Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

2017 chief executive poll isn't city's 'last battle for democracy'

Reform is ongoing, says former think-tank chief who suggests that Beijing and pan-democrats compromise on universal suffrage

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Beijing and the pan-democrats need not see the 2017 chief executive election as the final battle in Hong Kong's fight for democracy, a former top adviser of the administration has said.

Former Central Policy Unit head Professor Lau Siu-kai said it would take some heat off the debate on universal suffrage if both sides viewed the city's political reform as a continuing process.

The two sides should consider coming to a compromise to resolve the current stalemate, Lau told the South China Morning Post in a recent interview.

"Could there be a chief executive candidate backed by Beijing and who is not opposed by the pan-democrats?" he said.

Could there be a chief executive candidate backed by Beijing and who is not opposed by the pan-democrats?
Former Central Policy Unit head Professor Lau Siu-kai

While it was practically impossible for a pan-democrat to win the top job in 2017, Lau said, the central government could consider allowing the pan-democratic camp a bigger role in the city's governing process.

Both sides should avoid taking a results-oriented approach in the chief executive race, the professor said.

"Currently, the central government is focusing on preventing those who confront it from becoming chief executive, while the pan-democrats are demanding that their candidate be allowed to enter the chief executive race in 2017," he said.

Lau was speaking a fortnight after comments by top National People's Congress official Qiao Xiaoyang sparked fears among pan-democrats that their candidates would be screened out of the 2017 election.

Qiao, chairman of the NPC's Law Committee, said in Shenzhen on March 24 that those "who confront the central government" would be ineligible to lead Hong Kong.

Lau said both sides need not see the 2017 poll - in which Hong Kong's leader would, for the first time, be elected by universal suffrage - as the "last battle".

He pointed out that in the United States, women were granted voting rights only in 1920, more than a century after the founding of the nation.

Lau noted that some pan-democrat leaders were inclined towards putting all their stakes on the 2017 poll as they were soon to retire from politics.

He warned that the "Occupy Central" movement, which was aimed at forcing Beijing to make concessions on political reform, could easily be hijacked by radical forces.

"Pan-democrats should not resort to brinkmanship in their fight for democracy," he said.

Lau, who is emeritus professor of sociology at the Chinese University, said Beijing put Hong Kong's democracy development on a lower priority than other objectives such as preserving the city's prosperity and stability.

He warned that the central government's tough stance on universal suffrage would escalate political tensions in the city in the coming year, which would put the already-embattled Leung Chun-ying administration in an even more difficult position.