Jul 07, 2011|
With its latest about-face over a proposal to ban by-elections, the Hong Kong government can put yet another big U-turn up on the scoreboard. Although the one where the government re-wrote the budget after much public humiliation was a classic, this one is the game-changer.
For this one mighty U-turn ushers in a whole new way of thinking about Hong Kong. The proposal to ban by-elections was pitched as something the public wanted, because apparently everyone was afraid that legislators could resign and trigger “de-facto referendums.” Meanwhile, it wasn’t clear that anyone found the prospect of a referendum on a given topic bone-chilling at all—especially not the 200,000-plus people who hit the streets on July 1 calling it “the evil bill.” Then, after the rally, everything changed. What was once immutable and desired-by-all and necessary was walked-back and postponed this week, causing much loss of face for officials. But with that climbdown also comes a newfound liberty.
Now freed from face, the government can introduce any crazy proposal it wants, and if the public complains enough, it can just take it back. We can all drop the charades: the government can be blatantly obsequious to Beijing and we can stop pretending that they are supposed to serve the interests of the citizenry. It’s a real relief to just call a spade a spade. Maybe Donald Tsang and his ilk could even come out and say it: “Look, people, we get you’re not happy—but we’re just running down the clock till 2046 here.” In a way, this is even more freeing than democracy ever could have been.
There are plenty of other ancillary benefits to a government without face. For example, they can stop serving shark’s fin at banquets. Even their Beijing masters wouldn’t expect prestige from a group of known, proven stooges. And we could finally set that whole Chief Executive election aside, complete with pointless slogans and a protest-generating campaign bus to nowhere, and do something more useful with our lives. Officials could even keep their massive salaries if they willfully trade in any pretense to dignity. Maybe a lucky draw could award a few fortunate citizens a chance to hit the most disliked officials in the face with a pie once a year. We could probably trade out a few functional constituencies for that.
While we here at the HK Magazine hacienda will miss skewering our beloved government officials who were forced to spout illogical nonsense, we also welcome this new age of clarity. One last suggestion, though—make that ventriloquist’s dummy bowtie Donald Tsang wears standard issue for all senior-level civil servants. It’ll make it easier to spot the clowns in the face-less crowd.