Skip to main content

Hong Kong's Struggle For Universal Suffrage

As the South China Morning Post reported today, Qiao Xiaoyang (喬曉陽), chairman of the Law Committee under the National People's Congress, said that discussions about a possible electoral reform in Hong Kong, which could lead to the establishment of a fully elected government, should not begin until the people of Hong Kong agree that those who confront the Beijing government cannot and shall not be allowed to govern the city (the Chinese text of Qiao Xiaoyang's speech can be found on the website of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R.).

Pro-democracy forces within Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), are pushing for a reform of the electoral system before the coming chief executive elections in 2017.

According to Qiao Xiaoyang, Beijing would be willing to begin consultations over the election reforms only if two prerequisites were fulfilled: first, the reforms would have to be in line with Hong Kong's Basic Law and "the relevant decision of the NPC Standing Committee"; second, those who confront the central government should not be eligible.

What Mr Qiao means by "confronting the central government" is not completely clear. In Mr Qiao's own wording, confrontation "does not refer to criticising Beijing. Criticism is allowed as long as it is for the good of the country." But the question is: who decides what is the good of the country? And what are the objective criteria to define it?

It can be assumed that the ambivalent choice of words veils a desire on Beijing's part to control Hong Kong and to not let democratic reforms turn the SAR into a Western-style parliamentary system. Although the central government has indeed respected the general lines of the "one country-two systems" principle, it seems determined to hold a firm grip on the civil society and group interests. Controlling Hong Kong would be much more difficult - if not altogether impossible - were Hong Kong to be ruled by a democratically elected parliament.

Meanwhile, an initiative launched by Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting, professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, is alarming the pro-Beijing camp. The initiative, called "Occupy Central" will gather pro-democracy protesters in the centre of Hong Kong. Mr Tai has been quoted as saying he hopes that at least 10,000 people will take part in the demonstration. The protests will be conducted according to the principles of non-violence and civil disobedience. He said that all participants should be ready to accept imprisonment and retaliations, such as the loss of their professional qualifications, but that they "should not be worried about losing their lives."

Hong Kong's newspaper The Standard reported that organizers of the Occupy Central movement announced the launch of a website next week where people can sign up to demand universal suffrage. In May there will be a discussion to put forth concrete proposals for constitutional reforms.

The struggle of pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong should be understood against the backdrop of the history of the city both under British rule and after the handover to China in 1997. In one of my next posts I will briefly examine the evolution of Hong Kong's government and the relationship of the city with Britain and China.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Will The Huawei Case Finally Awaken Democrats To The China Threat And The Danger Of Faux Free Trade Rhetoric?

On January 28 the Department of Justice of the United States unsealed two cases against Huawei, China's largest telecommunications company, and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. 
Huawei has been accused of trying to steal trade secrets, committing bank fraud, breaking confidentiality agreements and violating sanctions against Iran. One indictment claims that Huawei attempted to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile by promising bonuses to employees who collected confidential information.
Huawei is not a company like any other. Over the years it has benefited enormously from the support of the Chinese Communist regime. The founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, joined China's army during the Cultural Revolution. In 1978 he also joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 
In the early years Huawei's sources of capital were high-interest loans (20%-30%) from Chinese state-owned enterprises. Ren also secured soft loans from the local government of Shenzhen thanks to his personal co…

Chinese Dissident Zhang Jilin Detained By Police In Chongqing After Calling On Xi Jinping To Resign

Chinese dissident Zhang Jilin (张吉林) has been detained by police in the city of Chongqing after publicly saying that President Xi Jinping should be removed from office.
According to Taiwan-based Apple Daily, on January 17 Zhang talked about China's current affairs on a WeChat group. His ideas received praise from the group members, and he later told friends that he wanted to give a public speech based on the thoughts he had expressed online.
Other dissidents urged him to be careful, but he insisted that he had "the right to free speech." On January 19 Zhang went to Guanyinqiao Square, in the city of Chongqing, and delivered a speech about China's political situation, calling on Xi Jinping to be removed from office.
"I think it's time for Xi Jinping to be removed from office," Zhang told a crowd according to an audio recording. "The Chinese Communist Party will not do anything to the people. If you don't believe me, look, I have been giving a speech…

German court rules pro-Nazi car license plate can be revoked

A court in the German city of Duesseldorf has ruled that the license identifier "HH 1933" may be revoked by the Road Traffic Licensing Department (RTLD). 
According to Der Spiegel, the motor vehicle licensing authority of the district of Viersen had authorized a requested personalized registration plate featuring the ID "HH 1933." After a citizen issued a complaint, however, the license plate was revoked. The driver appealed the decision in court.    

"HH 1933" is thought to be a reference to the Nazi salute "Heil Hitler" (HH) and to the year 1933, when the Nazis seized power. 
On May 2 a court in Duesseldorf ruled that the RTLD may revoke the licence plate.  The court ruled against the Department's initial request that the driver replace the licensing plate. The court found that the Department only has the authority to prohibit the vehicle from being driven on public roads, but not to order a replacement of the licensing plate.