Give Beijing security and it may give Hong Kong more democracy
There is a frightful symmetry in the way the opposing political camps in Hong Kong cherry-pick in their interpretations of the Basic Law.
The pan-democrats are justifiably upset about the lack of progress towards "genuine" democracy. Beijing likewise is displeased with the city's dragging its feet over the implementation of public security laws.
It would be hard to overstate which side is more resistant to implementing what the other regards as essential to the city's healthy political development.
The Basic Law expressly states that both full democracy and the need to safeguard security and territorial integrity are our constitutional responsibilities. Articles 45 and 68 state universal suffrage is the ultimate goal for the respective elections of the chief executive and the Legislative Council. Article 23 stipulates the enactment of laws against treason, secession, sedition, subversion as well as foreign political influences.
So, you can hardly blame Beijing for being impatient. Now, almost two decades after the handover, it has for the first time highlighted Hong Kong's obligations under a new draft of the national security law to enact its own relevant legislation. It has been extremely lenient after it allowed the Tung Chee-hwa administration to shelve it in 2003 following a massive rally of half a million people.
But if you emphasise "one country", you are ideologically inclined or favourable towards Article 23, even if it means going against public opinion in Hong Kong. But if you are committed to "two systems", only full and fair democracy could guarantee our autonomy. The problem is that we are supposed to square the circle with "one country two systems".
The pan-dems are set to veto the government's electoral reform package; they are understandably critical of its restrictive framework imposed by Beijing's edict. We would then be sent back to square one in our democratic development.
Since universal suffrage and national security are top priorities for both sides and will not be compromised, they should now be inextricably linked. The two sides should negotiate a quid pro quo. If Beijing has a security guarantee in Hong Kong, it may be more open to a system of free elections in future.