Beijing finally closed the raging debate over political reform in Hong Kong when the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Aug. 31 approved a conservative proposal for the 2017 chief executive election.
The most controversial part of the proposal requires all potential candidates to get 50 percent support from a 1,200-people nomination committee, of which the central government has majority control.
After Beijing’s announcement, the democrats are now gearing up to veto the proposal when it comes to the Legislative Council next spring while Beijing and the Hong Kong government have started to put pressure on the legislators to accept the scheme.
Some members of the pro-Beijing camp insist that democrats have missed their golden chance to negotiate with the Communist Party for a better proposal. They also say if democrats reject Beijing’s proposal, they should apologize to the so-called “silent majority” who want to exercise their right to vote even if they have no right to nominate the candidates.
Such criticisms only aim to put the blame on the pan-democratic camp. All along, Beijing has been planning to put forward a conservative proposal, and its strategy of promoting it, of making it palatable to the Hong Kong people, betrays its fears and insecurities over the concept of democratic election.
Here are the arguments that Beijing and its allied parties have presented to promote the 50 percent threshold in its proposal:
(1) The system is aimed at protecting the right of the business community — Wang Zhenmin, dean of the Tsinghua University School of Law.
(2) It is aimed at realizing the collective will of the nomination committee — Rao Geping, a member of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee and a law professor at Peking University.
(3) It is made to ensure that the Chief Executive is a patriot — Zhang Xiaoming, chief of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.
(4) It is made to ensure no triad society member can be elected as chief executive — Charles Ho Tsu-kwok, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) standing committee member and Sing Tao Group chairman.
(5) Even a country such as United States won’t let terrorists to serve as governors — Chen Zuo’er, former deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
(6) There should be no universal suffrage until a national security law is set up based on Article 23 of the Basic Law — Lin Laifan, a professor at Tsinghua University School of Law.
(7) In the United States and Britain, only landlords had the right to vote a century ago, followed by women and the African minority. Therefore, universal suffrage should be implemented step by step — Tung Chee-hwa, former Hong Kong chief executive and CPPCC vice chairman.
(8) If there is an international standard for genuine universal suffrage, all foreign passport holders should be excluded from voting — Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong Chief Executive.
(9) Hong Kong’s electoral reform is related to national security — Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress.
(10) It is a fight of the governing authority — Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee.
After being bombarded with all these arguments, many Hong Kong people may feel confused. But it is not that difficult to understand Beijing’s overriding argument. Simply put, it has no confidence that the pro-establishment camp will win in an open and fair election in 2017.
The arguments then are mere excuses to hide this fact.
In the 2012 Legislative Council election, 1.84 million people, or 53 percent of the 3.47 million registered voters, cast their vote. Among the valid votes, 1.01 million people (56 percent) voted for the candidates from the democratic camp while 738,000 people (41 percent) supported the pro-establishment candidates. The remaining 60,000 people (3 percent) voted for neutral candidates.
Over the last decade, Beijing has tried to strengthen the influence of the pro-establishment camp in the election through different means but is still unable to change the situation. Meanwhile, its hardline stance against the democrats only helped to unify the democratic camp.
From Beijing’s perspective, it is a must to set some rules to block the democrats from winning the chief executive election. And as a matter of course, the democrats have no reason to support Beijing’s proposal.
It is pointless to blame democrats for vetoing Beijing’s proposal as they have warned Beijing that they will do so even before the NPC’s announcement.
If Beijing continues to treat democrats as enemies, its best recourse is to think of ways to strengthen the pro-establishment camp and dilute the support for the democratic camp.
Why doesn’t the central government simply admit that it is not ready to implement universal suffrage in Hong Kong?
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