The Buzz

Cherry Picking in Hong Kong

The Washington Post editorial board’s analysis of the recent contest for Hong Kong’s chief executive is nothing short of a “mess”—the word the Post also uses to describe the election results.

After presenting myriad evidence to the contrary, they conclude that “In the end, the election served only to underline the unsustainability of China’s attempt to limit the democracy it promised to Hong Kong.”

This conclusion gives the reader the impression that democracy is surging in Hong Kong or that China has lost control of the small nation’s politics. The Post is wrong on both counts.

In fact, the “small-scale” election employed in Hong Kong seems almost diametrically opposed to democracy. Only 1,132 electors or “worthies—holders of prestigious positions or representatives of social and personal groups,” as described by Robert Keatley here at TNI, cast ballots. This committee’s members are appointed by special interest groups and come from sectors ranging from Western medicine to the hospitality business—hardly a cross-section of Hong Kong’s population.

As in almost any instance of hand-picking—be it apples or voters—the purpose is to weed out certain traits: in the case of the committee, anyone who might favor the pro-democracy opposition. As Keatley noted, “What they share, for the most part, is a willingness to go along with Hong Kong’s administration and the central government to which it reports.”

The Post seems to counter its own prediction that universal suffrage will soon arrive in Victoria Harbour when they assess the only truly pro-democracy candidate in the race, Albert Ho, who was “was never given a chance” by Beijing.

Given these facts, how can anyone possibly feel that China’s grasp on Hong Kong's politics is waning? With a small group of worthies voting for a batch of Beijing-approved candidates, it feels quite far from any democracy we know. This howler, like the Hong Kong election, is a mess.