My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2014, 2:50am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2014, 2:50am

It's time to set idealistic pieties aside over Hong Kong's universal suffrage


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.

A survey finds 54 per cent of Hong Kong people want "one person, one vote" even if the candidate nomination process is not one they are happy with. That should not surprise anyone. Most of us are practical people who understand the way of the world and the difference between the realistic and achievable, and idealistic pieties that will get us nowhere.

Many people want a viable election system even if it's less than perfect and doesn't meet, in the favourite phrase of the more uncompromising pan-democrats, "international standards", which are themselves subject to interpretation. An election system has to be good enough to pass muster, but it need not be ideal.

The survey was conducted by Lingnan University and paid for by the non-partisan Concern Group for Public Opinion on Constitutional Development, led by media and property heavyweight Shih Wing-ching and some Democratic Party members.

We already live in one of the freest and wealthiest cities in the world. The pan-democrats say unless we have full - and real - democracy, we will not remain so for long. Not necessarily. Good enough democracy is good enough for most people in Hong Kong. "One person, one vote" will help bolster our governance and attractiveness. The key is that we will have a nomination committee - which selects chief executive candidates - that can evolve over time to improve the system.

If the reform package comes through, it's almost inevitable that the committee will select candidates sympathetic to Beijing and moderate democrats, at least in the first few elections. But that should be a plus - it will help build confidence with authoritarian Beijing that it can live with "one person, one vote" democracy in its most international city.

To be sure, 52 per cent in the survey do not believe public nomination is illegal under the Basic Law. But there are good grounds to believe it is. Even if it is not, many independent scholars have pointed out the obvious - public nomination does not equate to real democracy, but only one of its many forms. If those who insist on public nomination have their way, Hong Kong people will not have a deal over electoral reform, which means a continuation of the status quo, or worse. Is that what we want?



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