It takes two

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am


What do you call those who say only one Beijing-friendly candidate should run in next year's chief executive selection to avoid a contest among loyalists? Shoeshiners? Lapdogs? I have a word that describes them perfectly but it's not fit to print.

Henry Tang Ying-yen and Leung Chun-ying are set to fight for the top job. Both are Beijing-friendly. The selection itself doesn't concern you. You have no vote. Only 1,200 members of an election committee have that right. That's why I call it a selection, not an election.

You can't vote but you can have a say. Your voice can influence the Election Committee. But if there is only one candidate, you become a double loser: you have no vote and end up having no say, too. And the Election Committee won't even be a selection committee. It'll be a rubber stamp. That will make the 1,200 voters a bigger joke than they already are.

Those who want a single candidate say a real contest between Tang and Leung would split the loyalist vote, resulting in possible victory for a likely third candidate from the democracy camp. That is a phoney argument. The way the Election Committee members are chosen makes it virtually impossible for such a candidate to win.

Even if one of the two Beijing-friendly candidates is knocked out in the first round of voting, the loser's loyalist votes would go to the other, not to the democrat candidate. Simple maths says the democrat candidate is a sure loser. The democracy camp would only be fronting a candidate to highlight the undemocratic nature of the selection. If, by some miracle, the democracy candidate wins, then Beijing needs such a shock. It exposes a hidden desire for greater democracy even among loyalists in the Election Committee.

A lone Beijing-friendly candidate running against a can't-win democrat opponent will make the chief executive selection even more of a mockery than it already is. It will also be squandering public money on an outcome that is known beforehand.

Both Tang and Leung have now made clear they intend to run. These two Beijing-friendly candidates slugging it out without a predetermined outcome, at least, gives the selection a feel of democracy even though the process itself is undemocratic.

Reports say Beijing prefers Tang. But choosing a favourite is a costly mistake. It might have been acceptable at handover time when Beijing anointed Tung Chee-hwa, but Hong Kong has moved beyond that. Anointing Tang will rob him of all mandate, even that of the 1,200 Election Committee voters.

Mainland leaders have said public support is a requirement for the next chief executive. That rings hollow if Beijing's mind is already made up before the contest even begins. Without a democratic election, the only other way to see who the people support is through a genuine contest. Let Tang and Leung tell the people why they deserve to be leader. Then let the people decide by shouting their choice to the Election Committee so it is heard loud and clear.

If Beijing stays on the sidelines this time, its promise of universal suffrage for the next election will be more believable.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV host.