Hongkongers are the real losers in electoral reform power game
We have long been told that the failure to pass the electoral reform package would spell Armageddon for Hong Kong. There is no doubt the debacle has been bad for the city but not necessarily for the key players themselves.
Now that the time has finally come, after two years of acrimony, for a likely no vote, it seems the parties that have the most to lose will not be doing a belly flop after all. If we consider the whole episode as a power game that should have winners and losers, then perhaps it has been no worse than a tie.
Let's consider how each of the three power players fare: Beijing, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the pan-democratic camp.
From the very start, Beijing has determined two outcomes - and only two - either one of which would be acceptable. By voting no to the reform, Hong Kong goes back to the old "small circle" selection of the chief executive by the 1,200-strong election committee, with its own choices of Beijing stooges. That is perfectly fine with Beijing.
The failure of the government's reform package may seem a defeat for Leung. But the package has been most closely associated with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. It was Lam, along with justice chief Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and constitutional affairs secretary Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, who did most of the "selling". Paradoxically, Leung's chances of winning a second term under a "small circle" election look extremely good now. First with Occupy Central and now with the reform saga, Leung has demonstrated his undivided loyalty to Beijing.
As for the pan-democrats, they can claim victory by sticking to their principles and taking the moral high ground. Leung has urged Hong Kong people to vote them out of the legislature. Some pundits have predicted they will suffer in next year's Legco poll. Somehow, I don't think their principled stance will hurt them next year. In any case, people often vote for them as a useful counterweight to the more sycophantic pro-establishment candidates.
We have gone backwards - to the status quo of 2012. The political elites, including mainstream pan-democrats, have not been hurt badly. The real losers are the people of Hong Kong.