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  • Oct 24, 2014
  • Updated: 6:23am
Universal Suffrage
CommentInsight & Opinion

The logic of Beijing's vision for 2017 chief executive election

Regina Ip says its so-called hard line on Hong Kong's electoral arrangements for 2017 is based on a sound understanding of international law and the provisions of the Basic Law

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 August, 2014, 5:23am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 August, 2014, 6:43am
 

In a further effort to win over the support of Hong Kong people, in particular that of legislators in the pan-democratic camp, Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, met a cross-section of Hong Kong representatives at three seminars held in Shenzhen this month.

Even before the meeting, some of the democrats, who got wind of the "hard line" to be taken by the central authorities, already despaired of a last-minute, dramatic breakthrough, as had happened in the previous constitutional reform exercise in 2010. What is it about Beijing's vision for the chief executive election by universal suffrage in 2017 that led the pan-democrats to turn pessimistic?

It is not just the asymmetry of power but also the asymmetry of argument that might have led the pan-democrats to become a spent force ahead of the endgame. Whatever you might think of Beijing's "hard line", the arguments put forward by Li, an official clearly schooled in legal theory and logical analysis, deserve close scrutiny.

On the proposition that the chief executive election should be conducted in accordance with "international norms", Li noted that, in accordance with article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a political right is a unique right in that it is one which needs to be conferred and implemented by law. As the covenant was a document entered into by state parties after protracted negotiations, the actual arrangements realising such a right need to be implemented by way of legislation drawn up in the light of the actual circumstances in each jurisdiction.

As a footnote to Li's comment, and a reality check on claims that Hong Kong's electoral arrangement must conform with certain opaque "international standards", it is noteworthy that the covenant was adopted by the United Nations in 1966. Many nations, including the US and Britain, entered reservations in respect of their territories. The UK entered a reservation in respect of Hong Kong people's right to vote, while the US entered a number of exceptions reserving, among others, its right to implement the death penalty.

Second, Li pointed out that while the legal system enacted in accordance with the principles enshrined in article 25 is fair, the outcome cannot be equal as there is only one vacant position where the highest office is concerned. It is for individuals seeking that office to work within the system to achieve their goals. It would not be fair for the system to be constructed in such a way to favour any individual or party.

In April, during Li's meeting with legislators in Shanghai, he made a similar point that the Basic Law was drawn up after a thorough consultative process in Hong Kong 30 years ago, before any of the politicians or political parties now active here started their political life.

The four-sector composition of the Election Committee in the Basic Law represented the outcome of detailed consultation with a wide cross-section of Hong Kong's community. If the nominating committee is to be based on this same model, which represented a decades-old consensus, it would hardly be fair to argue that the system was pitched against today's democrats by design.

Li pointed out that, under article 25, the principles which must be observed are that the right to vote must be universal, equal and held by secret ballot. The expression of "the free will of the people" could only be secured where law - which is enforceable and respected by all - exists.

Li cited, as examples, elections in countries like Iraq or Thailand, where the outcomes were not respected by the voters. Thus, without the rule of law, the people's right to express their will could not be secured.

Finally, Li, who is also chairman of the Basic Law Committee, questioned the assertion - put forward by many to entice the pan-democrats to accept the NPC ruling - that Hong Kong people should pocket whatever arrangement is endorsed by the Standing Committee as "the second or interim best". He considered that whatever arrangements are endorsed by the Standing Committee should be viewed as the "best arrangements for Hong Kong" in light of the actual circumstances at this point in time.

Societies advance in the course of time. When the Athenians decided women, foreigners and slaves should not have the right to vote 2,500 years ago, that was perceived by the authorities then to be the most reasonable arrangement. So was the British decision to deny women the right to vote until 1928.

If the framework endorsed by the Standing Committee manages to secure the requisite support of our legislature, there is no reason to doubt that progress would come, and in a much shorter time span than in ancient Greece or Victorian England.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is a legislator and chair of the New People's Party

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This article is now closed to comments

Formerly ******
The logic is quite simple - the CCP will rule as it wants and brutally crush those opposed to the CCP.
And with elected officials who are beholden to the CCP, there will be no Hong Kong government official to speak out on behalf of those persecuted by the CCP. Get ready, Hong Kong, for the CCP and its princes and princesses to begin the takeover of Hong Kong businesses and the best residences.
邏輯是相當簡單 — — 中國共產黨將統治因為它想要殘酷地鎮壓那些反對中國共產黨。
當選的官員們都依賴于中國共產黨,將會有沒有 Hong 香港政府官方要談那些受到中共的迫害。準備好,Hong 香港,為中國共產黨和其王子和公主開始接管 Hong 港商和最好的住宅。
robert.palmer.37669
Beijing should be ashamed of itself for being so insecure as to not allow free and open elections in there as the had agreed to do.
blue
" And while I personally would rather see a dead parakeet take up the post of CE than Ms. Ip, she might just prove to be the most eligible of the three stooges, since it is unlikely that Beijing would allow anybody even less mainstream than her to run."

While Ms. Ip might make it on the rigged ballot for the 2017 CE election, there is no way Hong Kongers would elect this power hungry opportunist as CE.

Why do you think Ms. Ip is more eligible? She totally bungled Article 23 and made it radioactive.
klyiu1@yahoo.ca
But shouldn't we be thankful to Ms. Ip for the bungle that she made? If not for her hard sale pitch that drew the people together in opposition, Article 23 would probably have sneaked its way into the law of Hong Kong, and should that happen, a lot of the folks nowadays would be in big big trouble just for speaking up so loud.
philpaul
OMG such nonsense! I expected more of Regina Ip.
impala
Well, at least we know now who one of the three candidates on the 2017 ballot will be. And while I personally would rather see a dead parakeet take up the post of CE than Ms. Ip, she might just prove to be the most eligible of the three stooges, since it is unlikely that Beijing would allow anybody even less mainstream than her to run.
ds6425082@gmail.com
You are the shame of Hong Kong people
53a3ea90-7c10-4664-a880-4c4b0a320968
Regina, dun you feel ashamed of drawing upon the analogy between women been disfranchised for a few centuries and Hong Kong people thwarted fighting for genuine democracy to justify your fallacy? I am very sorry that women had been deprived of the very basic human right in the history. However, this misery should be applied to the context where Hong Kong people located.
53461a9b-4120-450e-a15d-35040a320969
Different view does not mean to betray the people.
Ur view or atance ia different from me, so could I say u are obetraying other HK people?
Ur statement is just same as the pan-democrats - not allow others' views or opinions.
53ca7d2c-531c-4020-8daa-74410a320969
@sk2: you've reversed the positions. The pan-democrats want precisely to allow, to enable ALL voices, ALL opinions through the only meaningful way possible - real democracy, ie where any person has an equal vote and an equal chance to stand for election. The pan-democrats are in no position to deny anyone anything - it is Beijing and its HK friends who, by denying real democracy, are not allowing others' views and opinions. Why doesn't Beijing and the HK governments trust their own people to elect their own leaders? They are putting their own self-interest ahead of their people. Why doesn't the Communist Party simply stand for election in its own name and allow the Silent Majority to show its support by electing it into power with real legitimacy? It's shameful for a government not to trust its own people and put its own self-interest first. That's why I say Regina and her friends are betraying HK. Otherwise, they would have the guts to allow a free vote and see if they truly represent the views of Hong Kong.

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