Focus on nomination rules for 2017 election

Alice Wu says Hong Kong must stop bickering and work out some nomination rules for 2017 that are acceptable to both sides

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 5:03am

There is frankly too much noise in the so-called debate over the methods for electing our next chief executive, so called because what has been said isn't much more than politicking and/or posturing. There's a feeling of déjà vu; again, people from opposing sides are screaming at one another.

So it was refreshing to finally hear one thoughtful proposal. Unfortunately, its author has taken it back, but it still serves as a conversation starter, and I hope it can steer discussions that lead somewhere.

By contrast, the comments by chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee, Qiao Xiaoyang , seemed completely unnecessary. Is there anyone who doesn't know that Beijing expects the chief executive to be someone who loves the country and Hong Kong and, hence, not be confrontational towards it? To be fair, the very loud calls for protest are equally unnecessary.

These are all red herrings anyway. The nomination committee is what the fuss is really all about. If we don't want to rip up our mini-constitution just yet, article 45 of the Basic Law is what we need to deal with. In accordance with its provisions, we must draw up plans for a nomination committee and specify how it should work, That is the first step towards the goal of electing the city's chief executive by universal suffrage. It isn't rocket science.

Ignore the diatribe that wants us to start from scratch. A nomination body is a screening mechanism, and there is only one way this debate needs to go: how we could hack away at this nomination body to make it as acceptable as possible.

Reaching this "acceptability" is our biggest challenge. If history serves any purpose, then we know that the more irritating we are to Beijing, the less accommodating - and accepting - it will be. It's a political reality, just like the one former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang unapologetically pointed out earlier - Hong Kong has to abide by the essence of "one country, two systems".

Under this system, it is perfectly reasonable for Beijing to expect the city's chief executives not to challenge its sovereignty, and perfectly possible Beijing could refuse to endorse a winner. To exclude consideration of Beijing's expectations would be to hold Hong Kong's political development hostage. Martin Lee Chu-ming is right to point out that reality requires that we find "some middle ground" to work with.

There is no need to play victim and go through the five stages of grief, politically. We don't need to be stuck in denial or set ourselves up for rage. We stand at the beginning of our political reform, and it would be silly to believe that it would end with the 2017 chief executive election arrangements.

Mature democracies around the world are still reforming their own political systems. Political development is a process, and it's important to start somewhere. Our political system must be a work in progress, rather than a continuous and continuously belligerent shouting match.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA