Leadership reveals its true colours

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am

The National People's Congress Standing Committee decision to rule out direct elections in 2012 was not unexpected. But it was a bitter blow to those who have fought for democracy for decades. Although many Hongkongers knew it would be difficult to have a democratic government under Chinese rule, they have never given up.

The fact that most Hong Kong people wanted 'double universal suffrage' - the right to elect the chief executive and all members of the Legislative Council by universal and equal suffrage - in 2012 was recognised in the report submitted by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

However, the report said that pro-Beijing and pro-business political parties, and the pro-establishment district councils, were against it. Thus, the political forces that evolved under the undemocratic system oppose the will of the people. This coincided with the wishes of the rulers in Beijing.

In dashing the hopes of millions, the Standing Committee said Hong Kong people may elect the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017 - 20 years after the change of sovereignty. Direct elections for all members of Legco will follow, maybe in 2020.

An editorial in the China Daily said that the decision 'served not only as a positive answer to what Hong Kong people had been aspiring to but also as a solemn declaration to the international community ... This has demonstrated the central government's political broadmindedness and the profound trust it has placed in Hong Kong people.'

Nothing could be further from the truth. At a meeting with Standing Committee deputy secretary general Qiao Xiaoyang at Government House on December 29, I asked why the central government has denied me, and other democrats, the right to enter the mainland for more than a decade. The ban showed the leadership is petty-minded, intolerant of dissenting views and determined to marginalise outspoken politicians. Beijing also used it as a warning to the community: anyone who dared defy the wishes of the Communist Party would suffer the same fate.

To Beijing's dismay, the electorate kept returning us to office, hence a ridiculous scenario emerged - elected representatives were being barred from the mainland.

After the NPC's announcement, pro-communist figures said the provision of a timetable should help resolve disputes over the subject and create a platform for a consensus on constitutional development.

This is wishful thinking. To me, the Standing Committee's decision showed that the concept of 'one country, two systems' and 'a high degree of autonomy' is in tatters. As Hong Kong people digest the edict from Beijing, they are reminded it is the central government that calls the shots.

Beijing rebuffed Hong Kong people's demand for democratic government in 2004 and 2007. Given this dismal record, there is no guarantee such vague promises of universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020 will be kept.

Furthermore, the desire for full control means that only candidates acceptable to Beijing will be allowed to stand for election. In that case, it would not be a real democratic election.

Attempts to eliminate functional constituency legislators are equally difficult. Mainland officials have indicated their preference for this form of election by limited franchise, as candidates returned in this way are more susceptible to influence by Beijing.

Hong Kong people have no guarantee they can democratically elect their chief executive in 2017. There is no telling if direct elections for all Legco members will be held in 2020. Even if they are, the ghost of functional constituencies may still haunt us.

The fight for democracy must go on. A march for democracy has been organised for Sunday. I call on all supporters of universal suffrage to join us.

Emily Lau Wai-hing is a legislative councillor for The Frontier