Universal suffrage

Real democracy for Hong Kong is in Beijing's best interests

Joseph Cheng says alliance's proposals for 2017 are genuinely patriotic

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 1:52am

The Alliance for True Democracy has just released its initial views for consultation on the chief executive election in 2017, with the aim of promoting discussion, hopefully leading to a consensus. Not only must the election be held by universal suffrage; a person's free and fair right to vote, to be elected and to nominate a candidate should be guaranteed.

Qiao Xiaoyang , chairman of the Law Committee of the National People's Congress, has said that candidates must "love the country, love Hong Kong" and not confront the central government. We don't believe the community would accept a "preliminary election" or "screening" mechanism in the official nomination process. Hong Kong people genuinely worry that the 2017 election will be limited to a list of candidates endorsed by Beijing.

The nomination process will be crucial in determining if the election is truly democratic

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the right to vote, to be elected and to nominate should not be affected by one's political views. So there should not be any conditions, such as "love the country, love Hong Kong", which have no objective definition.

And then there's the issue of calls to "end one-party dictatorship", which is often cited by the pro-Beijing united front as "confrontation" with the central government. In fact, it is an appeal for the ultimate aim of multi-party competition in China. The intention is not to confront Beijing; Hong Kong people are just exercising their cherished freedom of speech.

We should also remember that, before 1979, any suggestion that China should change to a market economy was perceived as counter-revolutionary. Yet, today, the Chinese authorities have embraced the idea as the key to the nation's prosperity.

Above all, the nomination process is going to be crucial in determining whether the chief executive election is truly democratic and competitive. We want to see a broadly representative nominating committee formed via one-man, one-vote by Hong Kong voters. In the longer term, the committee should be scrapped.

We also suggest that a person could become a candidate through nomination via joint signatures by a set proportion of voters, which would then be verified and endorsed by the nominating committee. Many civil society groups have long advocated this idea, in order to maximise participation by ordinary people.

Democratic nomination procedures are likely to generate up to 10 candidates. Therefore, Hong Kong should adopt the French presidential election model, with two rounds of voting. Any candidate gaining more than half of the votes in the first round would be elected. If no one got enough votes, the two who got most votes in the first round would go into a second round, with the winner being whoever gained a majority. This would ensure a chief executive with the legitimacy to govern effectively.

The alliance believes its proposals are based on genuine patriotism as they serve China's real interests. Democratisation is essential to Hong Kong's stability and prosperity. Hong Kong people want a leader who is directly accountable to them and not one who always accords priority to Beijing's assessment of his/her performance and big business groups' interests.

Democratisation in Hong Kong is also the only way to retain credibility for Beijing's Taiwan policy. Taiwanese will not accept political dialogue and a cross-straits peace agreement if they see that the pledge of democracy for Hong Kong has not been fulfilled.

Granting true democracy to Hong Kong will facilitate political reform on the mainland and improve the image of China's new leadership at a time when the whole world is looking to see whether Xi Jinping truly is a reformer.

Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong, is convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy