It's time to get real about democracy in city | South China Morning Post
  • Tue
  • Jan 27, 2015
  • Updated: 3:48am
Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 4:24am

It's time to get real about democracy in city

BIO

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.
 

Get this through your thick skull, all of you: Hong Kong will never have true democracy. We're a part of China, not an independent entity. The best we can hope for is a kind of democracy our masters in Beijing can live with. But this still hasn't hit home 15 years after the handover. Hongkongers screeched when state leaders made clear that chief executives elected under universal suffrage starting in 2017 must love Hong Kong and China. What's so outrageous about that? Should we instead elect traitors as our leaders? You can argue that to be a patriot, you need only love the country, not the Communist Party. But get real - the Communist Party rules China. Go ahead, elect a chief executive who hates the Communist Party and see how far he gets when he asks Beijing for favours. Hongkongers screeched even louder over reports that Beijing has planned a process to filter out undesirable chief executive candidates when universal suffrage starts. Well, loyalists such as Elsie Leung Oi-sie and Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai were talking nonsense when they equated a filtering process to the US' primary elections. A screening process aims to get rid of candidates Beijing doesn't trust; the US primary process is to identify the most electable party candidate through a democratic vote by members of political parties. Equating the two is puerile. But so is playing an all-or-nothing game with Beijing which we just can't win. Hong Kong is already among the freest societies in the world. We're now just fighting for the icing on the cake - the democratic right to elect our leaders. Let's not argue that this is more than just icing because elections produce better, fairer and more accountable leaders. Would a democratically elected "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung make a better leader than an undemocratically elected Leung Chun-ying? So why not settle for thinner icing? Why not fight the more winnable battle for a screening committee that's representative of the people? Surely, it's common sense that a chief executive who doesn't have Beijing's trust can't possibly serve Hong Kong's interests better than one who does.

 

Let's pass the Article 23 legislation as a sign of trust

Let's have a deal. Mainland leaders don't trust Hong Kong's pan-democrats, suspecting they are US lackeys with an agenda to undermine the motherland. The pan-democrats see mainland leaders as repressive communists who can't be trusted to keep their promise of universal suffrage for Hong Kong. How do you overcome this deep distrust that so divides the two sides? Simple - just pass anti-subversion laws known as Article 23 of the Basic Law. Pan-democrats have long resisted Article 23, fearing Beijing would use it to target them. Meanwhile, mainland leaders have long suspected the pan-democrats are up to no good in opposing national security legislation. Why don't the democrats prove they're not traitors by supporting a version of Article 23 that doesn't diminish Hong Kong's freedoms? This would demonstrate their trust in Beijing and fulfil a constitutional duty. Once laws are in place to punish traitors, Beijing should be assured and reciprocate trust by granting maximum democracy without losing its say over Hong Kong issues. Surely it's a fair exchange that's doable.

 

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