From the absurd to the ridiculous, Hong Kong politics knows no bounds

Michael Chugani says no reform deal is possible when our politicians seem incapable of showing any inkling of good sense or maturity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 12:30pm

Let's put all the cards on the table. There's no way Beijing will change its political reform framework for Hong Kong to suit the democrats. There's no way pro-democracy legislators will budge from voting down the framework unless Beijing alters it to suit them. Public opinion demanding changes to the framework won't make Beijing buckle. Public opinion backing Beijing's framework won't make pro-democracy legislators buckle. Those are the cards on the table.

There's no winning hand in the deck whichever way you shuffle it. So why are we still bothering to reshuffle the cards? Why is the government playing mind games with the people by pretending the deck will somehow produce an ace? Why are pro-democracy legislators deluding themselves with the belief Beijing will eventually throw them an ace?

Hong Kong's politics can best be described as having devolved from throwing bananas to unfolding yellow umbrellas to being downright bizarre. The past week saw a chain of incomprehensible events. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying looked Hongkongers in the eye to say he was confident lawmakers would pass the reform framework. His aides then anonymously told the media the government expects to win over about 13 pro-democracy legislators, far more than the four needed.

Either Leung knows something we don't, in that Beijing will indeed budge, or he's as delusional as the democrats. A day later, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told the democrats they were delusional if they thought Beijing would budge, then said she shared Leung's confidence that democrats would help pass the framework but admitted she hadn't secured a single democratic vote.

Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing and other pan-democrats screamed blue murder, accusing Leung of using dirty tricks to split the pan-democrats with claims that he can get 13 to switch sides. Two things crossed my mind when I heard Lau on the radio - either she has finally lost it or she doesn't know the first thing about politics.

Politics is more about dirty tricks than the art of compromise. Divide and rule is standard fare. Expressing moral outrage at this exposes a childish understanding of politics. Instead of casting political dirty tricks as "conduct unbecoming", a favourite phrase of Lau's, she should be directing her energy towards making sure the democracy camp is not susceptible to being divided.

On the same day Leung expressed his inexplicable confidence in Legco approval of the reforms, Federation of Students secretary-general Nathan Law Kwun-chung told me in a TV interview that violently breaking into the Legislative Council is not violence at all if done to punish pan-democrats for voting for the reforms. His logic was that if the people are betrayed, violence is legitimised to the point that it is not violent.

How should we react to these mind-boggling events of the past week? Let's try not to shake our heads in disbelief. Instead, we can try to console ourselves by blaming a cruel twist of fate for dumping on us the politicians we now have to put up with.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. [email protected]