In less than two months, the Election Committee’s 1,200 members will help choose the fourth chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Cynics dismiss the public campaigning by the four candidates to seek Hongkongers’ support as unneces­sary because, according to them, the central govern­ment will have the final say through its proxies in the committee. The performances given by the candidates as they attempt to demonstrate their affinity with the “man in the street” and flaunt their competence would be hilarious if there wasn’t so much at stake.

No pretence of a fair HK chief executive election this time

The canvassing by the contenders for Hong Kong’s top job mirrors the machinations employed by Emperor Kangxi’s sons to gain their father’s favour and the support of other princes and senior ministers. The contest to become their father’s heir involved at least nine princes, divided into five factions, over the course of two decades. The fraternal strife was fierce but they were careful not to make the animosity too obvious, for fear of incurring their father’s wrath.

Why Hong Kong’s next chief executive will fail to unite the people

When Kangxi died, in 1722, after a 61-year reign, his trusted minister and brother-in-law, Longkodo, read his will, proclaiming the fourth son, Yinzhen, the next emperor. Yinzhen purged a few of his brothers shortly after becoming Emperor Yongzheng, stripping them of their titles and placing them in solitary confinement.