When Carrie Lam was crowned as Hong Kong’s fourth Chief Executive no one was in the slightest bit surprised. After all, the outcome of this selection process, absurdly described as an election, had been decided in Beijing some three months ago.
Yet most of Hong Kong’s media has covered this event as if it were an election, which is precisely what the Chinese Communist Party wants them to do.
In other respects, however, the Hong Kong election system remains something of a problem for the rulers in Beijing; who sort of had it foisted upon them and have since been struggling with the incompatible aims of neutralizing the system while giving it a level of credibility.
Elections were simpler in the 'good old days' of the Soviet Union when citizens were dragged to the polls to deliver a 99.9 per cent vote for whichever candidate was chosen by the Communist Party. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea keeps up this farcical tradition today.
While other Communist dictatorships used the electoral process as a key element in their propaganda armory, China’s Communist Party makes little effort to disguise contempt for elections.
This is why the Mainland election system shuns nationwide polls and merely allows the general public to vote for members of local people’s congresses who, in turn ‘elect’ national leaders. Candidates are vetted at local level, ensuring that only those acceptable to the party can stand.
This rigid attitude towards election control provides a key to understanding how the Mainland authorities approach the two places in the nation (the other being Macau) where citizens are given a vote and can even freely elect councilors and legislators. The approach is one of extreme suspicion; coupled with a determination to ensure that elections are confined to party approved candidates.
When the prospect of reforming Hong Kong’s electoral system was on the table in 2014, the bosses in Beijing simply reached for a version of the mainland election system and declared that local people could only vote for candidates they approved of. Understandably this proposal was widely shunned in Hong Kong.
In many ways therefore Beijing was quite happy when its proposals were rejected and the existing system was maintained. Thus the ‘election’ for the Chief Executive can be pretty much controlled by confining the vote to a tiny election committee, consisting of 0.03 per cent of the population, with a built-in majority of Beijing loyalists.
However, even now the gray men who control Hong Kong from Beijing are worried about the SAR’s election system and wonder why it has failed to work.
They could have opted for making the post of Chief Executive largely powerless, but even hardliners acknowledged the dangers of pursuing this policy. On the other hand it was felt necessary to install a figurehead with some semblance of support in an elective process. This process however was never going to be genuinely free or fair.
So they have stuck with a system that has now installed an overwhelmingly unpopular leader even before she takes office. Lam therefore has every prospect of following in the footsteps of her three failed predecessors: the public forced the first incumbent to resign, the second is in jail and the third became so toxic in public opinion that it was considered better to ‘elevate’ him into a national role before he did any more damage as Chief Executive.
In selecting Carrie Lam as Hong Kong’s fourth CE the Party has learned absolutely nothing from past experience. The frantic way that Beijing officials were forced to campaign for her only succeeded in further alienating an already alienated Hong Kong public.
It almost beggars belief that some people outside the tight circle of Communist Party cheerleaders actually believe that somehow Lam will be able to succeed. They must be the same people who maintain that CY was a highly successful leader.
caption : Of the people? By the people? For the people? None of the above.(Apple Daily photo)