There has recently been debate regarding the annual protests commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre. Pro-autonomy activists have decried the event and its slogan “Love the country, love the people”, saying that democracy in China is none of Hong Kong’s business and that we should focus our efforts on fighting for democracy at home first.
Here is the problem: can a democratic Hong Kong exist within the confines of an autocratic China? What happens when our people elect our own chief executive, only to have Beijing refuse to appoint him or her? How can we amend our constitution to allow for more democracy when Beijing has the power of veto? Our only hope lies in the people. The people of Hong Kong have successfully blocked anti-sedition legislation in 2003, and the introduction of national “education” (i.e. brainwashing) in 2012.
But sometimes people power isn’t enough when facing off with Beijing. The high-speed rail link to Guangzhou has been highly slammed for numerous reasons, including:
- The Shenzhen-Kowloon tunnel section will be, per kilometre, among the most expensive in the world
- Due to the need for a tunnel, the trains won’t even be that high-speed
- It is highly likely that travellers will need to clear customs at the border in Shenzhen, preventing non-stop trips
- Unless Hong Kong cedes land to China to build customs facilities here, although I can’t see that going over well with the people of Hong Kong
- People living in the New Territories, for example Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Tai Po, and Northern District, have no reason to make a detour to West Kowloon just to cross the border.
- Thus the train ferries mainland tourists directly to the main shopping district of Hong Kong but does little for the people of Hong Kong
- The track record for high-speed rail in China has been not so perfect
When the bill for initial funding was passed, there were protests outside the Legislative Council building, but to no avail. One cause may be that expectations of violence may have scared many people away from the protests, so that only a couple thousand people showed up compared to the tens or even hundreds of thousands that show up at the more “vanilla” July 1 marches.
This leads us to the upcoming “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” movement. Its supporters claim to adopt the ideals of non-violent resistance, meaning that they intend to engage in illegal assembly in downtown Central in the name of bringing full democracy to Hong Kong, but will not engage the police. This, to me, sounds like an impossibility, with the police likely taking extreme measures to prevent protesters from even reaching the protest site and immediately dragging everyone away. Even if the pepper spray is not used, there will be scenes of conflict and the police will find a way to blame it on the protesters. The chaotic scenes earlier this month when a group of protesters tried to blockade CY Leung’s car is a good indicator of how such protests usually turn out.
Still, no one will be killed, the Central government will lose some face. But it will not be enough, and what the people of Hong Kong will do next is anyone’s guess.
The current situation
Currently, Article 45 of the Basic Law states that “The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures,” while Article 68 states “The ultimate aim is the election of all the members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.” However, neither of these has happened. According to the central government, the earliest the CE can be elected is 2017, with the date for Legco being set at 2020.
However, the local government has yet to start consultations on the relevant constitutional reforms, and the central government’s representatives such as Qiao Xiaoyang have basically said that whoever we choose will still be doomed to be a puppet of Beijing (ChinaForbiddenNews). The chances of Hong Kong achieving true universal suffrage in 2017, or ever, look increasingly slim. Furthermore, absolutely no one has started talking about the 2020 elections yet.
The current process for amending the Basic Law requires “the consent of two-thirds of the deputies of the Region to the National People’s Congress, two-thirds of all the members of the Legislative Council of the Region, and the Chief Executive of the Region,” before even being submitted to the whole NPC for approval. This essentially means that only amendments initiated by the pro-Beijing side have a chance of being passed. In the event that the methods of selecting the CE or Legco cannot be amended, the Basic Law states that the methods for the previous term are to be repeated. This is due to a ruling by the NPC, before which Hong Kong would have been free to choose its CE in 2007, the start of the 3rd gubernatorial term, as the Basic Law originally only laid out the rules for the first two terms.
Back in 2007, then DAB chairman Ma Lik stated that universal suffrage could not be introduced before the public adopted ‘heart-felt’ patriotism, and estimated that this would happen in 2022, which was actually better than his previous claim of 2047. (He also claimed the “incident” on June 4, 1989 at Tiananmen Square was not a massacre.) The DAB, which ironically is short for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, is the most Beijing-loyal political party in Hong Kong, followed closely by the FTU (Federation of Trade Unions), other minor parties, and a gaggle of “independents” who all vote in Legco as a bloc.
The current CE is appointed by a select group of 1200 people, almost all Beijing loyalists. The current legislature (Legco) is half-appointed by “functional constituencies”, half-elected, thus guaranteeing a pro-Beijing majority.
- Article on SCMP: The key step (hongkong2020.com)
- 「和平佔中」問與答 (oclp.hk)
- Today Malaysia, tomorrow Hong Kong (BadCanto)