Constrained by Beijing, Whither Hong Kong's Democracy?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 3, 2014
Summary: The CCP People's Congress has issued a "reform package." It has drawn a
line in the sand regarding the Chief Executive elections. It has
rejected Hong Kongers' demands for "genuine universal suffrage." This
move has undermined trust between Hong Kong and Beijing. It will provoke
Hong Kongers to a new wave of unrest. For the people of Hong Kong, this
is admittedly a huge setback. How should they go about their fight for
democracy in the face of such setbacks? They will need farsightedness
and calm. They must not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by momentary
anger and anxiety.
Full Text Below:
The CCP People's Congress has issued a "reform package." It has drawn a line in the sand regarding the Chief Executive elections. It has rejected Hong Kongers' demands for "genuine universal suffrage." This move has undermined trust between Hong Kong and Beijing. It will provoke Hong Kongers to a new wave of unrest. For the people of Hong Kong, this is admittedly a huge setback. How should they go about their fight for democracy in the face of such setbacks? They will need farsightedness and calm. They must not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by momentary anger and anxiety.
The resolution passed by the CCP Standing Committee has disappointed even moderate Hong Kongers. The main reason is that Beijing is unwilling to agree to even small compromises. It has dug in its heels and further reduced the size of the birdcage. Hong Kongers now feel that Beijing is deliberately oppressing them and reneging on its promises of "one country, two systems."
Hong Kong's pan-democrats are uncomfortable about several constraints. One. The CCP Peoples Congress stipulated that Chief Executive candidates shall be nominated by a Nomination Committee. Other methods of nomination, such as by political parties, were rejected. Two. The Nomination Committee can nominate only two to three candidates. The candidates must receive majority support from 1200 Nomination Committee members. This provision greatly reduces the chance of pan-democrats being among the finalists. Three. The Peoples Congress declared that if the Legislative Council fails to come up with specific measures based on these principles, the Hong Kong Chief Executive election will continue to use the old Election Committee system. Hong Kongers will not be able to implement universal suffrage.
Hong Kongers in general, and students in particuar, are most angry with the first constraint. The CCP has agreed to universal suffrage. Yet it has refused to adopt a more open approach to the nomination of candidates from all walks of life. Instead, nominees are restricted to "patriots who love Hong Kong." This is the main reason Hong Kongers want to Occupy Central. Actually the second and third constraints are more troubling to the Hong Kong pan-democrats. These constraints leave them in a nominally improved but actually worsened situation. They intensify the conflict between them and the average Hong Konger.
Consider their nominally improved but actually worsened situation. The current approach for the Chief Executive Elections requires the approval of only one-eight of the Election Committee members to nominate a candidate. The pan-democrats may be few in numbers, but they still stand a chance of nominating their own candidates. Now that Beijing has raised the threshold to one-half however, the pan-democrats are likely to lose any chance to take part in the elections. In other words, Hong Kong may now enjoy universal suffrage, but given Hong Kong politics, the pan-democrats may lose the opportunity to participate because of the the raised threshold for eligibility. This is the essence of the political fight.
To this end, 25 pan-democrat lawmakers out of the 70 members of the Legislative Council, have issued a joint statement. They have expressed full support for the Occupy Central movement. They also plan to vote against the Peoples Congress plan in the Legislative Council, rejecting what they consider an unreasonable Chief Executive election process. But if the new approach fails to pass, then Hong Kong's special election will remain a "small circle election." Citizens will not enjoy universal suffrage. As a result, the pan-democrats may be accused of "obstructing universal suffrage." Given their stand on Occupy Central, they may even be accused of "neglecting stability and prosperity of Hong Kong." This could drive a wedge between them and the people of Hong Kong. The pan-democrats must weigh these possibilities and respond wisely. Only then will Hong Kong's hard-won democratic achievements not be lost.
The Chinese Communist Party has displayed its iron fist. One. It is worried about meddling from foreign powers who have infiltrated the Hong Kong democrats. Two. It is concerned about the "Hong Kong model" and the shock effect it has on the Mainland. Three. It wants to show that Beijing will not tolerate threats from the Occupy Central movement. The pan-democrats' reading is that the CCP has no intention of implementing universal suffrage in Hong Kong. That is why it set such a high threshold. It wants to force the democrats to quit. In any event, the current situation poses a dilemma for the pan-democrats. If they charge ahead, they could undermine Hong Kong's stability. If they retreat, they could lose whatever foothold they have. Therefore they must carefully determine where to draw the line.
For the moment, the Occupy Central movement appears ready to pull the trigger. It cannot retreat. This is especially true for the younger generation in Hong Kong. They find it difficult to tolerate a situation in which democracy cannot advance and remains constrained. But politicians, attorneys, and others affected by politics cannot place all their hopes on street demonstrations. They must attempt to advance their goals through the system or parliamentary means.
Many Hong Kongers emulated the March student movement on Taiwan. They held high the banner of "civil disobedience," in defiance of Beijing. In fact, the two movements are not at all comparable. The March student movement faced a relatively soft democratic regime. Its demands were simple. Hong Kong, by contrast, faces a set of far more complex issues pertaining to democracy. Standing on the opposite side is Beijing, a force vastly more powerful than the KMT, even during KMT one-party rule. Also, the Mainland and Hong Kong have no experience with democracy to speak of. These differences in historical context and social perception mean that Hong Kong democrats must allow more time to reverse their fortunes. Expecting otherwise would be wishful thinking.
The CCP People's Congress announced its changes to Hong Kong's political system. On the same day, Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai was reelected with 96% of the vote, in a small circle election. Separated by water, Hong Kong and Macao find themselves in different situations. Hong Kong insists on its pursuit of democracy. It has shaken the world. But this is a long road it has embarked upon, one that will require time, patience, and dialogue in addition to confrontation. After all, Taiwan's road to democracy took 30 years. Yet this is all it has come to.
2014.09.03 02:11 am