Con­cil­i­a­tion way for­ward for HK 2017 re­form pack­age can be viewed as the start­ing point for a joint po­lit­i­cal ven­ture for the SAR and the cen­tral gov­ern­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

While the Ba­sic Law and the “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” pol­icy pro­vide a frame­work for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of univer­sal suf­frage for the chief ex­ec­u­tive elec­tion in 2017, re­cent ten­sions between “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” and anti-“Oc­cupy” sup­port­ers are wor­ry­ing. Be­fore the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of theN­ational Peo­ple’s Congress an­nounces its de­ci­sion on elec­toral re­form at the end of Au­gust, the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the “pan-democrats” must work hard to over­come the present po­lit­i­cal stale­mate, which has po­lar­izedHongKong so­ci­ety and­may do long-term dam­age to the Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion’s co­he­sive­ness.

Trig­gered by the op­po­si­tion camp’s col­lec­tion of 800,000 of their sup­port­ers’ sig­na­tures and con­tin­ued threats to es­ca­late their protests if the cen­tral gov­ern­ment doesn’t meet their de­mands on a nom­i­na­tion thresh­old for can­di­dates, the anti-“Oc­cupy” sup­port­ers re­sponded by gath­er­ing 1.5 mil­lion sig­na­tures (250,000 are said to have joined the Aug 17 ral­lies). Judg­ing from the nu­mer­i­cal dif­fer­ences between the two sets of sig­na­tures, if an elec­tion were held to­day, a “pan-demo­crat” can­di­date would not win. Con­tin­ued ver­bal threats will only stiffen Bei­jing’s re­solve not to yield. It will also up­set many or­di­naryHongkongers. They are con­cerned about the po­lar­iza­tion of so­ci­ety and the threat to their liveli­hoods. More­over, the “pan-democrats” do not ap­pear to have earned suf­fi­cient trust from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in re­gard to their sup­port for the One Coun­try prin­ci­ple.

While there are ap­par­ently no univer­sal or in­ter­na­tional stan­dards of democ­racy, there is a good guid­ing prin­ci­ple on lov­ing the coun­try. This was set forth on Jan 20, 1961, when then-US pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy said, in his iconic in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, that his fel­low Amer­i­cans should “ask not what your coun­try can do for you, ask what you can do for your coun­try”. JFK’s ap­peal still res­onates with peo­ple. It is rea­son­able, there­fore, to ques­tion the ar­gu­ments of the “pan-democrats”. If the cur­rent elec­tion pack­age were to be ac­cepted, would the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment be full of pro-Bei­jing fac­tions? Pre­sum­ably this would be harm­ful to Hong Kong’s in­ter­ests? This only adds to the cur­rent con­fu­sion. Are the “pan-democrats” im­ply­ing that pro-Bei­jing politi­cians are “in­com­pe­tent” and would not take care of Hongkongers’ in­ter­ests? Where is the proof that the op­po­si­tion camp can field more com­pe­tent chief ex­ec­u­tive can­di­dates?

How­ever, there is a con­struc­tive way for the two sides to reach a com­pro­mise. This would ac­com­mo­date the in­ter­ests of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the SAR.

To over­come the bot­tle­neck, it would be bet­ter to reach agree­ment on a nom­i­na­tion thresh­old. Bei­jing has pro­posed that can­di­dates should ob­tain 50 per­cent sup­port from the 1,200 Nom­i­nat­ing Com­mit­tee mem­bers. The “pan-democrats” have pro­posed a lower thresh­old of one-eighth. I sug­gest five-six­teenths should be the thresh­old, which is the mid­point between a half and oneeighth. This would al­low eas­ier en­try and pro­vide equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for more can­di­dates.

This could, hope­fully, put the is­sue of the “le­git­i­macy” of the chief ex­ec­u­tive to rest. It could soften the con­fronta­tional rhetoric com­ing from the op­po­si­tion camp.

Next, af­ter the can­di­dates are nom­i­nated, theNom­i­nat­ing Com­mit­tee should start a “spe­cial veto mech­a­nism” as pro­posed byHong Kong Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor FungHo-ke­ung. The mech­a­nism could elim­i­nate un­suit­able can­di­dates. It would in­clude (but not be limited to) check­ing their track record on “love the coun­try, loveHong Kong”.

This screen­ing pro­ce­dure would in­crease the like­li­hood of the re­form pack­age be­ing ap­proved by twothirds of Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil mem­bers be­foreHong Kong vot­ers cast their votes.

Sound po­lit­i­cal re­form should not end with elec­tions. The per­for­mance of the elected chief ex­ec­u­tive and his or her ad­min­is­tra­tion should be reg­u­larly eval­u­ated by polling or­ga­ni­za­tions, think tanks, me­dia and gov­ern­ment agen­cies. Th­ese could con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tor Hong Kong’s po­lit­i­cal progress as a ref­er­ence point for future re­form— if needed. So, the 2017 re­form pack­age can be viewed as the start­ing point for a joint po­lit­i­cal ven­ture for al­lHong Kong par­ties and the cen­tral gov­ern­ment.

In fu­tureHong Kong must em­brace a pos­i­tive, new, po­lit­i­cal cul­ture if we are to con­tinue to pros­per and live in har­mony to­gether. The au­thor is an in­de­pen­dent scholar and free­lance writer. She is also the founder and pres­i­dent of the China-US Friend­ship Ex­change, Inc.

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