Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Universal Suffrage Decision for Hong Kong lies with the Beijing’s government

In a media conference held on Saturday 29 December 2007, the Hong Kong Chief Executive made a historical announcement that the Special Administrative Region (SAR) had entered a new phase in its political development with a set timetable to elect a leader by 2017 and the legislators by 2020. Presently, only half of the 60 legislative seats are elected.

The decision comes with mixed reactions from the Hong Kong Community. The majority of the Hong Kong residents who are more concerned with the continued stability of the economy, employment and prosperity of the former colony, accepted it as a step towards full democracy.

However, there were sparks of outcry from the Democrat Party which championed for an early date for universal suffrage, that is, in 2012. Protest numbering hundreds or more people were held to denounce the decision. Foreign western media, as usual, interviewed the protesters and its supporters from the Democrat Party and reported the grievances in its news channel, with 80% of the content focusing on these objections. Why? Obviously, the western media has its own agenda of trying to influence the Hong Kong Community to force the issue on the Beijing government. Do you think this is possible?

The hundreds who protested said they were cheated of the right to vote and claimed that they represent the wishes of the Hong Kong people. Do they truly represent the Hong Kong majority? Once more, I like to ask the Hong Kong Democrats, why are you clamoring for universal suffrage when throughout 100 years of colonial rule under the British there was not even a whisper to such effect in the ears of the former colonial masters? Perhaps, if Hong Kong is still under the British Overseas Territories Administration, there will be no such request.

British’s Foreign Secretary voiced his disappointment in a news media over the decision. In the years leading to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, what did the British government do to ensure that the Hong Kong people can self-determine within a timeframe? There is nothing in the terms of the handover on the timetable for universal suffrage. And the British government responsibility and sincerity towards the Hong Kong people is questionable in that no British citizenship was offered as an option to the average Hong Kong residents before the handover. So what right do they have now to criticize the decision of the Chinese government?

The US spokesman is also equally skeptical of the timetable for full democracy by implying that there could be a delay as the decision to change the electoral process still depended on the National People Congress in Beijing even after a consensus is secured on the Hong Kong side.

The decision for universal suffrage as stated in the Basic Law lies with the central government in Beijing. The decision was clearly made in the interest of the Hong Kong majority in consultation with the Chief Executive and also, the Beijing’s Authority concerns over the spillover effects on the demand for greater political freedom in the hinterlands, where the level of political maturity and economic progress is still not yet on par with Hong Kong.

What is important over here is that the Hong Kong divisive parties (including the appointed 30 legislators) must agree to a compromise to vote for a constitutional change on the electoral process in the next 10 years, to make such a political dream come true.

Ultimately, it is the Hong Kong people and not from any western governments or media who will need to decide the format of election and since they have already waited for 10 years, what is wrong in waiting for another 10 years for the move towards universal suffrage?

Personally, I am still of the opinion that the ruling government in Beijing is watching the political development in Hong Kong carefully and draws whatever learning experiences, which may yet see Hong Kong as a stimulus that transforms the political process throughout the whole of China towards a more liberal and democratic society, although I have to admit it will be at a much slower and gradual pace.

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