In an act of spectacular insecurity, the returning officer for the Chief Executive election displayed to the entire convention hall and a worldwide TV audience four ballot papers that she was considering declaring invalid. In a real election with lots of voters, spoiled ballots from the confused, the angry or the loony are decided on quickly and never put on TV. In the Hong Kong Civil Service, decisions like that must be difficult to make without referring to the boss but the boss was a candidate so, in terror of being faulted later, the question was put to the mob by a nail polished hand sliding each ballot paper under an overhead projector, in a way not seen since many years back before Powerpoint.

Photo: HKFP.

The returning officer had quite forgotten about the angry and the loonies. There were signs of trouble with the third ballot paper which had been stamped over with a plague of ticks. The elector mob was amused. Someone in their closed and select circle had been very naughty, and before lunch too.

Photo: HKFP.

The fourth paper yanked the assembly’s counterfeit dignity sharply from under it. Scrawled over it was a Chinese character abbreviation for ‘fuck’.

A gasp followed by hilarity ran through the electors. There were faint sounds of it being chanted at the back. The anointed candidate sat on stage facing the enormous projection of it. The television producer refused a close-up. Although thousands watching the wall-to-wall TV broadcast might have shared this reaction to the hall full of plutocrats, placemen, cronies and crooks, who among them would have done it? A closet Trotskyite in the DAB? A pro democrat putting his ballot to better use than John Tsang? A property developer doodling?

A protest ballot which features the character for “fuck”. Photo: HKFP.

The cabaret of spoiled ballots braked at this point and the show hurried on to declare for the anointed candidate but those two pieces of paper stole it. The one bitten by bed bugs and the other sticking up the middle finger perfectly expressed the discomfort and aggravation of the mob outside viewing the otherwise mirthless performance of the one within.

The over-known faces in that hall represented twenty to thirty years of establishment. They cheered the anointed one because they were cheering five years more of the usual; of the rich getting richer, of the preferred being more preferred, of the monopolists playing more monopoly, of three story houses becoming four or even five, of double parking by your driver turning into triple.

Lam supporters celebrate in the election venue public area. Photo: Lukas Messmer.

These people know they aren’t getting CY 2.0. They are getting Donald 2.0- but without the unhappy ending, we hope. From a script that could have been written by the Pope, she spoke of healing divides and moving forward. She wants to form task forces, seek ideas, be humble and make more effort, all of it perfectly useless, given where we have got to. She is going to pour a lot of concrete, though.

If it is five more years of the usual, let’s remember that protest and revolt are now part of the usual. The boys and girls dreaming in dark alleys of uprisings know that in the reign of Carrie, they will face two years for chucking a brick or playing Guy Fawkes with a trash bin. The trouble with deterrent sentences is that they can have Romanov results. If you were going to go down for a long time for something against the tsar, it had be something worth going down for.

Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Watching the faces of the electoral mob on the TV, I detected a sense of satisfaction that all was safely battened down and ready for clockwork rule and I couldn’t help wondering if, in the next five years, you might hear more than tick-tock; breaking glass, burning dumpsters, Benzes being turned over, that kind of thing. In which case, Carrie would be the last of the CEs, the end of one of history’s peculiar interregnums. In one of the NPC’s biggest reinterpretations yet, taking all of half an hour, Hong Kong would be fully annexed and a provincial viceroy put in charge.

Now, take heart because, according to my previous predictions, Sixtus was going to be responsible, CY was going to run, and President Park would weather the storm. So this will probably not happen. Instead, divides will be closed like ziplock bags, there will be much moving forward, ideas will abound and humility will be had by all. Probably.

Stuart Wolfendale

Stuart Wolfendale is a freelance columnist, critic and writer based in Hong Kong. He wrote a long running weekly column in the South China Morning Post, was daily diarist of the Eastern Express, back page columnist of the Hong Kong Standard and contributor to Spike magazine. He also trains people in presentation skills and public speaking.