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Thursday, April 01, 2021, 11:00
Overdue election changes ensure Asian prosperity
By Wilson Lee Flores
Thursday, April 01, 2021, 11:00 By Wilson Lee Flores

History has just been made on March 30 with comprehensive and stabilizing election reforms which shall benefit not only Hong Kong and China in general, but all Asia. Stability is important for this city as Asia’s premier financial hub and the world’s No 3 next only to New York and London.

On March 30, the 27th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress of China unanimously adopted amendments to Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), which shall ensure “patriots governing Hong Kong”. 

China’s reform of the Basic Law regarding the Hong Kong election system is long overdue and will ultimately ensure long-term stability in the region. This is good news for Asia as well. This reform of guaranteeing that only patriots govern Hong Kong shall boost international business confidence in the city, which is important for regional trade and finance. Hong Kong needs political stability and rule of law for it to remain flourishing as a global financial center, lest instability will gravely ruin its future. 

With the new election reform, Hong Kong now has a brighter economic future under Asian-style democracy which focuses more on consensus and stability rather than antagonism. The ultimate winners of this constitutional reform shall be the people of Hong Kong, as their city can again rebuild its international reputation as a stable, safe and efficient center for tourism, finance, trade, logistics and services devoid of 2014-style political anarchy and 2019-style violent riots.

A good example of Asian-style democracy with strong political stability, discipline and social harmony combined with economic dynamism is the region’s other financial hub, the progressive city-state of Singapore. Like Hong Kong in recent years due to its national security law and the new election amendments, Singapore has for decades been severely maligned and unfairly criticized by some Western politicians and critics as “lacking in democracy”.

With the new election reform, Hong Kong now has a brighter economic future under Asian-style democracy which focuses more on consensus and stability rather than antagonism. The ultimate winners of this constitutional reform shall be the people of Hong Kong

In a CNN interview in 1997 by Louis Kraar, Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew said: “Why are we (Singapore) being clobbered, hammered, and attacked by the American press as authoritarian, lacking in freedom, liberties? Not because of three million Singaporeans but because, as the American press and Freedom House say, we are a bad example for China, whereas Taiwan is a good example, and that is the way we should be going. Well, my job is not to be an example to anybody. If they think Singapore is a good example, I am flattered.”

Lee continued: “Now if I were a Hong Konger, I would not want to be the catalyst to either democratize China or cause a conflict between China and the US. Hong Kong has existed all these 150 years not as a place for democracy or freedom but as a place to get on in life, make money, and have a good life. When Deng Xiaoping promised ‘one country, two systems’, that’s what he meant.”

Under British colonial rule, Hong Kong had no political democracy, Hong Kong people had no say on the choice of the governors and the city prospered because the entrepreneurial Chinese people focused mainly on the economy. The city prospered as an entrepot servicing the vast China hinterland. Tragically, just before the colonizers left in 1997, they had tinkered with its political system to inject new policies which had laid the foundations for long-term civil unrest, internal conflicts, built-in contradictions and uncertainties. The decolonization process of Hong Kong needed to be done by this reforming of that flawed election system. 

Some pundits and Western politicos had seemingly forgotten that the leaders of China led by reformist Deng Xiaoping had allowed the unique experiment “one country, two systems”, which meant that the city is reunified with China as one country but allowed to keep its laissez faire capitalism. However, this experiment didn’t mean this special administrative region with a high degree of autonomy shall be allowed to degenerate into unmitigated chaos, or become a base for foreign-supported separatism, subversion or anti-China activities. Abuse of freedom isn’t democracy, it is untenable anarchy.   

All self-respecting, sovereign countries seek to safeguard national security, political stability and peace, thus legally requiring that only patriots are eligible to become legislators and leaders. All countries — including the homelands of some vociferous Hong Kong critics like the United States and Britain — have laws barring people involved with secession, subversion, sedition, separatism or any breach of national security from becoming political leaders. The proposed election reform in the Hong Kong SAR is not only wise, logical, necessary and appropriate, it is actually long overdue.

The author is an analyst and columnist at the Philippine Star, winner of a record 15 Catholic Mass Media Awards and three Palanca literary awards, and moderator of the Pandesal Forum.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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