There is nothing more depressing than a sham election. It simply insults everyone. And the Hong Kong ‘election’ of CY Leung last month as Chief Executive by 689 handpicked kowtowers, from a population of 7 million, was as sham as it gets, and as shameful. Even Myanmar did a better job. But from the ashes of yet another shambolic poll, there is a glimmer of hope for democracy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
And thanks must go to Henry Tang. Like the bow-tied Donald Tsang before him, Henry was the Chief Secretary, second-in-command to the Chief Executive. Amiable but dim, and lazy with it, Tang still felt like a bit of a shoo-in, Beijing annointed. And then real politics happened.
First, were the affairs, and rumors of love-child, and the ‘stand by your man’ wife appearance. So far, so good. Though Beijing started to spread the idea that actually a two-horse race weren’t so bad (erm, guys, think we need ourselves a Plan B).
Then there were the illegal structures at his property (don’t mess with land or property in Hong Kong, you may as well be killing babies). Which like all good politicians, he blamed on his wife. Yes. First, he wheeled her out to talk of their marriage’s ‘difficult times’, then wheeled her out, in tears, to apologize for building a wine cellar. Henry, you could get elected in most States in America.
Trouble was, Beijing, by now, was none too impressed. So Henry, like all good politicians covered in muck, threw some mud back, accusing CY Leung of some less-than-liberal comments, all behind supposed closed doors in ExCo (Cabinet-like) meetings. Of course, such claims were met with counter-claims, and slammed for breaking protocol, our poor Henry was doomed.
The fix was still in, though. It just had to change man. Beijing went to work, fearing a deadlock. Newspapers were leant on, columns were re-edited, coverage re-slanted, opinion polls and mock elections were changed or hacked. Pressure was applied. Significant pressures. CY Leung was the winner. Just make sure he wins. Which he eventually did.
Throw in accusations of Triad involvement, on both sides, speculation around CY Leung and is he/is he not a Communist, and a politburo summons for some members of the Election Committee, you just about had it all in this election.
So how was this good for democracy? How can Beijing move on to 2017 and supposed universal suffrage, when they can’t organize an election with 1200 voters, the plebiscite-version of a piss up in a brewery? Well, this had the sniff of a real election – the more popular candidate won, there were scandals, debates, tragedies and sleaze. Swap the stupid Election Committee for the real electorate, and it wouldn’t have been a whole lot different. Hong Kongers are beyond smart enough to know that you have to vote for someone that works with Beijing, not just thumbs its nose. CY Leung is admired for his ‘wolf’-like acumen, and is certainly a good organizer, and had the right connections – party member or not.
Beijing will probably realize that it doesn’t really need the hassle of trying to fix, then re-fix, an election. As long as they put the right safeguards over who stands, and they will, they will, then letting the people decide is nae such a bad thing. If CY Leung had won a popular mandate, the big-specs in Beijing could have patted themselves on the back. As it is, they’ve had to strong-arm an election committee, bully the media, enrage a population, only to impose a leader that could have been voted in. China could go the other way, of course, but one suspects they can work this one out for themselves.
Which just leaves poor Henry. So what will he do now? The man who lost a fixed election? Now, where did I build that wine cellar…