphill battle, not least because of his weak “red genes” — he doesn’t have any mainland background, nor does he have any connections or powerful friends in the mainland officialdom.
Besides, his criticism of the “very loyal” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, his reservations about the 831 resolution, as well as his sympathetic stance toward the Occupy Central movement and the June 4 incident would have touched a nerve in Beijing.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 3
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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