• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 10:30am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 2:05am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 2:05am

Hong Kong's political future looks bleak

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

The July 1 protest march has come and gone, but what does it mean? Despite the huge turnout, the atmosphere was generally cheerful and, thankfully, there was no violence to speak of, which some had feared.

Nevertheless, the march will have confirmed the worst fears of the local and the central governments in that it indicates a lot of people are discontented. Their grievances took different forms, but according to a poll by the South China Morning Post, the vast majority of people who marched were in favour of civil nomination for the 2017 chief executive election.

The large turnout, together with the almost 800,000 people that voted for civil nomination in Occupy Central's unofficial referendum, mean it will be impossible for pan-democrats to support any proposal the government comes up with that does not include civil nomination.

But it seems unlikely the central government will change its opposition to civil nomination. So where does that leave us? It means that from now on, constitutional reform is going to be even more of a dominant factor in Hong Kong politics than it has been already. Positions are hardening on both sides, though, speaking on RTHK's Backchat programme, Anson Chan Fang On-sang seemed to think there was room for compromise.

She said the option that won the most support in the referendum was the so-called three-track proposal, which included civil nomination, civil recommendation and nomination from the nominating committee.

However, it is clear that anything less than "one person one vote" for candidates that have not been pre-screened is not the universal suffrage the people of Hong Kong feel they had been promised. You cannot be half-pregnant. Giving everyone the right to vote for a handful of "pre-selected" candidates is not universal suffrage.

Lai See thinks the outlook looks bleak. It is hard to imagine people will react passively to having a scheme that means voting for pre-selected candidates foisted on them. If you think Leung Chun-ying and his ministers have had a hard time governing, the next government will have an even harder time.

However, should the more extreme political groups show signs of getting out of hand or if civil disorder is instigated in some way, it is not hard to imagine the central government imposing a state of emergency, abandoning the 2017 elections and installing its own choice of chief executive while governing without the Legislative Council.

Meanwhile, as hinted in the recent white paper, the People's Liberation Army would be used to quell civil disorder.

 

Crowd control

Students "occupying" Chater Road on Tuesday were blamed for causing delays to commuters trying to get in and out of Central. Other observers have said to Lai See that they felt it was not so much the demonstrators that were causing the problems, but the large number of police vehicles that were parked all over Central that were causing the delays.

While Tuesday's occupation of Chater Road was dubbed a "warm-up" for when and if Occupy Central ever occurs, it also provided useful practice for the police. Not that it needs that much practice, according to The New York Times, which in its coverage of the demonstration noted that Hong Kong's police had a "global reputation" for managing large crowds peacefully. A former Federal Bureau of Investigation director is also on record as saying that the United States has learned from Hong Kong's crowd control methods. That reputation may owe something to the generally peaceful nature of the city's crowds.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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