• Mon
  • Sep 15, 2014
  • Updated: 6:45am
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 4:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 September, 2014, 1:58am

Beijing's reform model reflects a very different view of the situation in Hong Kong

Cliff Buddle says despite a Basic Law requirement, Beijing's electoral reform framework fails to reflect the actual situation in Hong Kong

"The method for selecting the chief executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region…" Article 45 of the Basic Law.

What is the actual situation? This question demands an answer because any reform must reflect that situation. The National People's Congress Standing Committee, when laying down strict limits on the nominating process for candidates to be elected by universal suffrage, seemed to see Hong Kong's situation as being one in which the city is vulnerable to foreign intervention, subversion and instability.

But there is another way of viewing it.

The city faces many challenges. Future chief executives must strive to narrow the wealth gap, prepare for an ageing population, and provide young people with hope and opportunity. All this, while maintaining the city's competitiveness in an uncertain economic environment. To face up to these challenges, we need a political system that works. The one put in place by the Basic Law, modelled on the colonial system it replaced, has simply failed to deliver.

The system does not make life easy for the chief executive, who lacks a mandate from the electorate and is almost guaranteed to become unpopular. We only have to look at how the first three have fared to see that.

And there is not much point in the chief executive looking for help from the Legislative Council. Our lawmakers have just enough power to frustrate the government, but no meaningful role in shaping policy. Relations between the chief executive and the legislature have not been good.

Meanwhile, the people have become increasingly vocal and confrontational, frustrated by the inability to elect the chief executive or vote him out of office. Government policies are, instead, resisted through protests, court actions and media campaigns.

The result of all this is that little gets done. Policies stagnate and difficult decisions are not taken. Society has become increasingly divided.

This is a very different "actual situation" to the one envisaged when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed 30 years ago, to prepare for Hong Kong's return to China. And it is this situation, rather than any civil disobedience threatened by the Occupy Central movement, which poses the real threat to Hong Kong's business environment.

The promise of universal suffrage offered a valuable opportunity for change. It was a time for the central government to reach out to moderates in the democratic camp so that a consensus could be forged which would take the reform process forward. A system which allowed candidates from across the political spectrum to stand was needed. Hopes that this could be achieved have been shattered by the Standing Committee's decision.

Sadly, we are now likely to be stuck with this "actual situation" for some time to come. We need meaningful democratic reform not only to give people the right to vote, but also to ensure good governance. All we can do is continue to strive to bring that about.

Cliff Buddle is the Post's editor, special projects


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author had deliberately misinterpret ,distorted the whole wording of article 45
what is intention of author for not publishing actual wording of article 45 in full ?
"The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures
note ; universal suffage "UPON "nomination
the author has completely ignored the actual situation in hk
hk was governed by british over 156 years with anti mainland propaganda, anti communist rhetoric in full force
this is not surprisingly why there are some hk people had lopsided view of mainland chinese, communist , china.
majority of them dont really grasp the real nature of political structure of hk within china
hk was governed by one country, two system
usa is a federal state system. there are no one country, two system
they always make unfair comparison to usa.
A good diagnosis of what's not working right now in Hong Kong's political framework.
Agree that the dysfunctional system and the resultant frustration simmering amongst the populace, rather than any civil disobedience, pose real threat to Hong Kong business environment, and not just business alone.
I am amazed at your apparent lack of understanding of the Hong Kong society. I agree that the Chief Executive and the City faces a lot of challenges so a popular Chief Executive is needed. But I disagree with your simple view that should the central government reach out to moderates on the issue of universal suffrage, "a consensus could be forged which would take the reform process forward". First of all, the society is socially unjust and and many people harbor deep resentment of the government. They are indeed vocal and confrontational and protest on every opportunity. So I am not sure that if the Chief Executive is elected by a more "perfect" process as advocated by the so called Democrats, there will be support of the government and there will be more meaningful policies being passed. Secondly, if you understand the characters we have in the Democratic camp, they put up obstacles whenever they can so that they can wield more power, and there was rarely proper discussion on polices. Thirdly, if you could read the Chinese newspapers, you may recognize how chaotic is the Hong Kong society in the last few years. Everyday there is name calling and mud-slinging. In this environment, would Beijing choose to loosen the grip to gain support? or tighten the grip to minimize the risk?
I am appalled that many experts like yourself seem to think that good government and good policies would follow if Beijing gives in to the vocal requests on political reform.
pslhk - you've forgotten to take your medication again.
The actual situation for Hong Kong is that it is a Chinese jurisdiction, and Beijing will not permit it to become a bastion of anti-China centrifugal politicking, with the issue of secession a looming possibility. To Beijing, no matter how much autonomy is granted to a region, the ultimate say must come from the Central Government. To Abraham Lincoln and the massive forces rallying behind him, the "actual situation" in 1860 is that the individual states must remain subordinate to the will of the federal government, even if the locals no longer want the Union and even if it means a very bloody civil war. You can debate into the night about what "actual situation" is in Hong Kong. It is different things to different people. It is not either side cannot understand the other side. It is what they can accept.
There are hundreds of thousands of "Chinese" Hong Kong residents who worked for the Colonial government in one way or another and I am not including the hundreds of foreign national permanent residents. I suppose we are all now just traders.....? This kind of thinking is why I always knew it would never work.
"...The one put in place by the Basic Law, modeled on the colonial system it replaced, has simply failed to deliver..."
This is the crux of the argument. I always remember, some 30 years ago, a then very senior HK Govt. official addressing a group of senior persons saying "We refuse to hand over HK from one Colonial Government to another". The 'we' referred to being the hierarchy of the HK Govt. But that is exactly what they did.
Why would China have accepted anything less?
Britain and its advisors could not accept the reality, principally because it wanted to walk away, holding its head high, claiming it had negotiated 'democracy', down the road, for HK.
They did no such thing!
Cliff Buddle best article. Actual Situation analysis shows the total failure of our political situation so far. Taking the tycoons to Beijing only angers more the common people of HK. The unholy alliance of the tycoons with Beijing at the expense of the common people of HK is what is killing HK. We need a political rethink. William Waung
Thank you for speaking wigless in the court of public opinion
to show us our high court’s unveiled standard
“the TOTAL failure of our political situation”?
sounds like a tongue twisting case of Wednesbury unreasonableness
I’d much prefer the continental concept of proportionality
The unholy alliance is between copycat jurists and colonial implants
We need a jurisprudential and jurisdictional rethink
If ALi tries to take you to task for opening your mouth unwigged
tell him to shut up and get mingpao to run you a flattering piece
You may ask scmp for a freelance application
to help defray the cost subscription
without brown nosing the editor
The reality of HK is that any CE, democratically elected or otherwise, must still please the tycoon classes for the mere fact that so many of them can go straight to Beijing to complain.




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