To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
Wm Shakespeare (Hamlet)
Shakespeare had a much greater talent than most of us for expressing ideas succinctly – and asking questions the same way. But while the meaning in this speech by Hamlet was whether it is better to live or die, it is not my intention to go quite that far!
By freely expressing your thoughts on politics or religion, no matter how well intentioned, you stand to lose more friends than you might expect, which is one reason I rarely get involved publicly, preferring to remain blissfully ignorant on the side lines of the machinations being undertaken - over which I have absolutely no control; not a good situation if you're a bit of a control freak!
But first, let me take a step back.
Although it might have been the best deal on the table at the time, the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 left Hong Kong with a somewhat unwieldy or even "unworkable" political structure.
In simplistic terms, the recipe was:
a) Take a Civil Service (and a very good one at that), and call it Government. It was unelected, unable to be voted out of "power", yet it was to be held accountable for whatever decisions it took.
b) Elect 30 representatives by a process of universal suffrage out of geographical constituencies, and 30 representatives from a series of “functional constituencies", generally representing business interests.
c) Create a Legislative Council (Legco), put all 60 representatives inside and call it - for want of a better word - opposition, who are actually accountable for very little.
Although there is provision in Hong Kong's Basic Law for full universal suffrage, this is unlikely to happen for some time yet and therefore political parties in Legco (represented largely by the 30 geographical constituencies) will be waiting a while before they might be in position to form a Government. So they tend to say whatever they think will get them re-elected even perhaps if they think the "Government" is probably correct. But agreeing with the Government does not appeal to most of the 45% (2008 figures; last Legco election) of eligible voters who bother to exercise that right. Apathy reigns with the remainder.
The election of Hong Kong's Chief Executive follows another system. It is an "election" decided by an Electoral Committee that represents around 0.01% of Hong Kong's population
Traditionally it appears to be done on a nod and a wink from Beijing, with their candidate then endorsed by the Committee after, of course, long and serious debate on the merits - or otherwise - of the candidates before them. In the past, the process has been reasonably clear-cut, and so it looked this time round until recently.
The favoured candidate, according to the people who should know, was Henry Tang, until recently the Chief Secretary of Hong Kong - he stepped down to concentrate on running for Chief Executive role. In the background was the seemingly less likely C Y Leung. Former Convener of Hong Kong's Executive Council, and widely reported to be unpopular.
But then the wheels started to come off Mr. Tang's train. First there was his admission last year of infidelity, but his wife stood squarely behind him and all was forgiven apparently. After all, he would not be the first among a list of leaders who have strayed - and undoubtedly will not be the last.
But perhaps strangely, a little before that admission was made came a flurry of views in the Chinese press that were suddenly supportive of Mr. Leung. No particular reason seemed to be forthcoming - but it was as if the media had suddenly woken to the qualities of the candidate in second-place. Being of cynical mind, I don't suppose this would have been anything to do with people in high places becoming aware of the announcement about to be made, and deciding to "float" the idea of a credible new candidate?
And so it has continued. In the best traditions of politicking, little gossipy things were hitting the media on and about both camps - and then came the bombshell. Or should that be bomb shelter!
The "discovery" of an illegal structure having been built under a home owned by Mrs. Tang. Not, of course, the first time that illegal structures have featured in Hong Kong, some belonging to senior people in both private and public sectors, but once found usually dealt with quickly and removed. It is harder though, to remove a 2,300 sq ft (214 sq m) illegal construction built under a property.
The suggestion that it could have been an oversight was hastily dismissed, and then the previously supportive Mrs. Tang was made to tearfully confess that it was all her idea.
If the people who make the decisions about who should, or should not, be elected were worried about the earlier admissions - they must be positively stressed out by this one. But what happens next is beyond the knowledge of a non-Chinese foreigner. We shall have to wait and see, although the question Henry Tang must be asking himself is "To be ... or not to be"?
If the polls are anything to go by, the public view is that Mr. Tang should not stand for election. I can only suggest another quotation, while he thinks about it:
To lead people, walk beside them ... As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate.
Lao-tzu - Chinese philosopher - 6th Century BC