Voting in the Unvotable

24 02 2012

Did we imagine it? Browsing the People’s Daily (人民日报 Renmin Ribao – the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece) website, Hong Kong’s political turmoil is so conspicuously absent that it starts to feel like it was all some elaborate daydream. Coupled with images in the local media of a smiling Henry Tang officially registering as a Chief Executive candidate on Monday, tycoon supporters in tow, the sense of having toppled down a rabbit hole grows.

In case your head has been firmly in the sand for the last week or so: following a half-baked smear campaign against C Y Leung, Henry Tang’s rival in the Chief Executive (CE) race, the mud came flying back in Tang’s direction with reports of an illegally constructed underground room in one of his houses – now fondly referred to by the media as his ‘underground palace’. Just when he seemed to have hit a low, with indications of deliberate illegal activity on top of previous revelations of extra-marital affairs, Tang stooped lower still by blaming the whole thing on his long-suffering wife.

War horses and Wukan-isation

The commentaries from both sides of the Great Political Divide have been verging on the delusional. First up for the fantasy fiction prize is the Sharp Daily’s To Kit 陶杰 (pinyin: Tao Jie) in a 15 February commentary, ‘Hong Kong’s Grand Minister for Wukan-isation’, gisted below:

Beijing turns its back for a few days to deal with the scandal at the US consulate in Chongqing, and Hong Kong’s two main CE contenders are at each other teeth and claws. The C Y Leung camp’s counter-attack on Henry Tang has led to public calls for Tang to withdraw from the CE race, and the pro-establishment camp are left floundering with no signal as yet on how to vote.

If Henry has to withdraw due to his illegal building works, shouldn’t C Y also withdraw due to the Western Kowloon conflict of interest scandal? In which case, wouldn’t Albert Ho automatically win? Hong Kong has already gone off Beijing’s script, and C Y’s ‘battle for the people’s will’ could lead to a ‘Wukan-isation’ of Hong Kong at any moment, with a ‘democratic village chief’ emerging who Beijing  is forced to recognise. Under this freak outcome, Hong Kong and Wukan would become a pair of ‘war horses’ for bringing about the democratisation of China.

Heading through the next looking glass into the harmonious world of the pro-establishment Wen Wei Po, Wednesday’s headline read ‘Henry Tang: Broad Nomination Base Shows Support From All Sectors.’

“Henry Tang indicated that his nominations from the Election Committee, which were quite broadly representative, showed that he had the full support of society.”

This despite some opinion surveys indicating that over half of Hong Kong people think he should step down. Then again, anyone familiar with Hong Kong politics knows that ‘broad support of society’ is one of the city’s most loosely used terms.

So, unthinkable as it should have been, it looks as though the hapless Mr. Tang could be pushed through regardless. What of the much-touted requirement of acceptability to the Hong Kong people? Perhaps through this particular looking glass, the onus is on the people to find their leader acceptable, not on the leader to make himself so.

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