19 July 2018
The system has produced three deeply flawed chief executives and will produce a fourth dud unless the people are actually allowed to choose their leader. Photo: Bloomberg
The system has produced three deeply flawed chief executives and will produce a fourth dud unless the people are actually allowed to choose their leader. Photo: Bloomberg

Let’s call a rubber stamp a rubber stamp

Rita Fan is almost certainly telling the truth when she says that she has not made up her mind who to vote for in next year’s chief executive “election”.

The reason being that she has yet to be told how to vote by the bosses in Beijing; at that point, her indecision will be resolved.

Fan is one of just 1,200 people who are allowed to take part in the process laughingly described as an election but is in reality nothing more than a convoluted piece of rubber-stamping.

Fan also happens to be a prime example of the kind of people who have been selected for this purpose.

She was a prominent lackey of the British colonialists who became one of the most assiduous Chinese patriots armed with a keen sense of how to maneuver as the wind changes direction.

She is not alone among Election Committee members in possessing this skill, indeed her fellow sycophants are so well attuned to the wishes of their Beijing masters that most of them do not even need to receive explicit instructions for what to do. Instead, they use their sharp antennae as a guide to finding which boot to lick.

Yet, some of them are not quite so able to read the signals, which means they have to be told what to do over cups of tepid tea in the gloomy conference rooms of the Liaison Office in Western.

Nothing is put in writing because the fiction of non-interference must be maintained and a scintilla of plausible deniability is, at least for now, considered to be desirable.

Once the bosses have made up their minds whether to allow CY Leung to carry on as chief executive or whether to have him replaced by one of the other candidates, the boot lickers will know what to do.

The beauty of the Election Committee is that it is designed not just to ensure Beijing’s desired result but to provide it with an aura of respectability, conveying the impression that the process somehow represents a genuine election.

Reading some of the breathless coverage of this rubber stamp election, it might be imagined that a popular contest is under way or even that the candidates are somehow involved in an election campaign.

It is to be hoped that the hapless authors of this garbage are purely cynical and don’t believe a word of what they are writing.

However, despite all evidence to the contrary, there are those who actually buy this “election story”.

They think it actually matters that CY Leung is widely disliked and distrusted or maybe they cling onto the idea that John Tsang will have a good chance of getting the job because he is more accessible and has a pleasant demeanor.

Things like this matter in a real election but in this rubber-stamping process the decision is made by a very small group of men, most of whom use an impressive amount of black hair dye.

Their calculations barely touch upon on considerations as to whether the candidate has support in Hong Kong; what matters to them is that the chief executive should be 101 percent loyal to Beijing and should unquestioningly obey orders.

This is why it is entirely possible that a candidate as deeply unpopular as CY will be selected and why anyone with a high degree of public support but a hint of the kind of integrity that would lead to the questioning of orders will not get Beijing’s backing.

And so that’s why Tsang Yok-sing will not be in contention.

Because it is obvious that the bulk of the Election Committee members will simply cast their votes according to instructions from above, there is very little point in democrats participating in this election, even if they manage to get nominated.

They can, of course, use it as an opportunity to campaign for a real election but their very presence adds credibility to a tainted process.

The joke is that while this farce is under way a rather more substantial and more globally significant farce is being enacted in the United States that could end with Donald Trump becoming president.

The shameless anti-democrats seize on this as an excuse to argue that real elections can be far worse than the rubber-stamping process in Hong Kong.

The difference being, and it is as wide as the Pacific Ocean, is that the results of a real democratic election can be overturned by the people and that the system is protected by a range of checks and balances, all of which are being hastily dismantled in Hong Kong.

What’s left is a system that has produced three deeply flawed chief executives and will definitely produce a fourth dud unless the people are actually allowed to choose their leader.

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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