The verdict has finally been handed down: there will be no universal suffrage in 2012.
The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) has voted not to allow Hong Kong citizens to elect their own chief executive and legislators in 2012. The decision is disappointing, but not entirely unpredictable or surprising. This is the second time the NPC has dashed the hope for full elections in Hong Kong. In 2004, the NPC vetoed a proposal to let Hong Kong citizens elect the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2007.
Included in the verdict is a vague promise that the NPC may consider granting universal suffrage in 2017, for the election of the fifth Hong Kong Chief Executive, provided that a bill of amendment to the election method, to be submitted by the Hong Kong Chief Executive and endorsed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, would be deemed acceptable by the NPC.
As pointed out by Hong Kong based blogger Tom Legg: “If you take the spin from the Chief Executive and NPC members at face value, then Hong Kong has been granted greater democracy. On the other hand, thinking people would understand the devil is in the details of the implementation.”
“The devil is in the details” is also a clause used by pro-democracy activist Professor Joseph Cheng when he describes the decision as “just another delaying tactic”. He says, “Basically the Chinese leaders rejected the demand of Hong Kong people.”
Another democratic legislator from the Civic Party, Audrey Eu, calls the pledge to consider full democracy in 2017 “an expectedly disappointing decision”. She warns, “A lot of people concentrate on the reference to 2017 and think there’s hope, but to say you may have universal suffrage in that year doesn’t mean it’s going to happen … there’s no guarantee that it won’t be vetoed again.”
The Chinese Government’s record of repeatedly ignoring the wishes of Hong Kong citizens for self-governance, has frustrated even those who had the privilege of being a part of the Election Committee for the last Chief Executive election. Over 100 Election Committee members, who formed a lobby group earlier this year under the name “The Professional Commons”, placed an advertisement in three local newspapers, where they eloquently expressed their dissatisfaction with the Chinese Government for its delay tactics and its mendacity in pretending to honour the Hong Kong Basic Law. The advertisement, in both English and Chinese, can also be found at Charles Mok’s blog (via Global Voices Online):
Delay after Delay; Enough is Enough!
Over the past two decades the Hong Kong People have been striving for Universal Suffrage. The NPC Standing Committee will soon issue its decision on the HKSAR Government’s Report on Constitutional Reform. If the Standing Committee is to act against the People’s will to reject universal suffrage for 2012 and yet refuses to commit to 2016/2017, this is in effect paving the way for further procrastination and further delay.
The heavy cost of this indecision will soon weigh on the shoulders of the Hong Kong people. In the past decade, we have witnessed a series of blunders in many policy areas – economic, poverty, environment, education, public health, planning and conservation. We have seen opportunities missed, and problems unresolved – these are not coincidences. The root of the problem stems from an electoral system that lacks competition of ideas and policies, and an outdated political system that favours special interests with their claws dragging us backwards, stalling progress.
As professionals, we do not want to see the Hong Kong SAR retracing the same steps for another decade. When a government lacks credibility and no longer commands the respect of its citizens, the society will lose direction and the government will run from one crisis to another.
We hereby appeal to the Standing Committee and the HKSAR Government: Please do not harm the Hong Kong People’s interest and stall the Nation’s progress by allowing the current system in Hong Kong to continue. Please consider the matter from a historical perspective. Respect the wishes of the Hong Kong People and honour your duty to the Nation.
This is our sincere hope: A giant with immense power ought to see the light of morality and justice rather than cave in to the fear of a dwarf.
The Professional Commons
香港人從1987 年已經開始爭取普選，至今已20 年。人大常委會即將就特區政府提交的政改報告作出決議。若違背民意而決了2012 年雙普選，對2016 及2017 年有否普選又含糊其辭，等同為十年以後再次拖延而鋪路。香港社會將為此而付出沉重的代價。