18 June 2015

Comedy of Errors 錯中錯


In politics, sometimes a mistake is just a mistake. Then there are blunders so shocking that they draw gasps and deer-in-headlights stares from even the opponents. The latter happened at Legco today.

After nearly two years of bitter political wrangling, 79 days of street occupation, months of government-funded media blitz, and a last-minute appeal to the opposition by senior Beijing officials, the biggest constitutional showdown in the post-Handover era finally came to an end – and a dramatic one at that. It came as little surprise that the Beijing-backed proposal for the 2017 chief executive election was voted down at the legislature. What’s astonishing was the 28-to-8 defeat. There are 70 seats in Legco and 42 of them are taken by pro-Beijing lawmakers. That means the government was only about five votes shy of the super-majority it needed to pass the electoral reform bill. There were unconfirmed rumors that pro-democracy lawmakers were offered hundreds of millions of dollars to change their minds, although none of them took the bait. In the end, however, the bill that Hong Kong’s No. 2 official Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) has been peddling for months received only eight out of the 70 Legco votes. Even a Hollywood screenwriter couldn’t have come up with a better twist.

The vote count


Exactly what happened is the subject of much contention and confusion. Here’s what we do know. The reform bill was submitted to Legco for a vote yesterday. It triggered a series of predictable floor debate and political posturing that lasted until early afternoon today. But then, shortly after the voting bell had already been sounded, all but a handful of pro-Beijing lawmakers suddenly got up and walked out of the room. Those who stayed – nine from the pro-Beijing camp and 28 pan-democrats – constituted a quorum and they cast their votes: 8 yea, 28 nay, 1 no-vote, 33 absent. Most of the absentees were the pro-Beijingers who had left the room. Thats right, the reform proposal that the Communists had practically drafted themselves will now enter the history books as a bill that got less than 10 votes. For Beijing and the SAR government, it was the equivalent of being thrown a dozen eggs and having them rubbed all over the face. Dripping yolk and all.

After the vote, Jeffrey Lam (林健鋒), a member of the pro-establishment Business and Professionals Alliance (經民聯) and the bumbling lawmaker who initiated the walk-out, scrambled to do damage control. Flanked by his fellow Beijing loyalists (including a visibly fuming Regina Ip (葉劉淑儀)), Lam told reporters that the whole thing was a case of misunderstanding. He had intended to stall the vote by staging an adjournment, Lam claimed, in order to buy some time for fellow pro-Beijinger Lau Wong Fat (劉皇發) who was late to the session. Lam’s real motive might have been to derail the vote altogether to give the Liaison Office (中聯辦)  the de facto Chinese consulate in Hong Kong – a few more days to get some of the pan-democrats to switch sides. Whatever his rationale, Lam failed to communicate his plan to everyone in his own camp, and so some of them ended up staying in their seats. Of the nine, eight followed the party line and cast a “yes” vote. Poon Siu-ping (潘兆平), a little known labor union head, was present in the room but he didnt vote. The poor guy said he didn’t know how to respond, panicked and then pushed the button too late. 

The walk-out


The turn of events looks like amateur night at a comedy club. It is as mortifying as a soccer player who kicks the ball into his own net, or a runner who passes the relay baton to the wrong team. It may be funny-ha-ha for us viewers at home, but Beijing isn’t laughing at all. A political autopsy is now feverishly underway to find out what went wrong and who should take the blame. Slow revenge is not for China, public lynching on the spot is more its thing. That means heads are expected to roll in the coming days. This time, however, everyone is fair game. Any member of the pro-Beijing camp, C.Y. Leung and his cabinet, and the Liaison Office can potentially be held responsible.

To Beijing, this practical joke is another reminder that it should never send an idiot to do a communist’s job. These so-called loyalists may be successful businessmen in their own right, but savvy politicians they are not. They play too much golf and not enough team sports to know how to work together. They are no better than the rent-a-crowds who were hired this week to stand outside Legco and chant pro-government slogans they didn’t understand. Opposition lawmaker Long Hair put it best: it was like drafting a bunch of boy scouts to fight World War II. The biggest loser today was perhaps Regina Ip. The fact that she was one of the lemmings who headed to the Legco door might have dashed her hopes to be the next chief executive. By Beijing’s book, Ip is just one of the idiots.


The "Make it Happen!" campaign


Meanwhile, the pan-democrats are laughing all the way to the bank. Yes, the situation is comical, but more importantly, they have all come out of the political crisis unscathed. With public support for the reform bill hovering at around 50 per cent, they have reason to be worried. Half of their constituents may punish them at the next election for rejecting a proposal that would have given them a vote, any vote, in 2017. A huge upset at the ballot box for the pan-democrats would be Beijing’s consolation prize, especially if the pro-democracy camp loses enough seats such that they can no longer block future electoral reform bills. Luckily for them, the blooper today has shifted the public’s focus and deflected the narrative. Come the next Legco election, few voters will remember the likes of Alan Leong (梁家傑) and Emily Lau (劉慧卿) as democracy blockers. Instead, citizens will think back and say to themselves, “Ah yes, the reform bill got only several votes. What a dreadful proposal it must have been!” Tonight, the pan-democrats can heave a collective sigh of relief; some of them may be celebrating in Lan Kwai Fong right now. Champagne, champagne for everyone!

