Hong Kong Struggles over Fake Democracy

The Hong Kong government was due on July 15 to report to Beijing the findings from its five-month public consultation on methods to directly elect the legislative council in 2016 and chief executive in 2017.

All the focus is on the chief executive election as it would be the first time Hong Kong’s voters get to elect their leader – a full 20 years after it was promised under the Basic Law, the mini-constitution valid till 2047.It should not surprise anyone if the findings are tailored to what Beijing wants: a handpicked committee of Beijing loyalists to select Chief Executive candidates. The voters of Hong Kong can then exercise “universal suffrage” to accept a leader from the line-up of acceptable comrades –none of which they get to pick on their own.

Public consultation charade

The last major public consultation conducted by the Hong Kong government was on the Article 23 Security Bill where it also claimed overwhelming support. That was exposed as false when massive public protests aborted legislation in 2003. The blanket prohibitions of Article 23 under subversion, sedition, secession and treason would have criminalized normal freedoms of speech, press and assembly enjoyed by all of the territory’s residents.

The scale of the “silent majority” explosion, when an estimated half-million people took to the streets, shocked the pundits who advised the Hong Kong administration, the China Liaison Office and Beijing. They totally underestimated the deep-seated distrust of the Chinese Communist Party. Since the 2012 leadership change in Beijing brought President Xi Jinping to power, a tougher line is being adopted on Hong Kong and generally all domestic, regional and international disputes. The CCP, led by Xi, seems to have decided it can compel compliance through brute force in a grand new Great Power dream.

Why the disconnect?

Hong Kong citizens are pragmatic enough to accept the reality of the asymmetric power equation they are stuck in. They are most concerned about how the mainland’s one-party power will be exercised in the territory and how it will affect the way they live, work and play. The evidence of continuing power abuse and human rights violations in mainland China does not build confidence in the voters to embrace the CCP.

More and more local citizens are identifying themselves as “Hongkongers” first and as “Chinese” second, tracked on Hong Kong University’s six-monthly surveys conducted by pollster Dr Robert Chung. The December 2011 survey indicated a 10-year high for those considering themselves “Hongkongers”and a 12-year low for those identifying themselves primarily as “Chinese.”

Exhortations to “Love the motherland” are not taken as blind support for the CCP. Hong Kong citizens draw a clear distinction between reverence for Chinese culture, tradition, literature, country – and loyalty to the CCP. They have no problem loving the motherland.

Hong Kong society is only too aware of the contradictions within the one-party dictatorship, which while hogging absolute power is trying to rid itself of corruption and uses state terror to eliminate dissent. If appointed leaders fail to protect them, citizens turn out on the streets to block erosion of what they hold dear as the “core values” of Hong Kong society as they did on July 1.

Humpty Dumpty decides

Foreign investors have learned the hard way over four decades that commercial contracts made with parties in China are not necessarily binding. The Chinese view legal agreements as “understandings” which can be re-interpreted, amended, added-to or cancelled depending on the “actual situation”(as determined by the Chinese partner).“Actual situation” is the escape duct to unilaterally weasel out of obligations.

Hong Kong’s common law tradition takes contracts as commitments to be adhered to by the parties involved. Only by mutual consent can contracts be modified or cancelled.

Hong Kong residents take the Basic Law as a solemn and binding social contract between the communist dictatorship in Beijing and the international port city Britain handed over. They are upset that Beijing can delay, reinterpret, add-to and ignore provisions of the Basic Law at will. The CCP is answerable to no one – a reality dawning on Hong Kong like its worst recurrent nightmare.The hectoring tone of the White Paper Beijing issued on June 10 reignited all the old fears.

Beijing’s twists and turns on the Basic Law have an Alice in Wonderland surrealism, well captured in Humpty Dumpty’s exchange with Alice on the shifting meaning of words, which Humpty settles with finality: "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that's all."

Nominating Committee & Patriots

The electoral dispute now seems to have come down to the Nomination Committee to select the Chief Executive shortlist for voters and the added requirements for patriots who love the country and do not oppose the CCP and its socialist state.

Hong Kong’s citizens can accept a Nomination Committee that is “broadly representative” and “in accordance with democratic principles” as provided in Article 45. However the National People’s Congress Standing Committee wants to roll forward the discredited Election Committee formula which brought forth the last three chief executives – all of whom have been failures. Nowhere does the Basic Law suggest that the Election Committee of pro-Beijing loyalists and functional constituencies can rebadge as the Nomination Committee for the purpose of the 2017 CE election by universal suffrage.

The new criteria of only patriots who do not oppose the CCP and its socialist state is problematic. The pan-democrats oppose one-party dictatorship and the more hellish aspects of the socialist state. They hope to ring-fence Hong Kong from such fatal contamination. That is fantasy. The one-party dictatorship, the police state and the PLA are winding tight around Hong Kong like a boa constrictor in a hurry.

Perhaps the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress’s Holy Man, the Anglican archbishop Rev Paul Kwong, had a point when he sermonized that pro-democracy activists should follow Jesus Christ’s example and go silently to crucifixion.