21 October 2016
Efforts by government officials to promote the electoral proposal have met with a cool reception. Photo: AFP
Efforts by government officials to promote the electoral proposal have met with a cool reception. Photo: AFP

Scholars give timely reminder of dangers of Beijing proposal

The current debate on the officially proposed reform for the 2017 election for chief executive is dominated by government officials, pro-Beijing loyalists and pro-democracy politicians.

But voices from academia are getting more important, as the Beijing-endorsed framework has split society apart.

Now, a group of scholars is calling for lawmakers to reject the proposal, which should help the public get a clearer picture of what Beijing’s game plan in Hong Kong is all about.

The petition is the latest setback for the government’s effort to push the reform package, which deprives Hongkongers of their right to nominate candidates for chief executive.

The latest survey shows that support among the public for the government’s proposal has fallen, reflecting the public’s discomfort or even anger with the plan, given that it violates the core values the people of Hong Kong have held for decades, no matter whether they are from the pro-Beijing or the pro-democracy camps.

Twenty-seven scholars and professionals from various institutions and sectors launched an online petition Monday to “say no” to the trap of authoritarian rule being laid for voters.

It calls for all legislative councilors to vote down the Beijing-endorsed proposal for “universal suffrage”.

The group said in a statement: “We appeal to all Hong Kong citizens to recognize the lies behind ‘pocketing it first’. We urge every Hong Kong resident or supporter to take action to stand firm on Hong Kong people’s core values, preserve Hong Kong people’s dignity and defend Hong Kong’s future.”

Government officials from Hong Kong and Beijing have stressed the importance of implementing “one person, one vote” in the 2017 election, saying their plan grants the right for Hong Kong’s people to choose their own leaders.

But in fact the 1,200 members of the nominating committee, most of whom are Beijing-friendly, will have the additional right to nominate the two or three final contenders for the top post.

Hongkongers will only be allowed to elect their leader based on the preference of the nominating committee’s members.

Some people from the grass roots are saying: “Why do we need to eat your leftovers?” 

The statement accompanying the petition says accepting the electoral reform package could lead to further destruction of the core values Hong Kong’s people want to uphold to avoid authoritarian rule.

These are: liberty, democracy, human rights, rule of law, fairness, social justice, peace and compassion, integrity and transparency, plurality, respect for individuals, and professionalism.

It lists “five disastrous consequences” of “pocketing” the government’s reform package: “end of constitutional reform, serious hegemony and cronyism, taking away our freedom, undermining our market economy and [Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying] getting re-elected”.

The scholars seem to know well the issues at the current stage of debate.

The electoral reform package won’t solve Hong Kong’s existing problems; for example, Hong Kong’s leader can only follow the central government’s policies, forcing the city’s people to bear heavy burdens to please Beijing.

The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail link and the third runway at Hong Kong International Airport are examples.

An opinion poll jointly carried out by three universities showed 42.5 percent of nearly 1,200 respondents said they backed the government’s proposal, down 2.3 percentage points from the previous survey, while 39.5 percent opposed the package, an increase of 0.8 percentage point.

The results followed visits by government officials to local communities in the past two weeks, where their efforts to sell the proposal got a cool response from the public. 

Government officials have achieved nothing with their district visits, and one can conclude that Hongkongers know why they are blindly promoting the package.

Perhaps the scholars’ timely reminder of the disastrous impact of passing the proposal will force Beijing to rethink its policy toward Hong Kong instead of blindly pushing its unpopular political agenda.

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EJ Insight writer

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