Fri, Jun 26, 2015 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: HK faces tough battle for democracy

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Thursday last week vetoed an electoral reform package set to change the rules for Hong Kong’s 2017 chief executive election. The results of the council’s vote illustrate the many restrictions on the chief executive election, that there is no universal suffrage, and that this situation is unacceptable to Hong Kongers.

However, the “Umbrella movement” — a protest against the political reform policy that continued for two months last year and captured worldwide attention, with students going on strike and the occupation of Central and other districts — was unable to make authorities in Beijing concede to their demands. Hong Kong is facing a long uphill battle to make democratic reforms a reality.

The main reason the electoral reform proposal was unacceptable to Hong Kongers is because Beijing does not allow them to decide their own political fate. China’s government treats Chinese that way and accords Hong Kongers the same treatment. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is anti-democratic: There is no “one country, two systems,” but rather a “one-size-fits-all” system. China will not allow democracy, and its special administrative regions — Hong Kong and Macau — should not presume that they are exceptions.

The issue of electoral reform originated during the handover of Hong Kong to China, with the Basic Law that came into effect in 1997. According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s elections should involve a system where a broadly representative nomination committee selects chief executive candidates who are then voted on by the people of Hong Kong, with Beijing having final veto rights.

Five years ago, China’s National People’s Congress announced that in 2017, the chief executive would be elected by universal suffrage. However, Beijing is unwilling to allow the election to go ahead without interference, and in June last year, it issued a white paper that made it clear that it would play a dominant role in Hong Kong’s affairs.

In August last year, China set up barriers to prevent universal suffrage, and attempted to screen candidates and control the nomination committee to manipulate the election and avoid the possibility of someone unfavorable to Beijing being elected chief executive.

This is the focus of the controversy caused by the electoral reform proposal. Supporters of the proposal, including the Hong Kong government, say that allowing universal suffrage is a step forward compared with the previous system, in which the chief executive was appointed by Beijing, and the current system, in which a 1,200-member election committee composed of four big sectors elects the chief executive in indirect voting.

To many Hong Kongers, although space for free elections has been limited, having a ballot in one’s hand is better than none at all, and progress toward universal suffrage is better than stagnation.

However, as far as the opposition is concerned, the electoral reform plan supported by Beijing is false democracy that does not give Hong Kong residents a genuine right to vote. Moreover, taking a long-term perspective on the electoral system, the reform plan reflects the Beijing authorities’ restriction of political rights in Hong Kong by interfering with the election process. In particular, the special status that Hong Kong enjoys under the “one country, two systems” policy is set to expire in 2047, and insightful people in Hong Kong are now striving to achieve what student Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), an Umbrella movement leader, described as “establishing a system that ensures the rights of Hong Kong after that date” and ensuring that “democracy is not a momentary thing.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top