Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Hong Kong has ‘elected’ a new Chief Executive, our equal of a Prime Minister. Except it’s not a proper election as most people understand it. In fact, over 99.99% of Hong Kong’s population of 7 million don’t get to vote. A 1,194 member committee makes the decision. Three people ran in the race. Carrie LAM, a bureaucrat and former number two in government. Her main opponent, John Tsang, another bureaucrat and former finance minister. Tsang earned the name Mr. Pringle for his resemblance to the symbol of a brand of crisps. Bringing up the rear is a former judge, WOO Kwok-hing.
WOO, the outsider, was destined to fail. His entry into the contest as a stalking horse initiated others to act. A fourth candidate, former Security Minister Regina IP, dropped out early. She was a real threat to LAM, yet Beijing failed to support her. Likewise, it was evident that John Tsang did not enjoy Beijing’s favour. This left the race open for Carrie Lam, who stormed home with 777 votes to Tsang’s 365. No surprise there given that the election committee is stacked with pro-Beijing people.
But it needn’t have been this way. All eligible adults could have voted in this election to pick Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. So, who scuppered that option? The answer is the so-called Pro-democrats. On 31st August 2014, the Pro-democrats exercised their veto. They voted down a proposal that would have allowed ‘one-man-one-vote’. Albeit from a preselected pool of candidates.
Beijing proposed that two to three vetted candidates contest the election. This is not 'full-democracy', but its progress. With the Pro-democrats adopting an ‘all or nothing’ approach they objected. Vetting of candidates was outside their demands. Thus their ineradicable ebullience blocked rationality or any thought of the long-game.
Surely having the candidates subject to the scrutiny of the wider public is a better deal than the current closed shop. Unfortunately, the Pro-democrats didn't see it that way. To quote Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in full ... "Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable - the art of the next best". Thus, politics is about seeking the middle ground for consensus and not holding extreme positions.
Thus, Hong Kong did not move forward. Having defeated the Occupy movement, Beijing is in no hurry. Alternatives that appease the Pro-democrats are not under active consideration. You had your chance and you blew it. And signs are no new proposals will come forward in the next decade. An opportunity was missed in a major tactical blunder by the Pro-democrats that has delayed democracy for decades. Whether the public will punish them come election time, remains to be seen.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.