So much for compromise: Hong Kong electoral reform will only benefit one-party state

Stephen Vines says if the package is passed, it will be the end of 'two systems'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 April, 2015, 11:45am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 April, 2015, 11:45am

Before the government unveiled its plans for constitutional reform, a case could have been made for the virtues of compromise and negotiation.

It was not much of a case but as hope springs eternal, well-meaning folks maintained the fantasy that the government was sincere in bringing forward a proposal to pave the way for something resembling a democratic election.

Well, now we know. Not only has there not been the smallest attempt to turn this new chief executive election plan into something more than an unrepresentative version of universal suffrage but this proposal, devised by a non-elected "people's" committee, quite unsurprisingly turns out to be a version of democracy to meet the needs of a one-party state.

Apologies are therefore in order from those who claimed that this would be a step towards the realisation of a genuine system for universal suffrage.

Hardline anti-democrats have no need to apologise because they never had any intention of allowing the people to have a genuine choice. Yet, in the same breath, they are calling on the people to join a campaign that will encourage the democrats to vote for a system designed to deprive the broad mass of the public of the right to choose who will govern them.

The anti-democrats talk loudly and often of the need for compromise but their version of compromise means: you compromise - we need do nothing of the kind. Meanwhile, you can still hear bleating from the so-called "pragmatists" who claim that something is better than nothing, indeed the clarion call for Hong Kong to accept second best seems to be their best argument.

Who now can possibly believe that this is stage one of a process headed towards the blue skies of genuine democracy?

Why can't these "pragmatists" accept what is said at face value?

The government does not even promise a better stage two; on the contrary, further progress towards real elections has been ruled out. Instead, officials are insisting that this is as good as it will get and that what's on offer is, in itself, a genuine system of universal suffrage.

There is, however, some vague talk of future developments. But it is now clear that this will include a legislature stuffed full of rotten boroughs and a chief executive election effectively controlled by a mere 1,200 people.

It is alleged that, if democratic legislators veto this plan, Hong Kong will be landed with a stalemate.

But what are the virtues of substituting one stalemate for another? Enacting the reforms merely guarantees more conflict as the anti-democrat camp has given up all pretence of working towards any form of open elections.

Their clear message can simply be rendered as meaning: accept reality, you might have thought that the "one country, two systems" concept meant that the SAR would operate a different kind of system, but the reality is that the "two systems" part of the equation is dead.

Anyone familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, will know that the story is about one man with two entirely different personalities; one is benign while the other is literally murderous. Jekyll struggles in vain to combat Hyde's unwanted personality but fails and ends up committing suicide to stop Hyde from doing his worst.

In Hong Kong, where the "one country, two systems" formula reflects this kind of split personality, those who want to create a less painful form of schizophrenia are being told that they can only do so if they adopt Dr Jekyll's desperate solution.

Make no mistake; if this phony election scheme is successfully hoisted on Hong Kong, it will spell the end of the "two systems" concept.

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur