• Thu
  • Nov 20, 2014
  • Updated: 8:40am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Opponents must seek common ground on Hong Kong's universal suffrage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 3:09am

Hong Kong is at last having the discussion that it has long needed. Qiao Xiaoyang, the chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee, has laid out conditions for the chief executive election in 2017. Pan-democrats have articulated demands. It is early days and the sides are as far apart as could be, but for our city's sake the opposing sides have to find common ground.

A mere two months have passed since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's failure, in his maiden policy address, to mention a consultation on universal suffrage sparked campaigning by democracy supporters. A premature plan to disrupt traffic in Central next year was unveiled, lawmakers weighed in and, last week, pan-democrats joined forces to form the Alliance for True Democracy. That led Qiao at a weekend meeting of pro-Beijing legislators to expand on earlier comments by Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng that only people who were patriotic and loved the nation and Hong Kong could lead our city.

Qiao's hint that a screening committee should choose who can run for chief executive has alarmed the pro-democracy side. To prevent a candidate unacceptable to Beijing from emerging, he suggested a three-stage process involving a nominating committee, the people of Hong Kong voting and the central government's approval. A candidate would have to have the committee's majority backing to win nomination. There is nothing untoward in such procedures: Article 45 of the Basic law calls for a "broadly representative" nominating committee to decide candidates to face a popular vote in accordance with "democratic procedures".

What is at issue is interpretation; Article 45 lays out a template, but is not specific. Qiao, as the most senior mainland official to offer a viewpoint, has given insight where there was previously only speculation. The alliance, responding to his comments, objected to the idea of a screening process. Its position on universal suffrage is unambiguous, being based on all people of voting age being able to decide their leaders.

It is good that positions have been laid bare. There are realities to be faced, chief among them being the need to interpret the Basic Law's provisions on the mechanism for universal suffrage and the necessity for the central and Hong Kong governments to work together smoothly. All involved have to be transparent, open to negotiations and flexible.


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This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
Yeah,I fully agree that all persons of the voting age should be allowed to choose their leader (starting from 2017) if the universal suffrage promised to we Hongkongers is a geniune one and not a faked one--which is to fool us.We have waited so long since 2004 (when this same old guy, Qiao Xiao-yang actively sought the interpretation of our Basic Law from the then NPC and our universal suffrage in 2007 of our chief executive and 2008 of our legislature were both aborted ! Now he even pointed out that only those who are considered by commoners to be 'loving the nation and Hong Kong' and not confrontational to the Central authorities would be allowed to compete for the top post in town in 2017----implying that there would be a screening mechanism to get rid of all those candidates(most likely from the pan-democratic camp).
It is good to get it out in the open and the real question is when will Beijing essentially say that they agreed to universal suffrage in order to get the deal with the Brits but they did not really mean it. The concept of the Party allowing itself and its policies to be questioned by the common folk is an anathema, hence the focus on "making" HK richer and thus happier, which has worked masterfully to date on the Mainland. Equally the continued chorus from those who have done very well by working with the Party that HK people need to be more faithful to the nation (meaning the Party) and more practical in what they want (meaning do what you are told), continues the propaganda blitz that HK people are wrong for thinking that the Basic Law is what it was sold to be and they get a say in their governance. The debate is good but in some ways it is Wayang Kulit as those debating have no say in the final answer as such will be given by the Northern Capital in line with its desires.


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