As for the rest of us, we are now back to Square One. With the bill voted down, Beijing is expected to permanently shelve the sore subject of electoral reform. Hong Kongers can kiss goodbye Article 45, the Basic Law provision that guarantees the right to freely elect their leader. For the five million eligible voters in the city, universal suffrage is dead on arrival. Amidst the belly laughs and cackles, we know deep down inside that the joke is really on us.

From the left: Regina Ip, Lau Wong Fat, Jeffrey Lam


________________________

This article appears on SCMP.com under the title "Comedy of errors at reform vote leaves pro-Beijing camp red-faced... but is the joke also on us?"



As posted on SCMP.com



20 comments:

  1. To call this comedy is an injustice to comedians... It is unprofessionalism at its best - a bunch of mental midget pea-brains making a joke out of HK and not only placing us at Square One, but Square Zero with a time-out for Beijing intervention...

    Ulf

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great write-up!

    Susan

    ReplyDelete
  3. Replies
    1. Shocking that Beijing loyalists could screw up so spectacularly, that Beijing's plan ended up with only eight yes votes. Goes to show they are just clowns (to use Robert Chow's 周融 own word). Xi Jinping can't be thrilled!

      Delete
  4. Best news in a while!

    Sarah

    ReplyDelete
  5. This shows people's votes is important the Pro-China camp wanted both China's benefits and needed people's vote they are the cheapest politicians in the world. So when they saw the proposal is not going to get through, they will abandoned HK Gov so remember these people because they will sell their mothers in order to gain their personal benefits.

    Colin

    ReplyDelete
  6. I hate to be rude, but thanks to uncle fat, the retardness of H.K politicians reaches new heights today.

    Alex

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love this line especially: "To Beijing, this practical joke is another reminder that it should never send an idiot to do a communist’s job."

    Paul

    ReplyDelete
  8. why are you trying to push that the was universal suffrage. it was fake universal suffrage at best, but more a hoax to give legitimacy to totalitarian control

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lam Kin Fung is a real idiot. Originally, Beijing's plan was 1) if the "reform" package was passed (though highly difficult), it can claim that HK has already achieved "universal suffrage", 2) if the pan-democrats rejected it in the face of overwhelming pro-Bejing legislators' "yes" vote, Beijing can pin the blame on the pan-democrats. By walking out, Lam just shifted the blame to the pro-Beijing camp. How idiotic can anyone get?

    Adrian

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm glad that we're standing firm. Say NO to communist loudly!

    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  11. Don't know what to say anymore, but bet the PRC government got this planned n it's only later when we'll be able to see their decks in the show-hand!

    Christine

    ReplyDelete
  12. Beginning to think there are two possibilities: Someone within the establishment might have orchestrated this fiasco to either undermine 1) CY Leung, Regina Ip etc or 2) worse still those in the CCP threatened by Xi may have created this fiasco to undermine Xi.

    Adrian

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for the thoughtful analysis . . . and given that we might never exactly know what was up with the pro-BJ camp as far as the walk-out, and dispensing with the most obvious accusation of utter incompetence, it appears that there isn't whole hearted support within their camp for the electoral proposal. There has been some conjecture that the pro-establishment Legco members were also concerned about being re-elected in the coming election, let alone that they may actually be prey to a nagging conscience. Regardless of the ultimately depressing reality of the situation, I believe what pro-democartic Hong Kong fundamentally has going for it is: Freedom of Speech. While there have been attempts to erode this, a sizeable portion of the population is educated and seeks out and has access to a variety of news sources (for instance, your own comments/blog). I believe this is is why the government's "Pocket It First" campaign fell flat (or in fact back fired). Or, as you pointed out, the quite obvious bogus make-up of Robert Chow's pro-establishment mobs. The inherent qualities of the free flow of information and the purposeful passion of the 2014 occupations should give us all much hope.

    Andrew S. Guthrie

    ReplyDelete
  14. Best summary I've read on it.

    Matthew

    ReplyDelete
  15. I say everyone is a loser!

    Jocelyn

    ReplyDelete
  16. The big question is ... what now?

    Susan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait for the Avengers to come and save the world.

      Delete
  17. I agree that Beijing and future Chief Executives will shelf political reform in the coming years. This fiasco showed that both sides are not willing to compromise to a workable solution, thus I think the status quo will remain until 2047, when legally PRC can do as they want with HK.
    If pro-democracy supporters think this was a victory, I would say they are totally mistaken. No future CE (especially those elected by 1,200 committee) are going to be willing to work on political reform unless they have majority in LegCo.

    ReplyDelete