Political winds blowing the wrong way for Hong Kong's dissidents

Lau Nai-keung says path to universal suffrage was set some 25 years ago

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 10:04am

Let us for a moment assume there is no "pivot", that the US would sincerely welcome China as the dominant power in the world, and its re-entry into Asia is for the good of all parties concerned. Even all that would still not explain the behaviour of Clifford Hart, the US consul general for Hong Kong and Macau, since his arrival just over a month ago, and his inappropriate remarks on the upcoming round of constitutional reform.

His comments earned a high-profile dressing-down from Song Zhe, the commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong. A press statement issued by the Commissioner's Office said: "Song stressed that political system reform is Hong Kong's internal affair, which bears no interference from foreign governments or officials."

Now, some two weeks after the incident, it is worth noting that the newly created Facebook page of the US Consulate General in Hong Kong, while being constantly updated, has since become less provocative. Nevertheless, it has uploaded three posts on Martin Luther King Jnr, possibly as some gesture of defiance.

The Chinese expressions on the page are all in colloquial Cantonese, customised, it would seem, for our dissident separatists. It is still making an effort to build a bigger audience.

The buoyant mood of our dissidents seems to have fallen flat over these past few weeks

On the other hand, though our pro-democracy politicians are now all back from their summer vacations, they have been conspicuously quiet. Clearly, they feel it is time to take stock of the situation, raise a wet finger and see which direction the wind is blowing.

It is also rather quiet among the pro-establishment camp; they are doing the same thing. For this camp, however, National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang's recent meeting with a delegation from Hong Kong's disciplined services - and his vocal support for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and their efforts to maintain law and order - held plenty of meaning. First, we must remember that Zhang is also convenor of the high-level working group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs. And, as far as I can remember, no delegation of Hong Kong's disciplined services has visited the capital, or met such high-ranking leaders.

Did this chill some wet fingers? You bet. Some even speculated that this was a warning of a police crackdown should Occupy Central take place.

I've said it before; these are not good times for the dissidents. Just a few weeks ago, they and some of the more influential pro-establishment members had arrived at a consensus whereby the central government's only involvement in the entire process towards universal suffrage in 2017 would be at the very last stage, in its appointment of a popularly elected chief executive. They thought that, with a consensus of opinion on their side, they would have things their way.

The dissidents waited and waited but their seemingly impeccable arguments and credible threats appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Even Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying did not budge, and instead left for a holiday without any announcement of an early consultation process.

The buoyant mood of our dissidents seems to have fallen flat over these past few weeks.

Beijing's stand on universal suffrage and constitutional development has been clear all along and it is now clearer than ever.

It was all written in the Basic Law a quarter of a century ago and it is not going to change because some people want it to.

So heed this, dissidents: everybody wants universal suffrage in 2017 but it is this way or not at all. This is not your call and, for that matter, neither is it any foreign government's business.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development