22 October 2016
Can the pan-democrats remain united in their pledge to vote against Beijing's proposed framework for electoral reform? Photo: HKEJ
Can the pan-democrats remain united in their pledge to vote against Beijing's proposed framework for electoral reform? Photo: HKEJ

Beijing moves into high gear in electoral reform battle

Beijing is now making a determined effort to split the pro-democracy camp over its opposition to the official proposal for electoral reform.

Not surprisingly, its latest targets are the Democratic Party and several Legislative Council members from functional constituencies.

After 27 pro-democracy legislators signed a pledge earlier this year to vote against Beijing’s framework, the likelihood of it passing Legco is small. 

While it will take two-thirds of the votes in Legco, which is 47 votes, to approve the proposal, Beijing can count on only 43 votes in favour.

That’s the reason why the Hong Kong and central governments are trying their best to divert four votes from the pro-democrats.

The entire opposition camp will face a big battle in the next few months, as Beijing insists on having the electoral reform package passed as is, so as to change the city’s political landscape.

A propaganda war has broken out between the Beijing authorities and the pro-democracy camp, as both sides insist their stance is better for the future of Hong Kong.

With their unyielding opposition to the proposal, the pro-democrats are trying to force the central government to take a step backward and focus on the uniqueness of Hong Kong’s political landscape.

They want Beijing to come up with a roadmap to the true democracy, including granting the public the right to nominate candidates for chief executive.

However, Beijing seems to regret its commitment to implement a democratic electoral framework in Hong Kong.

They are now playing a word game by saying the framers of the Basic Law never considered the possibility of public nomination.

However, one of the initial drafts of the Basic Law did include a plan for a candidate to be nominated by at least 50 members of the public and then stand for election by a 600-member electoral committee.

Some critics said accepting the framework Beijing laid down on August 31 would imply that Hong Kong abandoned its uniqueness as a special administrative region, as it would mean the central government did not trust Hongkongers to nominate and elect their own leader.

For Beijing loyalists, on the other hand, the framework is the best solution for Hong Kong’s future under the “one country, two systems” principle.

Beijing is now focusing on dividing the pro-democrats via non-core members of the camp.

The Democratic Party, which did change its stance five years ago to vote in favour of Beijing’s electoral plan for the 2011 and 2012 elections, once again is at the top of Beijing’s hit list.

Nelson Wong Sing-chi and Tik Chi-yuen, who are veteran Democrats without a seat in Legco in the current term, recently came out to express their support for Beijing’s electoral reform package.

“Take it first,” they said, and use the power of “one person, one vote” to deny Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying a second term in 2017.

The pair said accepting the proposal should help the opposition consolidate its power to bargain for political reform in future.

They called on the pan-democrats in Legco to accept the limited democracy based on Beijing’s framework, which provides that only two to three hopefuls who win majority support from a 1,200-strong nominating committee can go forward to a public vote.

Some speculated that Wong, a former lawmaker, would seek a return to Legco in next year’s election, and so his remarks could be a warm-up for his campaign.

But Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau reiterated the party’s members in Legco will stand firm against Beijing’s proposal.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong, the lawmaker representing the accountancy constituency, said people from Beijing have been trying to persuade him to change his stance and support the proposal, in exchange for future benefits.

But Leung denied that he will vote in favour of the proposal.

Charles Mok Nai-kwong, who represents the information technology constituency in Legco, is also said to be the target of an attempt by Beijing to obtain his vote.

The public needs to think carefully about who is behind the “take it first” campaign within the opposition camp.

What would be the costs and benefits of accepting Beijing’s proposal?

Politicians should act for the good of Hong Kong, rather than for their own political interests.

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EJ Insight writer

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