Hong Kong’s genuine universal suffrage – still a long way to go

On last Thursday (18th June), our eyes all fixed on the television screen, watching legislators on live to cast vote on the controversial Beijing’s electoral reform (so-called “831 proposal) in choice of Chief Executive.  At first glance, by no means did the outcome come as a surprise when the reform was being vetoed by one-third of members at last.  Yet just minutes before the ballot, large groups of pro-Beijing lawmakers, without voting, walked out of the council in a sudden, in hope of postponing the time to wait for one late counterpart.  The reform, promoted as momentous constitutional plan, was crushed more firmly than expected, with only a handful (eight) voting in favour but 28 against it.  That is certainly an embarrassing slap on China’s leadership and Hong Kong’s government.

According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong shall enjoy the bearing fruits of universal suffrage by a broadly representative nominating committee in concordance with democratic procedures.  However, what China aspires to offer in Hong Kong is not liberal democracy similar to the West, but one-person-one-vote while controlling the election process.  Introduced by National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) on 31st August last year, the electoral reform aims to expedite the universal suffrage for Chief Executive starting from 2017, as HK citizens long-thirsted for.  Yet to our dismay, it indicates that, before a territory-wide ballot, a maximum of three candidates will be elected by just 1200-people Nominating Committee, in which most of them will be from business sectors or political campaigns that are loyal to Beijing.  Denounced this “fake democracy” proposal package, pan-democracy legislators deemed such regulations of China’s plan simply target at screening out candidates from the opposition camp, thereby prompting waves of discontent.  Our bitter uneasiness, which in turn, galvanized the “Umbrella Movement”, the unprecedented mass protest lasted for nearly three months amidst late 2014.  By and large, this final veto in the Legislative Council two days ago just sent an acute message to Beijing: We, the Hong Kongers, desire for a genuine choice and a real democratic election.

So, what will be the political future of Hong Kong?  After this proposal veto, the next election will be the same as the past’s: the Chief Executive will be designated by a 1200-people committee consisting special interest groups and functional constituencies, but without the vote by general public.  During these few days, under longstanding prevalence of anti-mainland sentiment, myriads are meditating over the need for amending the constitution in the Basic Law, or crafting a more thorough introduction of genuine universal suffrage.  In the future, there might even come a stalemate if pan-democrats and Chinese leaders are unable to make concession or reach agreements about the election procedures.  With diverse yet likely clashed viewpoints in such tense atmosphere, there is still a long way towards full democracy in this city, despite its economic prosperity. ♦


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