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Playing with numbers – and dynamite: The nearly 700,000 people who have voted so far in the unofficial referendum on the SAR’s electoral reforms must be taken seriously

Playing with numbers – and dynamite
Mary Ma
Monday, June 23, 2014
The nearly 700,000 people who have voted so far in the unofficial referendum on the SAR’s electoral reforms must be taken seriously.

Online voting was augmented by the 48,000 who turned up at polling booths to vote on proposals calling for genuine universal suffrage.

No doubt, the turnout will have Occupy Central initiator Benny Tai Yiu- ting and company dancing with joy.

Let’s assume a 20 percent discount for flaws – meaning 560,000 votes are genuine, or nearly 20 percent of three million registered voters.

Before the vote started, Occupy Central claimed its website had been hacked. It even suggested the People’s Liberation Army was behind it.

This has proven to be a successful tactic to drum up support for the vote. In addition, the Occupy Central organizers used the Beijing “white paper” on Hong Kong’s one country, two systems, to spur the general public into voting.

Of course, one can argue the credibility of how the vote was taken and whether the voting platform succumbed to vote-rigging, fake identities or even fraud.

One can also challenge the service provider – the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme headed by Robert Chung Ting-yiu.

But before mounting such a challenge, you better have concrete evidence. On the surface, Chung has an “air-tight” voting system in place. First, you have to key in your ID number and name, followed by a mobile phone number. You will then receive a SMS message on the cell phone you provided, along with a code. And after you verify it with the code, your vote is counted.

Although it would be possible to round up thousands of cell numbers, it’s doubtful if anyone would go to such lengths for a vote that Beijing has already declared “unlawful.”

Faced with the whole scenario, Beijing won’t sit back and eat humble pie – especially since a large group of youngsters is becoming involved.

But what they’re playing isn’t only a numbers game, they’re playing with dynamite, for they’re whipping up anti- China sentiment.

Unlike the July 1, 2003 march – when 500,000 people took to the streets to protest Article 23 – this vote is “purely” political, with a view to changing how Hong Kong is governed.

After the 2003 march, Beijing adopted a “soft approach” on Hong Kong, offering a series of economic benefits, such as the individual visitor’s scheme, as the territory’s economy was really bad after the SARS epidemic.

But it’s doubtful Beijing will be as soft this time. With President Xi Jinping’s tough policy, hard-liners might have an upper hand.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Gregory So Kam- leung, paid a visit to Beijing last night. This development is worth watching. It may appear far- fetched to make a connection between the sudden visit and Occupy Central movement, but it’s difficult to tell how Beijing might react to the latest tension.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they tighten the screws – especially where its hurts Hong Kong’s economy – by substantially cutting down on the number of mainland visitors

 

Vote looms large in white paper push
Mary Ma
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Developments since Beijing published its white paper on the SAR are becoming more intriguing.

At first, the document was dropped like a torpedo and its ripple effect was vigorous and wide. Then, pro-Beijing heavyweights stepped up the rhetoric to describe it as an “important” document.

However, just as it was the consensus in political circles that Beijing was raising the stakes in the battle over Hong Kong’s political reforms, events appear to be veering off on a different course.

Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office deputy director Zhou Bo and Basic Law Committee deputy director Zhang Rongshun had planned to travel to the SAR, amid expectations they would keep the tough talk going.

But suddenly, they’re not coming.

While retired Beijing official Chen Zuo’er continued to talk tough on Occupy Central yesterday, he was surprisingly mild when admitting it would take time to bridge the gap in understanding the “one country, two systems” concept.

Those who monitored the handover remember that Chen was known for his scathing attacks on former British governor Chris Patten over his rising social spending – comparing it to a sports car that was destined to crash and kill everyone in Hong Kong.

Why the changes, even if they were subtle?

Theories abound that Beijing is trying to calm the waters. Among them, two particularly stand out.

First, Beijing doesn’t want to let the local row spread to the global stage, impacting on Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Britain and Europe.

Second, Sunday’s vote organized by Occupy Central activists is pressing close – too close to keep the fire burning. Otherwise, it would do the radicals a favor by driving more people to vote.

The first theory is unlikely since politics is all about interests. When pan- democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming accused London of not raising the Hong Kong issue with Li, Lee was being unrealistic – if not naive.

London’s primary concern is over Chinese investment creating jobs for British nationals.

The second theory makes better sense. For the unsuspecting, Executive Council member Cheng Yiu-tong raised eyebrows when he described the white paper as nothing special.

Compared to the high-key responses by his pro-Beijing peers during the first few days, Cheng sounded weird.

If there’s nothing special about the white paper, why did the State Council publish it in the first place?

Had they not put off their trip at the last minute, Zhou and Zhang would have been here today rebooting the “one country, two systems” concept.

Society’s feedback has been vigorous since the white paper was published. The barristers’ query of the document’s reference to judges as administrators was unexpected.

Although Law Society president Ambrose Lam San-keung defended the document, it’s hardly comparable to the Bar Association in the public perception.

Perhaps Beijing is adjusting its tactics while sticking to its strategic objective.

 

 

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About bambooinnovator
KB Kee is the Managing Editor of the Moat Report Asia (www.moatreport.com), a research service focused exclusively on highlighting undervalued wide-moat businesses in Asia; subscribers from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing. KB has been rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as an analyst in Asian capital markets. He was head of research and fund manager at a Singapore-based value investment firm. As a member of the investment committee, he helped the firm’s Asia-focused equity funds significantly outperform the benchmark index. He was previously the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. KB has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy, value investing, macroeconomic and industry trends, and detecting accounting frauds in Singapore, HK and China. KB was a faculty (accounting) at SMU teaching accounting courses. KB is currently the Chief Investment Officer at an ASX-listed investment holdings company since September 2015, helping to manage the listed Asian equities investments in the Hidden Champions Fund. Disclaimer: This article is for discussion purposes only and does not constitute an offer, recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any investments, securities, futures or options. All articles in the website reflect the personal opinions of the writer.

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