• Fri
  • Aug 29, 2014
  • Updated: 1:14am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 3:37am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 5:36am

Occupy Central referendum won't represent Hong Kong's electorate


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

Occupy Central was originally designed to be an exercise in radical democracy.

Through a series of "deliberation" meetings, people would design and vote on their own democratic models from the ground up, the most popular of which would be chosen by the people to be the official position of the pro-democracy movement. So far, so good - on paper.

Unfortunately, idealism flounders on the rocks of reality. Academics like Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr Chan Kin-man read about such experiments in foreign books and decided to use us all as guinea pigs in a political experiment. It turns out it is just an exercise in self-selection, confirmation bias and the silencing of rivals.

However the so-called referendum turns out next month, the outcome is no different or any more democratically representative than if Tai and his supporters just come out and demand public nomination as their be-all and end-all position.

Occupy hired a group of so-called international experts to filter out practically all election reform proposals that supposedly failed to meet international standards, presumably as stated in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

But while any reform proposal that has any realistic hope of gaining passage in the legislature must include some elements in those rejected proposals as stipulated by Beijing, Tai and Company effectively make sure only pan-democratic proposals get an airing.

Next, out of the 15 mostly pan-democratic proposals already pre-selected, they had some 2,000 hardcore supporters of Occupy Central yesterday choose three to put forward for their online "referendum" next month. Are these people representative of Hong Kong's 3.5 million electorate or just an extremely small, self-selecting sample group that constitutes the most extreme and uncompromising elements within the pan-democratic camp?

After next month, there is no doubt Tai and Chan will claim the proposal they now endorse has all the legitimacy it needs as if it were chosen in a real referendum. But they would be wrong. Not only that, but misguided as only ivory-tower scholars who try to play real politics can be.


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This article is now closed to comments

Thank you Alex on writing a good view. Contrary to some opposite comments, I think the article is fair and describes current situation accurately. Good journalism is fair reporting.
" all citizens (qualified voters) should enjoy the right to nominate,.. " is flawed in practice. Accroding to Wikipedia, UN signed this in 1966. Which country does this currently ? Not US, Not UK. Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) says electoral rights. NOT "right to nomiate." Good journalism checks the source and what is real.
There will be comments against mine. But please state the facts. Thank you ahead if there is good correction and fact base. NO thank you for your bad adjective against me in advance.
I think you're confusing Mr. Lo with a journalist. He's an editorialist. He doesn't report the news; he offers commentary on it. You might want to check into Wikipedia to ascertain the differences.
Thank you. Yes, I think Mr Lo did an above average to good job. Keep the comments simple. Wikipedia was incorrect. I hope below link is correct link:
There is not a word on nomination. hmmm....
whymak actually makes some reasonable points here.
Indeed, one of the current obstacles is an incompetent HK government. It is also a government that has been installed and controlled by Beijing to varying degrees for the past 17 years. At what point of doing the same thing while expecting different results does the process devolve into insanity? While there is no data to suggest nomination and election will bring forth better government, like data is similarly lacking for the status quo. When there is no compelling data one way or another, subjective preference takes on a bigger role. The HKTP constitutional reform 2014 survey gives a scientifically rigorous assessment of those preferences among HKers. And that preference is certainly not for more of the BJ way. That's not to "spite" BJ. It's an assessment that the BJ way has done a lousy job, and it's time to move in a different direction.
If you were one to accept Basic Law as a reasonable premise, then taking it in its entirety as one document is also reasonable. Assuming that premise, both sides should do more of that. While the Bar assoc is not the final word, it IS the most definitive so far. As for constitutional challenges, that's fine in theory. But until the HK gov't actually lays out its plan, there is nothing to challenge. Deference to the NPC also makes no sense, since they're no jurists either, and deserve neither the stature nor the role of being a "supreme court" for HKers.
All your arguments are putting the cart before the horse. Will nomination or election in whatever shape or form gives us better government? Aren't some being misled by teenage Scholarism kids and effete academics like Benny Tai and Chan Kin Man?
Professors are secure in their rich sinecures -- academic tenure. Their followers don't have this privilege.
Talk about this or that article in Basic Law by either the Bar Association or by us, the pedestrians are nonsense. In common law with a constitution, legislators propose statutes subject to judicial challenges. Subsequent rulings in our courts should be based on customs, i.e., previous adjudications of court challenges to the BL.
BL must be taken in its entirety. You cannot take just a few articles of BL to your liking and ignore Article 23 for instance.
Fact is, Bar Association are not jurists on the bench interpreting the BL. Yet everyone talks about BL as if one knows exactly what it means in a particular context. What arrogance!
Without a store of rulings by our courts on BL, we have little choice but defer to National People’s Congress on its interpretations. Yes, HKers should challenge them in our courts if certain articles of BL are ambiguous or conflicting. But that’s a job for our judges. Yet Margaret Ng acts as if she knows everything about BL while forgetting the spirit of common law. Benny Tai is worst. He thinks his God of Abraham has given him the right to throw out HK rule of law.
" Will nomination or election in whatever shape or form gives us better government?"

It definitely doesn't guarantee a better government, but it can improve the accountability of the CE to the public. I do agree that there is a major lack of leadership material in Hong Kong, and whoever is elected is going to have to deal with an unelected bureaucracy that'll survive their term as CE. Either way, we're moving forward with universal suffrage regardless.

I also agree that the Basic Law should be taken by its entirety. The article 23 problem can be solved after a democratically elected government is established in HK.
Mr. Lo,
I am afraid you have mistaken idiocies of Chan Kin-Man and Benny Tai with idealism. Opting for restructuring a government has the same rationale as reorganization of a huge hundred billion dollar enterprise. The motivation for reorganization is due to dysfunction and poor performance. So the first step is to define a set of achievable goals with existing resources, cultural constraints, market position and environment.
Years ago, I was given an assignment to analyze the span of control of the retail business of embedded equipment in our firm. We were not profitable. Without formal training in organizational dynamics, the first thing I did was to interview department and regional managers. The goals were obvious -- cutting costs and reduce head count. It is only when the goals are set before I could redefine business functional areas for improved efficiency.
HK's discontents are obvious. They are rooted in housing, education, health care, pollution, lack of job opportunities. We need to prioritize first and allocate available resources for them.
Obviously, we start with two obstacles, an incompetent government and people's bloated expectations.
But ideological morons and dissidents are motivated by one thing – to spite Beijing instead of finding ways to improve HK competitiveness and living conditions. That why they decide on distorting Basic Law and purposely disrupting the orderly processes of a besieged SAR government.
"That why they decide on distorting Basic Law and purposely disrupting the orderly processes of a besieged SAR government."

On the other hand screening out all democrats or anyone of a particular political affiliation also violates the Basic Law (Article 26 and 39) as indicated by the Bar Association. Screening out certain political affiliation is just as bad as mindlessly demanding for public nomination which violates Article 45 of the Basic Law.

The moderate political reform proposals which do not require public nomination and empower the Nominating Committee as mandated by the Basic Law as well as comply with the ICCPR as required by Article 39 of the Basic Law is the way to go.
Alex Lo or Alex Spin Beijing? Does anyone in power at the moment in Hong Kong represent the city's electorate? Mr Alex has also done his reading of 'foreign books': Lenin on propaganda!
Really Alex, you need to improve your sub-editing from the Liaison Office press releases: "read about such experiments in foreign books and decided to use us all as guinea pigs in a political experiment." Or, is this one of the first due-outs from the HK media senior executives meeting in Beijing?




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