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Beijing Can’t Afford a Slip in HK

Sep 01, 2014
  • Zhou Bajun

    Current Affairs Commentator, Hong Kong

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has categorically framed the method for the election of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s chief executive (CE) in 2017 through universal suffrage. The NPC Standing Committee’s decision on Aug 31 rules out the opposition’s demand of “civil nomination” and “three-track proposal”, and clearly says that the nominating committee alone is authorized to choose two or three CE candidates who win more than half of the nominating committee members’ votes. This dashes the opposition’s dream of “genuine universal suffrage”.

Some local commentators, however, have criticized the NPC Standing Committee’s decision for being too stringent to match Hong Kong’s political spectrum.

It was the SAR government that put forward a “mainstream package” for public consultation to modify the methods for the 2007 CE election and 2008 Legislative Council (LegCo) election, as well as for the 2012 CE election. But it didn’t come up with any concrete proposal for universal suffrage in the 2017 CE election during the first stage of the five-month public consultation. During the second stage of public consultation, the SAR government will detail the framework laid by the NPC Standing Committee.

The reason for this significant change is that the CE election through universal suffrage is not a political reform. Instead, it is a constitutional development that will have a profound impact on the relationship between the SAR and the nation, and between the SAR government and the central authorities.

In the modifications of the two methods for the 2007 CE and 2008 LegCo elections, and the 2012 CE election, the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing was only partly affected. But the election of a CE through universal suffrage will completely change the relationship. Only by conforming to the Basic Law and the decisions of the NPC Standing Committee can Hong Kong achieve universal suffrage without breaching the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

But ignoring this basic fact, the opposition camp in Hong Kong and its foreign supporters have been demanding “genuine universal suffrage” based on so-called international norms. They even organized the “Occupy Central” campaign to compel Beijing to let them have their way, because they want to overhaul the constitutional arrangement between Hong Kong and Beijing and violate the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

Since the incumbent Hong Kong CE and his ruling team are entangled in administrative difficulties at this critical juncture, the central government has to lend greater support to them in confronting the opposition. As part of the central government’s efforts, NPC Standing Committee Chairman Zhang Dejiang, during his visit to Shenzhen in July, asked the “Love the Nation, Love Hong Kong” camp to more strongly back the CE to defend the fundamentals of the SAR’s constitutional development. The central government is committed to taking the SAR’s constitutional development in the right direction, and leading the SAR government and people toward universal suffrage on the lines of the Basic Law and NPC Standing Committee’s decisions.

The political situation in Hong Kong now is more complicated than ever before. The opposition camp, also called “pan-democrats”, is a loose alliance, some of whose member groups occupy extreme political positions with others, to different extents, circling around one pole. The Democratic Party used to be a group of “moderate democrats” until the first half of 2010 when Hong Kong was struggling to modify the two methods for the 2012 CE election. Some HongKong residents expect it to become “moderate democrat” again for the 2017 CE election.

But times have changed. Four years ago the Democratic Party accepted the central government’s suggested method of electing five new members from HongKong’s district constituencies according to the Basic Law and the NPC Standing Committee’s decisions. Now, the entire opposition camp is seeking “genuine universal suffrage”. The difference between the Democratic Party and its confederates is one of political tactics rather than political standpoint. There is no room for “moderate democrats” in HongKong now, because the opposition camp is making every effort to turn the SAR into an independent political entity.

Since Hong Kong’s fundamental political contradiction is irreconcilable and the 2017 CE election is critical for the SAR’s political future, Beijing has to take measures to rule out any possibility of the opposition grabbing power.

The opposition camp responded to the NPC Standing Committee’s decision by announcing a series of acts, including quickly occupying Central to paralyze Hong Kong as an international financial and logistics hub, vowing to continue its non-cooperation movement. No matter what the opposition does the central government won’t budge from its stance, because it cannot allow the reigns of power in Hong Kong to shift to the opposition.

Zhou Bajun is a veteran current affairs commentator in Hong Kong.

Copyright: China Daily

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