HK awaits vi­tal year in con­sti­tu­tional re­form

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

This year will go down as an event­ful one forHong Kong. What started as a mis­read­ing of Beijing’s “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” pol­icy forHong Kong cul­mi­nated in rau­cous “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” protests. The fi­nal site of the protests was cleared by theHong Kong po­lice onMon­day, open­ing the roads that had been blocked for two and half months.

To clear mis­un­der­stand­ings over the “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” pol­icy, the State Coun­cil In­for­ma­tion Of­fice is­sued a White Pa­per ti­tled “The Prac­tice of the ‘One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems’ Pol­icy in theHong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion” on June 10. In fact, the White Pa­per was in­tended to make clear the ex­ist­ing po­lit­i­cal mean­ings of the “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” pol­icy and the Ba­sic La­wofHong Kong SAR, which have been in force for more than 17 years.

But some peo­ple in­Hong Kong mis­in­ter­preted it as Beijing’s at­tempt to tighten the SAR’s pol­icy. And the most con­tentious is­sue be­came univer­sal suf­frage and elec­tion ofHong Kong’s chief ex­ec­u­tive (CE) in 2017, es­pe­cially the nom­i­na­tion process of the can­di­dates.

Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 45 of the Ba­sic Law and the decision of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, the Hong Kong CE shall be elected through univer­sal suf­frage after be­ing nom­i­nated by a broadly rep­re­sen­ta­tive nom­i­na­tion com­mit­tee in ac­cor­dance with demo­cratic pro­ce­dures, and the nom­i­na­tion com­mit­tee should be formed ac­cord­ing to An­nex I of the Ba­sic Law. This means the CE should be cho­sen in 2017 through elec­tion— or through con­sul­ta­tions held lo­cally— and ap­pointed by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment and theHong Kong gov­ern­ment want to strictly follow the Ba­sic Lawand the NPC Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s decision, whileHong Kong’s prodemoc­racy camp wants the CE can­di­dates to be nom­i­nated di­rectly by vot­ers or po­lit­i­cal par­ties fol­low­ing so-called in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, which goes against the NPC Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s decision as well as the Ba­sic Law.

The NPC Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s decision came on Aug 31 after theHong Kong gov­ern­ment sub­mit­ted a po­lit­i­cal re­form plan. In short, the decision says the num­ber of mem­bers, or­ga­ni­za­tion and se­lec­tion method of theHong Kong nom­i­na­tion com­mit­tee should be in ac­cor­dance with that of the elec­tion com­mit­tee for the CE elec­tion in 2017. This means the 1,200 com­mit­tee mem­bers will still rep­re­sent four sec­tors of so­ci­ety (in­dus­trial, com­mer­cial and fi­nan­cial sec­tor; pro­fes­sional fields; la­bor rep­re­sen­ta­tives; and re­li­gion lead­ers) and their ra­tio will re­main the same; CE can­di­dates must get more than half of the nom­i­na­tion com­mit­tee’s votes to contest the elec­tion; and the num­ber of CE can­di­dates will be limited to two or three.

The pro-democ­racy camp re­acted strongly to the NPC Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s decision, al­leg­ing that it was an at­tempt to thwartHong Kong’s univer­sal suf­frage project for 2017. The protests gal­va­nized into the “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” cam­paign that started on Sept 28 and lasted two and half months, with the demon­stra­tors and their or­ga­niz­ers claim­ing their protests were for the good of HongKong. But the only thing the “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” cam­paign has done is to ex­tract a heavy price fromHong Kong so­ci­ety.

The Ba­sic Lawand the sys­tem it has helped es­tab­lish are re­spected byHong Kong so­ci­ety, which shows that the “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” move­ment was il­le­gal. Hong Kong is a ma­ture so­ci­ety ruled by lawand thus has enough space for po­lit­i­cal dis­sent and peace­ful protests. But “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” was nei­ther, be­cause of its pro­cliv­ity for vi­o­lence and in­tem­per­ate ac­tion.

Next year will be cru­cial for the de­vel­op­ment of demo­cratic pol­i­tics in­Hong Kong. The sec­ond round of po­lit­i­cal con­sul­ta­tions will start in 2015, and the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil will vote onHong Kong’s con­sti­tu­tional re­form project ad­vanced byHong Kong SAR gov­ern­ment. The cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s at­ti­tude to­ward the de­vel­op­ment of univer­sal suf­frage in­Hong Kong has been con­sis­tent, andHong Kong res­i­dents have reached four agree­ments onHong Kong CE’s elec­tion. Con­sid­er­ingHong Kong’s po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, there­fore, the pro-democ­racy camp should aban­don its mis­guided ideas to pro­pel con­sti­tu­tional re­form back to the le­gal sys­tem. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at Shen­zhen Univer­sity and mem­ber of Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion ofHong Kong andMa­cao Stud­ies.

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