Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Ma ignoring HK at Taiwan’s peril

By John Lim 林泉忠

The Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong and the unofficial 10-day online “referendum” on “true universal suffrage” that it initiated were well supported by the territory’s public, but China was not best pleased, to say the least.

Speaking to the Hong Kong media, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that whether the promises Beijing made to Hong Kong regarding the “one country, two systems” model have been fulfilled has nothing to do with Taiwan’s situation.

Yet is it true that Hong Kong’s fate and the way the situation is evolving there are completely unrelated to Taiwan?

In the first two days of the online poll, more than 600,000 people voted, far exceeding expectations and inspiring Hong Kongers who want real universal suffrage and support the Occupy Central movement, while causing alarm bells to ring in Beijing.

On the first day of the referendum, the Chinese State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office disowned the ballot in no uncertain terms, saying that it was organized and written by opposition forces in Hong Kong. It called the initiative a political farce and “an outright challenge to the Basic Law” — Hong Kong’s mini-constitution — unequivocally rejecting the legality and legitimacy of the voting undertaking by hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers.

There have been many political protest movements in Hong Kong in the 17 years since it was handed back to China by the UK, including the 2003 movement to protest the anti-subversion Article 23 of the Basic Law and the 2012 protests against Beijing’s attempts to introduce a new “national education” curriculum in local schools.

However, the Chinese government has never before sought to stamp out a protest movement so quickly as it has with this one. In other words, the urgency and immediacy with which the authorities in China have sought to kill this initiative suggest that Beijing is viewing what is happening in Hong Kong with a sense of crisis that is quite unprecedented.

This urgency derives from how intent mainstream Hong Kong society is on gaining true universal suffrage, challenging the central tenet of the powers-that-be in Beijing that nothing is more important than the consolidation of the power of the Chinese Communist Party.

Because of this doctrine, Beijing refuses to countenance the possibility of a candidate being elected as Hong Kong chief executive who will dare say no to the Chinese Communist Party. It has taken steps to make sure that this does not happen, including by writing clauses into the Basic Law stating that no matter how the chief executive is elected, they must be appointed by the central government and nominated by the territory’s Electoral Affairs Commission.

On top of this, Beijing is very concerned about how, on the thorny issue of universal suffrage in Hong Kong, it is to control the commission and the territory’s whole electoral mechanism to block pro-democracy forces from fielding a candidate for the post of chief executive.

These attempts to exert more pressure over the “one country, two systems” model have further galvanized Hong Kong’s pro-democracy factions and their supporters, who were fighting for democracy even before the 1997 handover.

Both the ongoing Occupy Central movement and the online referendum are examples of Hong Kongers trying to consolidate support for universal suffrage that will give them more bargaining power over the government of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) and Beijing regarding universal suffrage.

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