20 January 2019
There have been no clear signals from Beijing's Liaison Office. Meanwhile, pro-establishment lawmakers (inset) are showing a propensity for disorganization and disunity. Photo: HKEJ
There have been no clear signals from Beijing's Liaison Office. Meanwhile, pro-establishment lawmakers (inset) are showing a propensity for disorganization and disunity. Photo: HKEJ

Pro-government camp tries something new – fighting each other

For some time, it has been confidently asserted that disunity and disorganization were the preserve of Hong Kong’s opposition camp but now pro-government parties and organizations are demonstrating that when it comes to division and infighting they are capable of being every bit as fractious as the democrats.

What had previously kept the pro-government camp together was the simple expedient of following orders from the Central Government’s Liaison Office in Western plus the fact that being in this camp was the place to be for office seekers and awards cravers. As long as the prospect of preferment was on offer, the government’s cheerleaders could be kept in line with little difficulty.

However, what’s happening now is that there is no clear line coming from Western and the divisions within the pro-government camp are getting out of hand. This is because Beijing officials are themselves heavily engaged in internecine struggles that prevent clear directions from emerging.

Meanwhile the lust for power has sent normally passive government supporters into a frenzy of disunity.

Moreover, look at the brutal results of these power struggles; even CY Leung has been unceremoniously ditched and despite his rather pathetic attempts to put a brave face on it, he can barely conceal his anger and disappointment. However, he dare not confront his bosses so he is rather lamely venting his animosity on John Tsang for having the temerity to seek his job.

One of the reasons Beijing dumped Leung is that his unpopularity had reached a stage where it was proving hard to keep the serried ranks of the pro-government camp behind him. Members of the camp made clear to their masters that his continued presence was having a detrimental impact on their own popularity.

All credit then to the Liberal Party for being the first member of the pro-government camp to spot the extent to which Leung was a liability. However, being a first mover led the party to be isolated from the rest of the camp and deprived its members of the sort of government largesse that generally comes with being on this side of the fence.

Such was the disarray in the Liberal Party that when its chairman Tommy Cheung was offered a significant piece of largesse, i.e. membership of Leung’s Executive Committee, he jumped at it, leaving the party even more divided than before.

One of those who left the party, Michael Tien, hitched his flag to Regina Ip’s New People’s Party and quickly discovered that there was only really space for one big figure in this organization and it wasn’t him. Tensions are already peaking in this quarter and have deepened over Ip’s decision to run for chief executive, seemingly without Beijing’s blessing.

And this brings us to the core of the pro-government camps’ current problems.

They simply don’t know whom to back because they have yet to be told by Beijing what to do. This vacuum opens up a host of problems: Carrie Lam, the bureaucrat’s bureaucrat, has already demonstrated that her alleged straightforwardness and reliability is hardly to be trusted as she definitively ruled herself out from running for the top job but having sniffed the fragrant scent of a Beijing endorsement, is now telling us that no one should understand the word definitively as meaning definitive.

John Tsang, meanwhile, is gagging to go, no less than Regina Ip, but if he and Lam enter the race, the pro-government camp will be even more divided, not because of differences over policy and ideology but because personal ambition is what matters to them and it’s becoming more and more tricky to work out how individual ambitions are best served.

Meanwhile, let us consider the situation of the only members of the pro-government camp who actually have some kind of ideology and were attracted to the red flag well before it became a matter of opportunism to do so.

I am, of course, referring to the old-time Communists, who make up the core of the DAB but this party too has been bolstered by a large number of office seekers.

Jasper Tsang is still standing on the edges of this chief executive race and should, in an ideal world, be the pro-government candidate. He is a true believer and, unlike all the alternatives, is both popular and respected by many democrats.

However he will not get the green light from Beijing precisely because he has such a high degree of credibility and is therefore suspected of an ability to challenge orders instead of meekly obeying them.

What Beijing likes about the other candidates is that they are wholly dependent on the Central Government; this is not the case with Tsang.

So, yet again, this leaves the genuine leftist loyalists having to back either a colonial retread or maybe another tycoon who has yet to emerge. This is not a happy place to be and is a source of yet more tension in the pro-government camp.

Meanwhile, as even the very limited recent Election Committee election showed, the democrats remain highly popular, scoring victory in every single category where there was a semblance of a popular vote.

Nonetheless the pro-government camp will take some comfort in the democrat’s track record of division and tactical idiocy. It’s not a given that this record will be reversed but just think what could happen were it otherwise …

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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