Since Hong Kong began grappling with issues related to the 2017 chief executive election, central government officials and members of the pro-establishment camp have lost no time in asserting that electoral reforms must be seen through the prism of national security, and that the city’s top leader must be a person who “loves the country and Hong Kong” and does not act against Beijing.
The pan-democracy camp has taken umbrage at this, saying that the notion of national security is nothing but a lame excuse to screen out CE candidates that are not favorably disposed toward the central government.
Ming Pao notes in an editorial this Monday that most of the locals who will be eligible to vote in 2017 agree that national security is an issue on which some assurance need to be given since Hong Kong is still a special administrative region of China. However, people have a problem if the issue is sought to be given precedence over Hong Kong’s democratic development.
The newspaper urged Beijing to apply its political wisdom and find a way to safeguard its sovereignty rights while at the same time accommodating Hongkongers’ popular aspiration for democracy.
It’s a fallacy that implementing unscreened universal suffrage in the territory will be at the cost of China’s national security.
Some have expressed concerns that due to Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center and a pivotal springboard for renminbi internationalization, any turmoil in the territory’s financial system will have a chain effect on the mainland. According to them, China’s national security worries are more about safeguarding its financial and trade interests in the context of Hong Kong.
It’s safe to say that the Hong Kong CE election cannot be linked to any possible US-led threat to China in finance and trade. Adopting a conservative approach to universal suffrage by putting up high threshold for candidates to avert such false threats can only lead to an outcome where Hong Kong becomes increasingly ungovernable. If the territory is embroiled in an abyss of political chaos due to stalled democratic development, it will ultimately be at odds with China’s core interests.
Johannes Chan Man-mun, former dean of Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong, has proposed that all CE candidates must go through integrity checks just like the process of appointing principal officials and members of the Executive Council. And once the CE is elected, he must declare that he will uphold the Basic Law, safeguard national interests and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR. Any violation of the oath can be a criminal offense.
Chan hopes that with such assurances, Beijing should be able to trust Hong Kong people and allow candidates from the pan-democracy camp to run in the election.
Andrew Fung, director and CEO of the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, also suggests a “back up” mechanism to replace the “collective nomination” of CE candidates — seen as Beijing’s bottom line to screen out unfavorable persons by requiring all contenders to secure the support from no less than half of the members of the nomination committee.
In Fung’s plan, the nomination threshold can be lowered but if 30 percent of the members of the nomination committee believe a candidate may have colluded with foreign countries, a special hearing can be convened for the concerned candidate to explain. If the voting result shows that more than half of the committee members are still unconvinced, then the candidate’s qualification can be vetoed.
The central authorities are yet to respond to these suggestions, but as of now it’s apparent that Beijing still feels that weeding out problem candidates is the best way to ensure national security.
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