• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 4:22pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 5:59am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 5:59am

Both Beijing and Anson Chan are talking hogwash over full democracy for Hong Kong

The war of words over Hong Kong's full democracy has got out of hand. Beijing has denounced Occupy Central's mock referendum as "an illegal farce". Anson Chan Fang On-sang has rounded on David Cameron's government for failing to live up to the Sino-British Joint Declaration by not defending the city's fight for full democracy. Both denunciations are hogwash.

You can ask the Hong Kong public to vote on anything you like. We do it all the time, over beauty pageants, Canto-pop hits, Japanese cartoon characters, our favourite movies, you name it. There is no law against it. Likewise, there is nothing in the statute books that bar people from asking others about their preferences for election methods, however unlikely, to choose our chief executive. The polling by Occupy Central, sometimes referred to as an "unofficial referendum", has zero legal force. So I am at a loss as to why mainland officials and the state-run Global Times have called it "an illegal farce". It is neither illegal nor farcical; actually, it is very serious. Anytime you have more than half a million Hong Kong voters doing something together it is a serious matter.

The government should worry about it as a strong expression of public opinion. Hypothetically, if the Hong Kong government decided to carry out a real referendum, it conceivably would be illegal under some interpretations of the Basic Law and the Chinese constitution. But even that would be debatable, as neither constitution mentions referendums. Under common law, if the law is silent about something, it's legal. On the mainland, it's the other way round.

Meanwhile, I don't see how the British are failing Hong Kong's democratic fight just because Chan says so. The Joint Declaration makes no mention of universal suffrage. But it helped create the Basic Law, which does refer to universal suffrage. It's over this text we ought to be fighting.

There is a good reason why the international community has far less justification to intervene in Hong Kong than, say, Poland under Soviet totalitarianism and South Africa under apartheid: we remain one of the freest, safest and wealthiest places on earth despite being lorded over by a communist state. That's what the Joint Declaration promised!

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This article is now closed to comments

321manu
This is better work from Mr. Lo, at least compared to the quality of recent output.
Indeed, Chan is barking up the wrong tree. The Brits have no dog in the fight, and they don't even have a ticket to watch. This is an issue that will need to be hashed out between HKers and BJ.
And talk about BJ shooting itself square in the foot. They get a burr up their butt about the Occupy referendum that was on its way to spiralling itself into irrelevancy, so they issue a white paper that galvanized HK public support for the referendum process that has to have exceeded Benny Tai's wildest dreams. If snatching defeat from the jaws of victory requires a special talent, then BJ is indeed mighty talented, and plenty "special" (in a "special needs" sorta way).
mymak
I agree with you here. Hong Kong is fine, if we could just keep the politics out of it. When the Hong Kong democrats continually fight for pointless measures, such as public nomination I wonder if they have truly looked at the situation in other countries. The UK for example does not have public nomination and it is in fact not even necessary for their PMs to be elected. They can simply be appointed. For those who argue that they are leaders of the elected party, stop! Do a little bit of research and look back a few years and you will find one who moved from the House of Lords directly into No.10. Also remember the Thatcher-Major handover or the Blair-Brown one. Democracy is not perfect. As long as we argue it is and insist on some 'perfect' system, we lay ourselves open to ridicule. Accept what's on the table, make friends with the powers that be and try and influence the system from inside.
kongshan2047
The democrats should first answer this question. How many of the so called democratic countries actually adopt public nomination for the election of their leaders? Since Alex has mentioned Britain here, then lets take a look at their election system. David Cameron was never elected by the British public as their Prime Minister. He was merely elected by the people of his constituent to represent them as MP. He is PM simply because he happens to be leader of the Conservative party, which by the way is in a coalition government with the Lib Dem party. If Nick Clegg, the leader of the Lib Dem opted to cooperate with Labour after the 2010 election, Gordon Brown could still be the PM today. Where is the public nomination for the British PM here?
sipsip1238
I think China is making it pretty clear that things are illegal only when they want it to be.
Like the corruption in the past few decades, it's illegal now because of the whole crackdown on it, before, it was a pre-requisite to be a greedy official otherwise you weren't employable.
whoaman
What can the British do anyways???? We're not a colony anymore, Ms. Chan!
John Adams
Yes ! A very fair comment.
.
The same applies in the USA : how much money does one need to get the endorsement of one of the various parties there in order to stand for president ?
US$millions if not billions !
Does that amount to public nomination ?
I think certainly not .
CERTAINLY no buffoon like bald Albert or mad dog Wong or long-hair Leung could ever get on the electoral ticket in the USA ( nor in the UK, nor in any Western "true" democracy). The monied-rich who actually control the political parties would keep such idiots far away from their center- stream politics and candidates..
.
Yes : the raving loony party can field candidates in any UK constituency as members of parliament , as indeed they do ( and so does the UK communist party ). The irony of it is that when the raving loony party does field candidates they get such a tiny % of the popular vote that it's laughable ( sort of 800 - 1,000 votes country-wide), but at least they beat the UK communist party country-wide ! ( sort of 300 - 400 votes country-wide).
.
I wish that Occupy Central would hold a mock vote for CE based on the present possible candidates . I think I can count mad dog's votes on the fingers of one hand, and bald albert's on the fingers of one foot
timliu01@hotmail.com
The main thing is that, in those countries that adopt parliamentary democracy like UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, when people are not happy with the current government, they can choose another party to form government in the next election. That other party could have very different policies (could be similar as well) as the current. Or the voters can use this process to threaten the current government to force a change in policy. (Look at the European policy of the Conservative government affected by UKIP). By that, the people has an influence on the government as a whole, not necessarily the PM.
That is, the people needs a genuine choice, an un-restricted, un confined choice. With the screening by the nomination committee, such choices do not exist. I think this is the difference between the democratic countries like UK and some less democratic countries like China.
John Adams
Excellent article Mr Lo !
Right on target with JvdK-like lethal accuracy .
pslhk
An unwitting accomplice in disinformation
misguided A Lo misinforms about common law
alleging that “if the law is silent about something, it's legal”
-
Common law judges are seldom silent
What they decide becomes the law
Before the court decides,
lawfulness is practically an administrative prerogative
-
That’s why E Snowden is an exile pursued as a fugitive
Apparently no common law judgment is needed
to provide a “likeliness” test
for section 58a of the Terrorism Act
to take practical effects in common law jurisdictions
such that “Stasiland (civil law jurisdiction)
has become an island of media freedom”.
anthonygmail
I wonder if Anson Chan got knighted like Donald? If so, maybe she can run off to the House of Lords to drum up some support.

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