Universal suffrage

Beijing's zero-risk election model will increase political divisions in Hong Kong

All 27 pan-democratic lawmakers have vowed to veto any proposal based on the NPC framework

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 September, 2014, 11:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

By hammering out a zero-risk model for the 2017 chief executive election, Beijing ensured that the city's leader would be someone it deemed acceptable, which it sees as vital to national security. Yet there is an immediate price to pay: the Hong Kong government will find it even tougher to govern, and the city's sharply-divided political landscape will become yet more polarised.

All 27 pan-democratic lawmakers vowed on Sunday to veto any government proposal to implement a "one man, one vote" election on the model set down by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. If they stick to their word, any such proposal would fail to achieve the required two-thirds majority and die in the Legislative Council.

Even Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei , who reiterated Beijing's tough stance when he explained the decision of the nation's top legislature in Hong Kong yesterday, admitted the city's governance could get more problematic should universal suffrage not arrive in 2017.

All proposals put forward by moderates were rejected by Beijing
Anson Chan Fang On-sang

Under the framework, only two or three candidates will get to run. They would need majority approval from a 1,200-strong nominating committee, which would be based on the election committee that decided the 2012 race. Most of its members will be returned by as few as 250,000 individual and corporate voters.

Beijing insists the stringent requirements are essential, because the election will have a bearing on matters of national security and sovereignty.

But pan-democratic lawmakers are furious with a stringent framework they believe will "screen out" any candidate from their camp before the public has a say. Worse from a governance perspective is that the framework has alienated even those pan-democrats who strongly advocate dialogue with Beijing.

Some outside the camp have raised the possibility of more filibustering, hampering the government's attempts to get laws and funding requests passed.

A person familiar with the government's position acknowledged that moderate pan-democrats had suffered because their attempts to find common ground with Beijing had been in vain. "In the aftermath of the widening rift between the government and pan-democrats, the government may have to rely more heavily on support [in the legislature] from the pro-establishment camp," the person said.

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, now convenor of pro-democracy group Hong Kong 2020, predicted tough times ahead for the administration after "all proposals put forward by moderates, including Hong Kong 2020, were rejected by Beijing".

The group's proposal was one of several that attempted to mollify Beijing by omitting the idea of having candidates nominated by the public, as many pan-democrats had demanded. Instead, the nominating committee would have had 1,400 members, of whom 317 would have been elected by the public. The nominating threshold would also have been far lower than 50 per cent.

Most pan-democrats remained on the sidelines as "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, and People Power's Albert Chan Wai-yip and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen dragged out the budget debate for 130 hours earlier this year as they attempted to push for universal pensions.

Professor Ray Yep Kin-man, of City University's department of public policy, said: "Moderate pan-democrats … criticised radicals on some occasions for launching filibusters, although they did not support pro-establishment lawmakers' calls to cut short the marathon debate.

"But I think in future moderates will be happy to see filibusters over government initiatives on controversial issues … drag on."

Lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, who as Democratic Party chairman agreed a deal with Beijing in 2010 for more directly elected Legco seats in 2012, said he saw little room for cooperation on political issues in future.

"But our party hasn't discussed with our allies in the pan-democratic camp whether we will launch full-scale non-cooperation," Ho said. "My view is we still need to care about the impact on people's livelihoods when we deal with the government."

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