Parliament head warns HK on Western democracy

Reuters, HONG KONG

Fri, Mar 07, 2014 - Page 6

The head of China’s parliament yesterday warned that importing Western-style democracy for a planned direct election in Hong Kong in 2017 could lead to “disastrous” results, a delegate who attended the closed-door meeting said.

China has agreed to let Hong Kong elect its next leader in 2017 in what will be the most far-reaching version of democracy on Chinese soil.

Specific arrangements, however, have yet to be decided including, crucially, whether public nominations of candidates including opposition democrats will be allowed.

However, in a sign of Beijing’s hardening stance, Zhang Dejiang (張德江), head of the National People’s Congress, told Hong Kong delegates attending the annual Congress meetings in Beijing that Western-style democracy could not simply be transported to the territory.

“You cannot just move or copy [the electoral system] from abroad, otherwise you might very easily find it can’t adapt to the local environment and become a democracy trap ... and possibly bring a disastrous result,” said Ma Fung-kwok (馬逢國), a Hong Kong deputy to the congress, citing comments made by Zhang in the two-hour meeting.

Ma did not give any specifics on what such a disaster might be.

China’s state media also did not immediately report the comments by Zhang, one of the most powerful men on the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee.

Other delegates in the meeting said Zhang had re-emphasized three key criteria for the poll, including that candidates must “love” China and abide by the territory’s Basic Law that states all candidates must be approved by a “broadly representative nominating committee” that would more than likely be dominated by pro-Beijing loyalists.

“This direct electoral system cannot damage the motherland’s sovereignty, safety and future development, nor damage the China-Hong Kong relationship,” said Rita Fan (范徐麗泰), a former Hong Kong legislator who is now a congress delegate and who attended the meeting, citing comments by Zhang.

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have threatened to seal off the territory’s business district in a so-called “Occupy Central” campaign of civil disobedience this summer unless Beijing allows open and public nominations.

Fan added that while Zhang did not mention the Occupy Central movement directly, the underlying meaning of his comments was clear.