My Take

A long road to a pan-democratic chief executive for Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 6:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 6:02am

From central Europe to the Baltic states, post-Soviet satellites that have made the successful transition to full democracy have continued political reform and tinker with their election systems.

There is no perfect election system, a one-size-fits-all model. You evolve and hopefully improve as you go along. That is the normal state of affairs.

Hong Kong people must realise that as well. Yet, in the acrimonious debate over the system for electing the chief executive in 2017 and thereafter, both sides act as if whatever system comes about will be pretty much fixed and remain so for a long time.

Beijing obviously wants that to happen so it does not have to give any more concessions or make further promises. You may argue that is precisely the reason why the pan-democrats demand as good a system as they can get, otherwise it's game over. But my sense of the matter after talking to young activists is that many are idealists. They want the ideal, some kind of international or universal standard, at the expense of realistic expectations given our constraints under Beijing. For them, it's all or nothing. Both sides are uncompromising in this respect.

The following ways out of the impasse are unlikely but not inconceivable. It's clear Beijing will not allow public nomination in 2017. It would rather risk prolonged political turmoil for Hong Kong. Can or will Beijing offer some guarantee that our election system will evolve towards public nomination or one that does not pre-screen candidates? That would be a step forward.

In the first few one-person one-vote elections in Hong Kong, Beijing has nothing to fear. Past polls have shown that the majority of local voters prefer someone who can work with Beijing and the pan-dems are only useful as an oppositional counterweight. But in any democracy, the pendulum will swing and eventually there will be a pan-dem who will be of chief executive material. It's that future pan-dem candidate Beijing worries about.

In the next decade or so, there should be more pan-dems installed as ministers or deputies and Executive Council members. These are trust-building measures to produce a pan-dem chief executive with whom Beijing can do business.