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
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.