27 February 2020
Executive Council members, with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, look glum after the NPC Standing Committee announced the electoral reform proposal. Photo: HKEJ
Executive Council members, with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, look glum after the NPC Standing Committee announced the electoral reform proposal. Photo: HKEJ

It’s a wrap: HK papers on Beijing’s election framework

Fifty percent nomination support, four sectors, three or two candidates, one framework.

Hong Kong’s media have a field day reporting on Beijing’s universal suffrage framework.

A scan of the local papers shows five of them have a relatively more negative tone on Beijing’s proposal in their headlines and top stories than their peers. 

Leading the pack was Apple Daily, which splashed, “Protest – Beijing failed to deliver its promise for universal suffrage”. It said 30 years of hope ended up in a grey sky.

The Standard’s headline was “Occupy drums up resistance” while the Hong Kong Economic Journal, the parent publication of, splashed on Beijing’s closing gate that triggered the angry flood of pan-democrats.

Mingpao speculated there would not be any amendment because the framework did not mention 2017 and AM730 worried political reform would go nowhere with both sides standing firm.

Five newspapers including Oriental Daily and Singtao and the three mainland mouthpieces – Wen Wei Pao, Ta Kung Pao and China Daily – have virtually identical headlines on the details of the finalized framework.

The Hong Kong Commercial Daily was the only paper that interpreted Beijing’s open gate to democracy while Hong Kong Economic Times was positive on seeing six enhancements in the proposal, quoting government sources. The South China Morning Post had a simple headline – “Take it or leave it”.

Five other papers, mainly free sheets, had a neutral stand while one other paper led with a different story.

The media war on universal suffrage kicked off in the past weekend with Next Media’s Jimmy Lai Chee-ying in a RTHK interview while Sing Tao boss Charles Ho Chui-kwok appeared in a TVB News program.

Lai made it clear he will participate in Occupy Central, lying on the street or going to jail together with other protesters. He found it hard to accept a pseudo proposal because most people favoured civic nomination. “If your lady is fake, would you marry her?” Lai asked.

Ho, on the other hand, said vetting, rather than civic nomination, is crucial because the future chief executive must love the country and Hong Kong. What if one is a spy, he asked. He cited Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, who could never become a US president because he was born in Germany, not the US.

So what will happen this month ahead of the National Day celebration? One should be a bit worried, looking at the poker faces of the Chief Executive and the Executive Council members. It was like a picture from a funeral ceremony.

So is Hong Kong dead?

They should have put on a happy face like National People’s Congress member Maria Tam Wai-chu or Ma Fung-kwok if the proposal is really good for Hong Kong. Or are they worrying about Occupy Central or an eventual fall of the current administration?

We leave the last word to investor David Webb, who suggests a failure of universal suffrage could mean universal suffering.

“The unfortunate takeaway from all this (universal suffrage framework) is that Hong Kong will continue indefinitely with a series of chief executives who have no real mandate and find it almost impossible to do anything other than handouts (until the money runs out) and populist interventions in the economy. This is not so much a recipe for universal suffrage as universal suffering.”

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EJ Insight writer