14 November 2019
Two men walk past a wall bearing the Chinese characters for “disobedience”, part of the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign, on Aug. 31, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Two men walk past a wall bearing the Chinese characters for “disobedience”, part of the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign, on Aug. 31, 2014. Photo: Reuters

There’s still hope after genuine universal suffrage rejected

Exactly a year ago today, Hong Kong people experienced one of the darkest days in their history when Beijing shut the door on their quest for genuine universal suffrage.

The resolution issued by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on the method of choosing Hong Kong’s next leader in 2017 prompted hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers to take to the streets to register their outrage over the political reform plan.

A year after, is there still a chance for Beijing to change its mind and allow a more democratic election in Hong Kong?

For the pan-democrats, the situation seems getting worse after the Umbrella Movement ended with their demand for genuine universal suffrage still nowhere near than when they started with the 79-day protests.

It seems that the Leung Chun-ying administration has no intention of letting the civil disobedience action go unpunished. It is filing charges left and right against key figures of the pro-democracy campaign.

He still has about two years left as chief executive, and he doesn’t want his enemies to make it more difficult for him to gain a second term of office.

While CY Leung has bared his claws and fangs in dealing with the pan-democrats, Beijing’s top leaders appear to be taking a more conciliatory approach.

Feng Wei, deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, met with key officials of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong last week, the first time that such a meeting took place since the party clinched an electoral reform deal with Beijing in 2010 after meeting with officials of the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong.

Both sides refused to reveal what transpired during the meeting. 

Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said that it was important for pan-democrats to have a dialogue with Beijing, and that she communicated to the Beijing official their concerns about the CY Leung administration.

She told Feng that the central government should not just listen to pro-establishment people, otherwise it would get a wrong, if biased, assessment of the situation in Hong Kong.

That’s exactly what happened last year. Beijing, by listening only to CY Leung, got a wrong reading of Hong Kong’s true sentiments as regards the electoral reform package.

As a result the misunderstanding between the authorities and the general public widened.

CY Leung was more interested in pushing his personal political agenda — namely, to implement everything Beijing wants to be done in the territory, regardless of the views of Hong Kong people, so that he can secure a second term.

In the meantime, Hongkongers become more disillusioned with the CY Leung administration.

They think of him as someone who is just interested in promoting the interests of Beijing rather than taking care of the welfare of Hong Kong people.

A clear example is the late reponse of the government to the water contamination saga. It seems that CY Leung is more interested in protecting the state-owned enterprise involved in the case than in helping those affected or likely to be affected by the crisis.

Beijing has all the resources and connections in the special administrative region to gain a clearer picture of the Hong Kong situation, but with its trusted officials in the city having their own agenda, it’s hard for the central government to make wise decisions and draw up good policies on the territory.

Against this backdrop, Beijing may need to rely more on the “other voices”, those that CY Leung considers as enemies but can actually provide inputs that will help the central government in maintaining a stable Hong Kong.

That’s probably the reason why Beijing met with key Democratic Party leaders last week: to avoid relying on a single source to assess the Hong Kong situation in the post-Occupy era.

So, it didn’t come as a surprise that veteran pro-Beijing politicians Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Ng Hong-mun told the public that the next Hong Kong leader should come from the ranks of civil servants rather than among Beijing loyalists.

Civil servants like Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah are keen on maintaining a stable society and achieving order in the community. That’s why they make better leaders. 

Moreover, civil servants, as Hong Kong leaders, can help uphold Hong Kong’s core values in the face of Beijing’s political agenda.

That should help rebuild social harmony in the territory after the divisions wrought by the CY Leung administration.

That could be the best outcome of Beijing’s move to shut the door on a democratic electoral framework a year ago.

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EJ Insight writer