Graffiti in bar toilets, Soho, January 2017… Regina Ip is running as a candidate for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
The world we live in is a post-political one, apparently. People no longer consider manifestos when they place their crosses in the voting booth and they no longer afford their vote the deference and thought that it
Society, you see, has spent the last twenty years feasting on a main-course of reality TV followed by a dessert of social-networking, that has left us all sore losers and opinionated loudmouths.
And, looking back at the three political events upon which I have invested the most attention in recent years, it’s hard to disagree with this. From the Scottish Independence referendum (“we don’t like the result – let’s have another vote”) to Brexit (‘cry-baby Remoaners’ and ‘ignorant Brexiteers’) to Trump (Mexicans! Muslims! ‘MURICA!) political discourse has slumped very low indeed.
But, casting our glance a little further east… Nowhere in the world, I would argue, has had a less politically productive time of it in the past decade than that old pearl of the orient, Hong Kong.
In May, the next Chief Executive will be elected. Four candidates will be voted upon by 1200 people (out of a population of 7.3 million). The winner, it is widely known and accepted, willingly or otherwise, will be a puppet of
People here can be reduced into three broad groups. 1) Those who reject Beijing and all it stands for – who camped out on the streets for nights on end in 2014 and still harbour hopes of democracy, or even complete independence for Hong Kong. 2) Those who actively support Chinese influence and relish disrupting pro-democracy protests (often, it is said, because they are well paid to do so). And 3) Those who have no love for China – perhaps have never even been across the border – but are quite comfortably off and think the Umbrella Revolutionaries were a bunch of spotty little upstarts who should have known their place.
In short, then: there’s a bunch of people who completely reject the system and those working within it (with a nice line in STD-related insults), a bunch who unflinchingly support the system, and a bunch who know it’s corrupt but quite like their standard of living and wish people would just behave.
So, while we count down the years until the next Scottish Independence referendum, or to Britain’s eventual re-election to the EU or whatever has by then replaced it, or to the US electorate flip-flopping between Republicans and Democrats until the end of time… Spare a thought for Hong Kong, where political discourse and debate truly goes to die.