It’s time for Beijing to take the step to resolve the impasse over the Occupy movement.
The street protests have dragged on for half a month, with both the students and the government of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying standing firmly on their respective positions. Only the central government can do something to break the deadlock.
The student groups leading the protests have issued an open letter to President Xi Jinping urging him to withdraw a decision by the National People’s Congress that set restrictions on the election of Hong Kong’s next chief executive.
This opens a door for the two sides to meet and resolve their differences.
Beijing cannot just look at the situation as if the Hong Kong government can resolve it on its own.
Premier Li Keqiang, during his visit to Germany last Friday, issued the first official response to the Occupy campaign, saying he is confident that “social stability” can be preserved in Hong Kong and that Beijing won’t change its “one country, two systems” approach in running the territory.
Li’s remarks imply that the central government wants Hong Kong to settle the issue by itself within the parameters set by the NPC’s Aug. 31 decision.
But it’s precisely the Chinese legislature’s decision that prompted the pro-democracy camp to launch the Occupy campaign. Beijing cannot expect Leung’s government to resolve the issue on its own without having to change the NPC decision.
The Hong Kong leader told a television interview that it’s useless for protesters to ask him to step down as Beijing will stand firm on its decision.
In other words, Leung has thrown in the towel. He is passing the ball to his bosses in Beijing.
Students, therefore, are wise in issuing their appeal directly to the Chinese leader, rather than expending their energy on useless discussions with Leung and his number two, Carrie Lam, on political reform.
According to some political observers, Beijing has ordered Leung’s government to resolve the issue before Oct. 20, which coincides with the opening of the fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Instead of using the date as a deadline for ending the protests, Beijing should use the occasion to offer an olive branch to the Hong Kong students and a way out of the predicament.
After all, China’s top leaders cannot hope to understand the real situation in Hong Kong, and the democrats’ desire for genuine universal suffrage, if they will just listen to Leung and Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, who only want to communicate to Beijing what it wants to hear.
Meanwhile, student leaders need to prepare for possible talks with the central government, to set their bottom line in their democracy fight.
Given that Beijing’s bottom line is to have a nominating committee that will choose the chief executive candidates rather than to give the public the right to nominate their own bets, students may need to study how such a committee can be made most representative of the Hong Kong people.
Beijing, on the other hand, may need to reconsider its stand on Leung, given his failure to gain the trust of the Hong Kong people, his tolerance of violent groups to counter his opponents, and his arrogance in not communicating directly to the public.
Beijing should understand that the NPC’s electoral reform framework is raising serious doubts among the Hong Kong people about the “one country, two systems” policy.
Beijing should understand that the people’s demand for genuine universal suffrage is not a challenge to its rule, but an acknowledgement of the basic principle governing the relationship between the central government and Hong Kong.
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