22 April 2019
Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam shakes hands with Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing's Liaison Office, in a post-election visit. Photo: HKEJ
Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam shakes hands with Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing's Liaison Office, in a post-election visit. Photo: HKEJ

CE election just a formality in the eyes of Beijing

As expected, former chief secretary Carrie Lam swept to victory in the chief executive election on Sunday by gaining 777 votes, accounting for 67 percent of the total number of votes, whereas her major opponent, former financial secretary John Tsang, only got 365 votes, or just 31 percent of the total.

In fact, one should not have been surprised by the result, despite the fact that Carrie Lam had been lagging behind John Tsang in every major poll by a significant margin before the election.

It is because under “one country, two systems”, our so-called chief iexecutive election is just a formality, with the outcome dictated entirely by leaders in Beijing beforehand.

As such, all the pro-establishment members of the Election Committee, who almost hold a three-fourths majority, needed to do on Sunday was to cast their votes for Beijing’s handpicked candidate as instructed. The Communist Party rarely misses when it comes to decisive moments like the CE election.

There is no such thing as “allowing voters to cast their votes of their own free will or by their own choice” in Beijing’s playbook. According to the logic of the Communist Party, the results of all elections, whether in the mainland or in Hong Kong, are supposed to be determined beforehand by the party leadership.

The CE election result received extensive coverage in the western media. For example, the New York Times published a commentary titled “Carrie Lam Wins Vote to Become Hong Kong’s Next Leader”, in which the author said many people in the city were frustrated with the fact that they didn’t have a say when it came to choosing their own leader.

In Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the new leader of Hong Kong has been chosen according to Beijing’s wishes rather than the consensus of the people. On the other hand, the Handelsblatt predicted that social resistance in Hong Kong is likely to escalate in the days ahead as the new chief executive wasn’t elected with any public mandate.

Meanwhile, the BBC concluded in an interview with Sinologists that even though the new CE is trusted by Beijing, she is likely to find herself fighting an uphill battle trying to govern the city effectively.

As a matter of fact, any average individual can tell that the CE election was rigged. Intriguingly, however, many in the pro-democracy camp seemed to believe that they did have the power to influence the election outcome as long as they threw their weight behind John Tsang.

Indeed, it boggles the mind that the pan-democrats couldn’t even do the simple math: how could they have possibly defeated Beijing’s handpicked candidate with just a little more than 300 votes in their hands in the 1,200-strong Election Committee?

Suffice it to say that pro-democracy members of the Election Committee who sincerely believed John Tsang stood a good chance of getting elected must have been completely delusional.

On the other hand, rumours had been rife during the run-up to the election that Beijing leaders had fundamental differences over the choice of person for the next CE. For example, some claimed while Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, favored Carrie Lam, President Xi Jinping wanted John Tsang to get the job.

And as the election day drew closer, the hype surrounding these unconfirmed reports reached its boiling point. For instance, some in the pro-democracy camp claimed during the week preceding the election that Beijing was having second thoughts about Lam and could switch its support to Tsang in the last minute, citing insider information from “authoritative sources from Beijing”.

In fact, these rumours couldn’t stand up to the most basic scrutiny. True, our Beijing leaders might not necessarily see eye to eye with one another on every single issue. However, when it comes to the overall policy on Hong Kong, there has almost been a cast-iron consensus within the party leadership.

Likewise, those who ever believed the notion that Zhang would ever speak out against President Xi over the choice of the next CE obviously didn’t do any research at all.

Such a scenario is simply impossible when most of the power is concentrated in the hands of Xi.

As Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs continues to escalate, it is expected that the boundary of “two systems” will get increasingly blurred, and that our city’s assimilation into the mainland will accelerate in the days ahead.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Mar. 30

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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