Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Dictatorship failing Hong Kong

By Emily Lau 劉慧卿

Hong Kong's handover to Chinese rule in 1997 marked a major setback for democratic government there. The Chinese communist government "set up shop" in Hong Kong by getting a small circle of 400 people picked by Beijing to elect a "provisional legislative council" in lieu of a legislature elected by the people. Instead of monitoring the functions of the executive branch, the legislature has become a rubber stamp. Meanwhile, the executive branch, which already monopolized power and prioritized the interests of businesspeople, has become even more reckless.

Ruled by businessmen, Hong Kong's government has become unbalanced. The rights of residents have been drastically rolled back. Being Chinese, they are happy to have been freed from British rule, but as human beings, they are angry at the loss of democracy and freedoms.

At the constitutional level, the formulation of the Basic Law was undemocratic. The will of the people was not res-pected. No ballot was ever held for the people to confirm the use of the Basic Law as the mini-constitution for Hong Kong. Besides, many articles in the Basic Law restrict the legislature's powers to enact laws as well as its supervisory functions over the executive branch.

The Basic Law also stipulates that the chief executive shall be elected by an election committee consisting of 800 members. It also limits the number of Legislative Council seats to be directly elected by the people. As a result, the first Legislative Council has only 20 directly elected seats -- a violation of the principle of universal suffrage.

At the constitutional level, the Chinese government already controls Hong Kong's future development entirely, thereby curbing the Hong Kong people's rights to democratic participation.

The promise to have "Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong" was discarded long ago.

The limited franchise is in fact a tactic for the politically privileged class to defend their own interests. How ironic and sad it is that Hong Kong now has a more authoritarian electoral system than the one it had in the colonial era. But the unprecedentedly high turnout at the first Legislative Council election in 1998 washed away the bad name of Hong Kong people as politically aloof. The residents used their votes to show support for democracy and their dissatisfaction with the special administrative region (SAR) government.

The people of Hong Kong know clearly that the territory is now part of China, and that Hong Kong cannot go it alone on the path to democracy. A democratic political system is a basic right that every citizen is entitled to. While emphasizing economic reforms, China must also speed up the pace of political reforms and allow democracy to develop. It must also guarantee the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. Only then can the spirit of "one country, two systems" be realized in Hong Kong. Only then can the Taiwanese people's suspicions about Beijing's credibility be eased.

However, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's (董建華) poor leadership and governance has worked against Hong Kong people over the past six years. Tung is given to one-sided views, nepotism, covering up his mistakes, indecision, capricious policymaking and contempt for public opinion.

Today, the rich-poor gap has widened in Hong Kong. Politi-cally, it has become a haven for special privileges. The rule of law is not respected; the economy has shrunk on all fronts. What's more, laborers have lost their jobs; the middle class has negative equity; education has withered; the quality of life has fallen; society is filled with complaints. Also, the heavy-handed Article 23 would trample on human rights and do away with the freedoms that the people have always valued and taken seriously.

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