There is no provision in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution, that the chief executive “must love the country and Hong Kong”.
But in the State Council’s white paper issued in June on the practice of “one country, two systems”, the ambiguous criterion is a must not only for the chief executive but also for principal government officials as well as other “administrators” (in the English, version the white paper uses this word) including judges and judicial officers.
Apparently, the requirement is not laid out in the Basic Law in the first place and I regard it as an “unauthorized building work” outside Hong Kong’s constitutional and legal framework.
The Hong Kong Bar Association pointed out in a statement shortly after the white paper’s release that judges and judicial officers are not part of “Hong Kong’s administrators” or part of the governance team upon whom a political requirement (such as they “must love the country and Hong Kong”) is imposed.
Sadly, strong objections and requests to set the record straight have fallen on deaf ears.
The unilateral release of the white paper and the Chinese legislature’s conservative ruling on the 2017 chief executive election method reflect Beijing’s overbearing nature without the slightest care for how Hongkongers might feel.
It will be safe to say that the SAR government’s task force on electoral reform led by a trio of top officials (Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam) was nothing but a puppet despite its catchy slogans like “let’s talk and achieve universal suffrage”.
Hong Kong’s road to reunification with the mainland should be on the basis of democracy which is consistent with the principle of “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong and a high degree of autonomy” prescribed in the Basic Law.
Hong Kong people are rational and realistic. They know that maintaining sound relations with Beijing is in line with their core interests.
And it is highly unlikely that they would vote for someone who is in revolt against Beijing if they can have genuine universal suffrage.
But if the central authorities take a hard line on the matter by weeding out unfavorable candidates in the name of ensuring all candidates “love the country and Hong Kong”, there will be deep public resentment, especially among young students who will never submit meekly to Beijing.
China once suffered social turmoil and loss of sovereign rights amid conflicts between numerous warlords and foreign powers.
Thus, it’s understandable that the Communist Party regards sovereignty and territorial integrity as its utmost national concerns even at the cost of people’s well-being.
In this circumstance, patriotism and nationalism are among the well-trodden ideological paths to brainwash people and convince them to sacrifice their own rights, interests and even lives for the party and the country.
But if you ask Hongkongers, who are well-educated civil citizens, to indiscriminately love China, you will know that Beijing’s hidden motive is to handpick loyalists and eliminate unorthodox or politically incorrect views. Hongkongers’ right to choose is its last concern.
The majority of Hongkongers acknowledge the political reality that the Communist Party is the only ruling political entity in the mainland, and while preventing China from falling apart, the party has orchestrated phenomenal economic growth.
But if Beijing redefines Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” at its pleasure and go back on its word simply on its economic muscle, then the promised “one person, one vote” is nothing but a sham election with Beijing pulling the strings. Hong Kong’s younger generation definitely won’t accept this.
Some heavyweights in the local business community have expressed concern that slogans advocating full autonomy and Hong Kong people’s final say in constitutional matters may further infuriate Beijing and complicate the issue when overseas media has already labeled the protest a revolution.
Some even fear the worst-case scenario — bloodshed or deployment of troops.
I see these concerns as out and out alarmist. The common demand of students is Leung Chun-ying’s resignation for his negligence in safeguarding Hong Kong’s values and his failure to convey public views to Beijing.
Their demand has, most definitely, nothing to do with accusations that they are inciting the overthrow of the central government.
What has already touched a chord among all Hongkongers, on top of their perseverance and commitment, is the students’ clear logic and rationale.
What they are fighting for is their personal rights to a free vote which do not pose any threat to the Communist Party’s rule in the mainland.
Quite the contrary, as I’ve mentioned, most of them agree that the mainland will be once again pushed into an abyss of chaos if the Communist Party loses control. In turn, Hong Kong will be among the first to suffer.
The students have been sleeping in the streets for more than two weeks and none of them have asked to meet cadres from Beijing or threatened to stage a sit-in in the mainland.
What they want is dialogue with local officials (like Carrie Lam) to discuss local political affairs and make their voice heard.
How can that be a color revolution manipulated by evil overseas powers?
This article appeared in the Oct. 15 issue of the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
Translation by Frank Chen
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