My Take

Beijing's election fears in 2016 and '17

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:12am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:12am

In the run-up to the legislative and chief executive elections in 2016 and 2017, regional politics - which we tend to ignore - may come to haunt us.

We play a one-dimensional game between us and the mainland. Beijing, however, has to play a one-to-many multidimensional diplomatic game in which Hong Kong is an important but by no means crucial chess piece. We need to take a broader look at the troubled region of Asia to gauge how Beijing will react to universal suffrage here.

In 2016, both Taiwan and Japan will also hold general elections. Whatever their outcomes, they can have an impact on us in Hong Kong now. How? Quite simply, imagine a nightmare electoral scenario for Beijing.

In Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou has failed to translate the Kuomintang's tilt towards the mainland into popular support - quite the opposite. A poll reported by the Taipei Times in November put his disapproval rating at 75.9 per cent, with only 15.5 per cent of respondents showing approval. It's very possible that the next Taiwanese president will be a leader of the Democratic People's Party. Now that Chen Shui-bian is out of the way, the DPP has toned down its rhetoric on independence, but not necessarily changed its ultimate aim.

In Japan, Shinzo Abe has recently suffered a ratings drop but remains the most popular prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi. Suppose he wins another term or is replaced by someone no less nationalistic. His is a cabinet that has 14 members of the League for Going to Worship Together at Yasukuni; 13 supporters of a conservative think tank that demands an end to second world war "apology diplomacy"; nine members of a parliamentary club that wants history textbooks to skip over Japan's wartime atrocities.

If "the sea is calm and the wind is quiet" in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia, Beijing may be more generous with our election system. But all is not well, especially with the pan-dems provoking Big Brother at every opportunity. Occupy Central, anyone? Beijing can't control the elections in Japan and Taiwan. Imagine a round of DPP, Abe and pan-dem election victories, all at roughly the same time! There are elections it can control, though. They are to be held in Hong Kong.