In 1994, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, quoted a former colonial official as saying: "The Chinese style is not to rig elections, but they do like to know the result before they're held."

Now, as Hong Kong prepares for universal suffrage elections promised by the Chinese government for chief executive in 2017 and for the entire legislature in 2020, there are signs that Beijing has finally honed the art of mobilizing voters to support its candidates, even though it promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 not to interfere in Hong Kong's domestic affairs.

Last week, barrister Alan Leong, the leader of the Civic Party, which along with other pro-democracy parties was trounced by pro-establishment parties in district elections November 6, declared that the Chinese government was "operating Hong Kong's election machine through its Liaison Office" and was able to call up as many votes as it needs in any election.