The government goes to war

October 21, 2016 18:30
CY Leung and Rimsky Yuen (inset) are most likely acting under very strict orders from their bosses to do everything in their power to thwart the localists. Photos: HKEJ

Leung Chun-ying and his bosses have a clear message for the disaffected youth of Hong Kong: Even if you are elected as a representative of the people don’t think for one moment that we won't find a way of making sure that you are put back in your box.

No matter whether you are out on the streets, elected to serve in Legco or even involved in online campaigns – you are the enemy and we will sort you out.

In the latest move against the rising youth dissident movement the Chief Executive, no doubt acting on strict instructions from Beijing, has almost certainly gone too far and in so doing managed to turn an opportunity for the pro-government camp into a lifesaver for the anti-government camp.

When the current row began, the pro-government forces could hardly believe their luck over the antics of the two Youngspiration legislators who managed to upset more or less everyone with their studiously ill-advised attempt to turn the Legco swearing-in ceremony into a half-baked protest.

It’s been a while since the anti-democrats were actually able to muster majority community support but this piece of nonsense did the trick.

Maybe the public’s obvious distaste for these antics encouraged the extraordinary intervention from the Chief Executive, amounting to nothing less than an attempt to overturn the results of the September poll and bar two elected councilors from taking office.

It is however more likely that CY Leung was acting under very strict orders from his bosses to do everything in his power to thwart the localists before, as they see it, the virus of "splitism" takes hold in Hong Kong.

Thus, we saw the government making a late night dash to the High Court in a desperate attempt to prevent these legislators from taking their seats.

When the government failed to obtain an interim injunction to prevent a second attempt at swearing-in, the pro-government camp in Legco took over and resorted to the very tactics they have spent most of their time deploring, i.e., the use of the filibuster to bring the Council’s proceedings to a halt.

The net result has been to turn a stupid prank into a frontal assault on the (admittedly flawed and limited) election system.

In so doing the government, now given leave to apply for a judicial review of the Legco president’s decision over the two disputed legislators, has thrown into doubt the future of the legislature as an independent body.

In addition the government and its allies have questioned the powers of the Legislative Council president, powers they were quite happy with when exercised to the detriment of the opposition camp.

What they have launched is nothing short of a full-blown declaration of war.

They hated the results of the election and appear to think that the best way to reverse them is to go after the victors.

As the assault gets underway the government and its masters have, yet again, made the fatal mistake of underestimating the intelligence and fair-mindedness of Hong Kong people.

The majority of people are perfectly able to distinguish between the stupidity of what the Youngspiration legislators did and the far greater threat to the freedoms of Hong Kong perpetrated by a government using this excuse to upend the results of the election.

The fact that the government is attempting this post-election coup by employing a highly dubious legal strategy, putting the courts in the uncomfortable position of arbitrating on the validity of elected officials, bangs yet another nail into the coffin of Hong Kong’s way of life.

There are, of course, perfectly reasonable ways of resolving this mess but we can be very sure that the Leung administration has no intention of using them.

A solution, that had the potential of working, was applied with commonsense by Legco President Andrew Leung when he ruled that the dissident pair, and three others, could take their oaths again.

Not only is there precedence for this but selective application of the law against just two of those seeking to swear in suggests that this is not a legal matter at all; it is pure politics.

It is possible that the Youngspiration pair will cock this up yet again but at least they have made clear an intention to take the oaths for a second time.

However, the pro-government camp is doing its very best to ensure that this does not happen.

They have been ordered to be in full struggle mode and can, no doubt, win some battles, but what amounts to a scorched earth policy will almost certainly result in yet more support for the democrats.

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author