After the pro-Beijing walkout, we need to move on with the future of Hong Kong

By Pradyum Dayal, Phillips Exeter Academy, US
By Pradyum Dayal, Phillips Exeter Academy, US |

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Many see the "no" vote as "mission accomplished", but true democracy is still a long way away

Large-scale protests, accusations of bribery and a suspected bomb plot have all been part of the dramatic buildup to last week's vote on Hong Kong's political reform package.

Then came a confusing turn of events - the "walkout" by pro-Beijing lawmakers during the vote. This was followed by pan-democrats voting down the reform plan by a big margin.

The most interesting idea right now comes from those who support universal suffrage in Hong Kong - they believe it was a mistake to reject the government's package.

They warn that the majority of pro-democracy supporters see the vote as a success and consider it "mission accomplished".

It might be difficult to persuade them to take to the streets again the next time pro-democracy leaders start this same, tiresome process - which, thanks to Beijing's refusal to have any kind of discussion before 2017, is more than two years away.

So with Beijing continually denying "true" universal suffrage, what should Hong Kong activists focus on changing instead? It should be functional constituencies. This is the strangest thing about Hong Kong system's when compared to real democracies. While ordinary citizens vote for legislative councillors who represent their constituents' views, representatives of special-interest groups from the business community hold an equal number of seats.

This means that unlike former US president Abraham Lincoln's famous words - "by the people, of the people, for the people" - half of Hong Kong's system works to serve businesses, most of whom are pro-Beijing. In recent years, the number of these business representatives has risen, giving more power to the businesses - and therefore Beijing - in Hong Kong's legislative process. So if Hong Kong's pro-democracy activists really want to make a difference, they should try to reduce the influence of functional constituencies.

But any reform in Hong Kong will only happen through a Beijing-approved plan - there is no possibility of a violent revolution succeeding, or even starting, in the city. Public sentiment against Beijing isn't high enough to spark internal change.

Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" principle is a special arrangement that ensures autonomy from Beijing until 2047.

It's impossible to predict how the mainland will change in the next 30 years. Will the central government seek a tighter clampdown on protests here? Will it continue to propose "fake" democracy plans without offering any concessions? Will it eventually grant Hong Kong true democracy? Could it, possibly, release Hong Kong completely from its control?