Must Beijing Use "One China" to Squeeze Out Hong Kong's "Two Systems?"
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 4, 2014
Summary: All political problems are the result of conflict. Mature politicians
know how to deal with conflict. Hong Kong's "Occupy Central" movement
has made important progress. It has undergone continuous conflict,
debate, and improvement. But will the movement elicit a positive
response from Beijing? Will it help normalize democracy in Hong Kong?
That remains to be seen. The key is Beijing's ability to adopt a more
mature attitude when faced with Hong Konger political views and
feelings. Deng Xiaoping advocated "peaceful reunification of the
motherland." Beijing should respect his generous commitment to Hong
Kongers, as embodied in his declaration of "one country, two systems."
Full Text Below:
On July 1, Hong Kongers took to the streets. Five hundred ten thousand people marched, demanding "real democratic elections" for Hong Kong's Chief Executive. From an outsider's perspective, the fight for democracy in Hong Kong has taken a giant leap forward. But within Hong Kong, the rift among Hong Kong democrats has deepened. Given its reaction, Beijing shows no desire to compromise.
The current "Occupy Central" protest, which followed on the tail of the July 1st march, was not organized by the original promoters of the "Occupy Central" movement. Rather it was organized on an ad hoc basis by two student groups. Hong Kong democrats are divided between "radicals" and "progressives." They are engaged in a power struggle and tug of war over policy. As a result an impatient new generation of students has taken the lead and radicalized the Hong Kong democracy movement.
One development is worrisome. The July 1st march is popular. The "Occupy Central" movement concluded without bloodshed. But success on the streets does not necessarily help the normal operation and development of democratic institutions. They may even do them a disservice. Hong Kong's democratic parties have engaged in long, drawn out disputes over "Occupy Central." Following the June referendum, Democratic Party Chairperson Emily Lau announced the party's withdrawal from the "Alliance for True Democracy." This reveals the profound differences within the "pan-democratic camp." A few years ago, Hong Kong democrats successfully fought for improvements in the democratic election system. Directly elected seats were increased. But the bitter fruit of this was fewer seats won. This shows that the success of street movements bears no relationship to the progress of democracy. Often, there is no direct correlation. This is something that members of the community must recognize as part of the democratic process.
The next thing we must await, is the CCP response. Beijing has long maintained a tough stance. Hong Kongers have repeatedly held referenda, marches, and occupied the Central District. They have repeatedly stepped over Beijing's red line. The general consensus is that Beijing is unlikely to make any concessions. Two days ago the "Global Times," the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece, published an editorial. It said that "The nation cannot possibly make concessions to the Hong Kong July 1st marchers." It characterized the dispute between the central government and Hong Kong as an case of "the nation making concessions." This shows how frustrated and angry the CCP is. But until the gavel comes down, Beijing still has room for accommodation. It can ease concerns among Hong Kongers without leaving outsiders with the impression that Beijing kowtowed to Hong Kong.
First. The July 1st marchers objected to how Chief Executive candidates are selected. The public wants more say in how the Hong Kong government selects the candidates. This desire is hardly radical. The selection of the Chief Executive candidates involves local support, and the SAR government's influence and oversight. This involves only Hong Kong's public interest. All of this falls under governance within the "two systems" framework. It involves no national level sovereignty issues whatsoever. Beijing need not perceive this as a challenge to the "one country" premise.
Second. Beijing has agreed to allow universal suffrage in Hong Kong by 2017. This is an important step. If Beijing demands that a "Nomination Committee" filter the candidates, Hong Kongers will wonder whether the elections are being manipulated. Outsiders may mistakenly conclude that Beijing still prohibits direct elections in Hong Kong. Such conclusions would be counterproductive. One country, two systems stressed that "Hong Kongers would rule Hong Kong." If this is reduced to "Only patriotic Hong Kongers may rule Hong Kong," then "one country" would squeeze out "two systems." This would contradict the original spirit of reunification. Besides, Hong Kongers will surely exercise judgment in whom they select. If Beijing questions Hong Kongers' patriotism, won't that just alienate and anger them?
Third. The "real democratic elections," referendum proposed three alternatives. Different groups in Hong Kong proposed 29 alternatives. The point was merely to increase of candidates nominated by the public, and ensure that the "Nomination Committee" members were more representative. None of these proposals were terribly threatening. Democracies usually resort to party nominations. Public petitions are the exception. Many Hong Kongers, including the "Alliance for Real Democracy" and student groups, may not even realize that the wider the spectrum of nominees, the more difficult it will be for voters to concentrate their votes. This will reduce the candidate's chances of being elected. This is something that Hong Kong democrats shuld be aware of. They must not reflexively conduct referenda or take to the streets. On the other hand, this means that Beijing need not be afraid. It need not tie itself up in knots over this. Beijing would be better to demonstrate goodwill in order to win Hong Kongers' hearts and minds.
All political problems are the result of conflict. Mature politicians know how to deal with conflict. Hong Kong's "Occupy Central" movement has made important progress. It has undergone continuous conflict, debate, and improvement. But will the movement elicit a positive response from Beijing? Will it help normalize democracy in Hong Kong? That remains to be seen. The key is Beijing's ability to adopt a more mature attitude when faced with Hong Konger political views and feelings. Deng Xiaoping advocated "peaceful reunification of the motherland." Beijing should respect his generous commitment to Hong Kongers, as embodied in his declaration of "one country, two systems."
2014.07.04 03:41 am