Donald Tsang

Eye on the polls, politicians bend to the populist wind

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am


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This is an election year for Hong Kong; following the chief executive election in March, the Legislative Council polls will come round in September. Those are expected to be hotly contested because there will be 10 additional seats - five in the geographical constituencies and five so-called 'super seats' in the functional constituencies for district councils - bringing the total number of seats to 70 in the legislature.

We can be certain there will be a violent fight over these seats. Not only will rival candidates tussle and scuffle with one another, but the pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps will also fight fiercely for votes.

To enhance their public exposure, many politicians will seek to increase their media coverage. Some approaches will be more calculated and sophisticated; some will be merely cheap shots.

It's only natural for politicians to exploit all opportunities to increase their popularity; it's an intricate part of the political game in any democratic society, allowable under the rules. Every politician seeks to draw in supporters with their views. As long as they are consistent in what they preach, they will be able to score political points, attract voters and find their niche.

Unfortunately, some low-quality politicians often appear insincere because they are inconsistent in what they say. These opportunists care only about maximising their exposure.

Take the case of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who has been accused of wasting public money for staying in plush hotel suites on official business. In fact, the pro-establishment camp is the root cause of this problem because they have failed to play their supervisory role as legislators. They should have, but did not, support efforts to extend the anti-bribery laws to cover the chief executive and senior officials.

The pro-establishment legislators must reflect on their failure to fulfil their duty. They failed to do their job in the first place and now they dare to point an accusing finger at Tsang.

Liberal Party chief Miriam Lau Kin-yee, who has sharply criticised Tsang, shouldn't treat the general public like idiots. It's obvious why she is doing what she is doing. Lau is preparing herself for the fiercely competitive geographical constituency poll.

Unfortunately, being a member of the pro-establishment camp, she can't go too far in her criticism of Tsang and the current government, in order to maintain a smooth transition come July 1, as instructed by the central government. Political puppets can never change what they are. She is wasting her time trying to be someone she is not.

It's also rather comical to see three key members of the Federation of Trade Unions - Cheng Yiu-tong, Wong Kwok-hing and Chan Yuen-han - hold totally different views on the chief executive scandal. It begs the question: have they stopped using their heads to think?

As an executive councillor - a member of Tsang's inner cabinet - Cheng couldn't possibly call for him to resign. So, his criticism has been generally mild. He even accepted Tsang's apology, saying the chief executive showed sincerity. All in all, he is saying Tsang should be forgiven.

On the other hand, Chan is far less sympathetic, mainly because she is expected to vie for one of the super seats in the Legco election. Chan not only supports a call to impeach the chief executive but also believes he should resign. She can say whatever she wants; she has no vote in Legco as she was defeated at the last election.

It's the same story with Wong. He has criticised Tsang but stopped short of pushing for his resignation. His reasoning is that Tsang should clean up his own mess before his term ends. But, no matter what he says now, when it comes to the final vote, it's almost certain his party will not support the bid to impeach Tsang. It's all a show.

It does seem rather ridiculous that one political party has three positions on one issue. Politics is just show business, but a show must at least have a consistent and convincing script. Smart politicians know how to put on a good show while the foolish ones can only present puppet shows that serve no purpose whosoever.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.