Date
21 July 2017
Pro-democracy legislators display a banner that reads "I want universal suffrage" in Hong Kong's Legislative Council as pro-Beijing lawmakers look on. Photo: Bloomberg
Pro-democracy legislators display a banner that reads "I want universal suffrage" in Hong Kong's Legislative Council as pro-Beijing lawmakers look on. Photo: Bloomberg

Pan-democrats must shed ‘pocket it first’ electoral illusions

Some members of the pan-democratic camp think Hongkongers should accept the proposal that has been laid out by Beijing on the 2017 chief executive election before seeking an improvement later.

So, as they say, should we “pocket it first”?

Before we make a decision, there are two fundamental questions that we must answer.

First, can a fake election eventually lead to a genuine one?

Yes, but rarely. If the regime is willing to reform, it could happen. But based on real-life examples, we see that undemocratic elections typically stay undemocratic. We can see plenty of such cases, including the mainland, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and so on.

For decades, there has hardly been any improvement in elections in these places to incorporate more democratic elements.

The second question is, will a fake election do any good to the public and the society as a whole?

As the election is undemocratic, some talented and genuinely representative candidates are cast out and results from such elections are usually worse than what a genuine one can deliver, as what always come along with a fake vote are censorship, “blackbox” operation, transfer of benefits and so on.

As Beijing has repeatedly rejected requests to officially pledge that it will improve the system for future elections, we know that once the current bill gets passed, election methods can only become more conservative, let alone improve.

Looking at the way, Beijing has treated the Basic Law and its many promises during the 18 years since the handover, we all know what will happen to the election bill.

When genuine universal suffrage is not a possibility, the pan-democratic camp really ought to shed its illusions.

The group would be better off if it remains steadfast and rejects the bill using its critical voting power.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 16.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RC

Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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