It’s hard to get excited or optimistic about the Hong Kong Legislative Council by-elections on Sunday. Beijing has replaced the spiteful CY Leung with the nondescript Carrie Lam as Chief Executive, set about reducing the legislative branch into a pure Mainland-style rubber-stamp body – and at least they’re not rounding up hundreds of thousands of people into re-education camps like in Xinjiang. So there’s a distinct ‘Why bother?’ feeling.
The main motivation to vote – apart from the hoped-for souvenir fridge magnet – is personal. In 2016, I voted for a guy who won a seat with very strong support but was disqualified for showing insufficient enthusiasm for Communist dictatorship. Then, before we had a chance to vote for her, the woman who was going to run in his place wasn’t even allowed on the ballot for the same reason. This is the kind of thing that pisses people off.
No-one’s conducting any opinion polls for these by-elections. United Front manipulators are taking it almost too seriously with their usual tricks, presumably getting ineligible voters onto the rolls, obviously paying fake protestors to disrupt campaigning, and certainly planning to bus elderly dementia patients to polling stations – and there are reports that Mainland-linked companies are pressuring staff to take part in canvassing.
If the United Front folk had studied Pork Barrel 101, they would have exploited last week’s Budget by arranging for pro-Beijing figures to demand (and get) handouts for The People, and then taking the credit during the last 10 days’ campaigning. Instead, loyalist Regina Ip has to echo post-Budget opposition demands for cash-for-all – and, bizarrely, gets rebuffed. You would have thought Leninists could do ‘joined-up government’, but apparently not.
In Hong Kong Island, the United Front picked Regina’s New People’s Party candidate Judy Chan to represent the pro-Beijing camp. This makes sense: the NPP has a ‘middle-class’ image, and Judy has (arguably/theoretically/approximately) some sort of young-glam-girl-next-door thing, as befits the prosperous neighbourhood. The more overtly pro-Communist DAB/FTU are running suitably doltish stooges in the Kowloon/New Territories races.
Pro-Beijing politicians suffer from a distressing and miserable handicap: they are not allowed to have any ideas or views of their own. Thus Judy has made a big fuss about rival Au Nok-hin being an anarchic, rampaging arsonist – which will if anything boost the meek pro-dem rather than herself. And today, probably while waiting for Lines-to-Take from the Liaison Office, she is raising the possibility of abolishing term limits (a la Xi Jinping, geddit?) for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. Regina needs to stuff some Belt and Road pamphlets down the girl’s mouth before she ends up getting zero votes.
And now, if you’re still undecided, this…