Once again and seemingly forevermore, Hong Kong’s future for another five years is doomed without any spectacle, in spite of popular demands and enduring struggles and cries on the streets. In a chilly morning in an otherwise warming spring, 2,000 police guarded 1,186 privileged oligarchs to select our next chief executive with the result long pre-set by the sovereign power.
Long before Zhongnanhai disqualified the much hated Leung Chun-ying for a second term for fear of a munity within the establishment camp and handpicked his number two, Carrie Lam, who eventually garnered 777 votes, as the successor, a retired judge came out of thin air, alone but mighty, pledging to bring our fractured society together.
Centrism is alien to Hong Kong, it is not in our DNA. Long known for either opposing the government indiscriminately or kowtowing unconditionally to Beijing and either yellow or blue, Hong Kong could have had a last-ditch hope to attempt Woo Kwok-hing’s centrism of progressing political reform and enhancing transparency, labour protection and welfare with compromise. Now buried under coward allegiance to the north and strategic manoeuvre amidst unbreakable absurdity, Woo’s political realism and personal honesty and integrity never had a chance to surface and materialise.
Woo was not a natural at debate. Having been a career barrister and judge, Woo’s platform was presented in logical paragraphs with long reasoning but little emotional calling. Slow to respond and lack of pinpoint within time limit, Woo was an easy prey before flashlights. However, Woo’s campaign was no easy talk. Being the first to stand and the earliest to announce manifesto, Woo’s small team and shallow coffer did nothing to falter his resolve. Not used to street rally and speaking to crowds, Woo went around extensively to towns and villages, schools and workplaces to convey a simple yet revolutionary political message that hitherto nobody from the left to the right has criticised – if we can maintain nominating committee per Basic Law provisions whilst significantly enlarging its electorate, we can have chief executive candidates so nominated be elected popularly. Political deadlock will need a political solution, only that there are few who are still listening under the current political climate.
We the people will now have to collectively bear the burden left behind by the powerful and rich in the closed circle. Mandating Lam the technocrat to rule over a free people is inherently dangerous. When centrism is abandoned polarisation will deepen until such time that Woo’s platform, even if implemented, will be of no salvation at all; when moderation and reform is dead end violent struggle and call for independence and self-determination will grow further still. If that was a dystopia before the selection, it is now an impending reality.
Woo never disappointed and did exactly what the real people and the ordinary and decent people aspire him to do. From day one when announcing his surprising bid exactly five months ago Woo must have known far clear that the Government House is no club for him. Yet as someone who had attended four debates of Woo’s I am more than certain that if he had to put himself through again for this same outcome, 21 votes, the lowest ever, he would. Because the greatest public service in an overwhelmingly split and repressive regime is self-sacrifice for igniting a spark. That spark is out there, alive and well. It is in Woo’s platform and inscribed on his upright badge. Woo the candidate would never to become Woo the chief executive, but whoever takes charge and however much ballot gifts she had from Beijing, Woo the candidate must always be the gauge for measuring governance in the post-Leung era.
Woo’s mission is accomplished, and accomplished brilliantly and stylishly. Whether the new government will ride on this last chance before a total breakdown and the destruction of everything we hold dear now rests in the conscience of our first ever female chief executive-select, and more so on the continued resistance of people on the streets who risk everything to check and balance the vested interests every day. Otherwise it is truly the beginning of the end of what we know as Hong Kong.
We are fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and great gift for self-destructions. Although who knows, maybe this time we will learn. Justice Woo will find his peace. But Hong Kong is on a cliff, hanging between two divergent destinies where we know which is right but have no right to walk the path.
Note: The writer observed counting as Woo Kwok-hing’s electioneering personnel.