22 October 2016
Lau Siu-kai (inset left) and Wang Zhenmin (inset right) think Hong Kong people should give up the ghost  because ultimately, Beijing decides. Photos: HKEJ, HK government
Lau Siu-kai (inset left) and Wang Zhenmin (inset right) think Hong Kong people should give up the ghost because ultimately, Beijing decides. Photos: HKEJ, HK government

Fight for democracy: Have we been wasting our time?

Here’s an interesting take from two key pro-Beijing academics: Hong Kong will never have true democracy and that’s just how things are meant to be.

Professors Lau Siu-kai and Wang Zhenmin appear at odds with the government which has been promoting a Beijing-backed election reform proposal, even calling it a historic democratic exercise.

They argue that Hong Kong people opposed to the proposal — or about half of respondents in the latest survey — should give up the ghost because ultimately, Beijing decides.

Lau, former head of the government’s Central Policy Unit, says the entire process, from nomination to election by popular vote, is merely a guide for Beijing in deciding whom to appoint as Hong Kong’s next leader, suggesting someone else could conceivably end up being anointed.

That’s because Beijing will make certain a Beijing loyalist is in place. 

If pan-democrats want to have any role in leading Hong Kong, they should “respect the authority” of the central government, he says.

Lau is suggesting Beijing is working behind the scenes to control the outcome of the 2017 election, regardless of its public posturing and the Hong Kong government’s high-profile efforts to persuade the electorate to accept the proposal.

In effect, he is saying Beijing doesn’t trust Hong Kong people to embrace a Beijing loyalist to lead them.

But what are we to make of Wang’s comments?

Wang, a law professor in Qinghua university and an expert on the Basic Law, believes only tycoons and the business elite have the right to choose the Hong Kong leader because they are the ones who pay the most tax.

That’s why the whole electoral reform package was designed to protect their interests, he says, and any move to extend the franchise to the wider population will dilute their power and influence.

So, he says it’s appropriate that a small-circle nominating process will pick the candidates Hong Kong voters can choose from.

What’s remarkable about these comments is the suggestion that we have been wasting our time.

In fact, their ideas are nothing new. In the months since the National People’s Congress standing committee announced the plan last year, these issues have been debated in political forums and in the public square.

Which is why there is a body of opinion for or against the proposal which Lau and Wang ignored.

The point is not whether we have been wasting our time but how we can make the most of a bad situation. The political deadlock over the proposal will persist as long as neither side is willing to give an inch of ground.

In the past few days, there have been reports that some pan-democrats have submitted a new proposal to Beijing seeking an expanded nomination committee that would allow the public to elect its members based on occupation.

A subsequent poll showed about 70 percent of Hong Kong people would accept such a proposal. 

If Beijing wants Legco to pass the election reform package next month, it should seriously consider fine-tuning the proposal to win over the rest of the population still opposed to it, instead of sending messengers to tell us what we already know.

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EJ Insight writer

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