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Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 09:39

Opposition inflexibility delaying political reform

By Zhou Bajun

Some recent important events are directly or indirectly related to Hong Kong’s constitutional development. The government in the city has been trying to persuade the opposition to accept a deal relating to the 2017 election for the Chief Executive (CE).

Opposition inflexibility delaying political reformOn Jan 28, local media reported that if the opposition was prepared to support the proposal for a CE election in 2017 by universal suffrage based on the decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), then the nominating system for the 2022 CE election could be amended.

On Jan 29, Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Raymond Tam Chi-yuen confirmed that the government would make such a pledge if a positive response was forthcoming from the “pan-democrats”.

However, even the well-known moderate “pan-democrat” Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah immediately rejected such an offer. Tong admitted that he might support the 2017 reform package but only if the government promised to lower the nominating threshold for aspiring CE candidates in the 2022 poll and scrap functional constituency seats in the 2020 Legislative Council election. Tam Chi-yuen said: “Tong’s demands are neither feasible in terms of the constitutional setting nor the political reality.” Tong replied: “There’s no need to waste any more time.”

Coincidently, while the SAR government attempts to entice the opposition, United States and British diplomats in the city advised opposition lawmakers to support the government’s universal suffrage bill for the 2017 CE election. These two Western nations have modified their Hong Kong policy in favor of their global strategy and national interests.

Nevertheless, it is too much for the local opposition to make a U-turn from demanding “genuine universal suffrage” to accepting what they say is “fake universal suffrage”. If some opposition lawmakers did so, they would suffer severe losses in coming election campaigns, and their political ethics would also be questioned.

Conversely, Beijing is placing more value on Hong Kong. On Jan 27, Hong Kong was named as one of China’s “core interests and key concerns” in a meeting between PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Sun Jianguo and US Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers.

In detailing the core matters, Sun mentioned Hong Kong after Taiwan, but before the East and South China Seas and cyber-security. He asked the US to respect China’s core interests and key concerns. This implies that Beijing steadfastly resists any interference from foreign forces, including Hong Kong-based diplomats. Though recent private conversations between the US and British diplomats and local opposition have purportedly supported the election of the CE by universal suffrage — in line with NPCSC decisions, such activities should still be opposed because they amount to foreign meddling in China’s affairs. 

As a special administrative region (SAR) of China, Hong Kong needs to rethink its constitutional development not only because the SAR might miss the chance of universal suffrage in 2017 but also due to the latest developments on the mainland. Divergences between China and the West have rarely been seen over past 25 years. It is a great challenge to Hong Kong, the historic point where East meets West.

The latest issue of Undergrad, the official magazine of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union, published an opinion piece aggressively advocating Hong Kong independence.  The author openly incites Hong Kong people to oppose the Communist Party of China and the nation’s regime. Obviously, this is a violation of the Basic Law and “One Country, Two Systems”. Despite the fact that radicalism is not mainstream in the student movement, the government and community should do more to constrain such tendencies toward independence. This is not about freedom of speech; it is about the destiny of the SAR.

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

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