News / Asia

Hong Kong Reform Dispute Persists as Consultation Ends

FILE - A policeman stands on a footbridge leading to the government headquarters complex in Hong Kong.
FILE - A policeman stands on a footbridge leading to the government headquarters complex in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's government is receiving final submissions of public proposals for how to introduce universal suffrage for the election of the autonomous Chinese territory's next leader in 2017.
 
Officials will end the five-month consultation exercise on Saturday, and will release their own electoral reform plan sometime in the next year. That plan must win the approval of two-thirds of Hong Kong's legislators before it can take effect for the 2017 election of the chief executive, the city's top job.
 
The Hong Kong government says it wants to present lawmakers with a document reflecting a public consensus that will advance the territory's democratic development.
 
But the consultation period has shown that wide gaps remain between the city's two main political camps: one that demands a faster pace of democratization, and the other that advocates a more conservative approach favored by the government and its political superiors in Beijing.
 
Hong Kong's constitution, or Basic Law, says chief executive candidates should be nominated by a "broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures." Such a body likely would be based on an existing, largely pro-government committee that has elected all of the territory's leaders since 1997, when Britain returned Hong Kong to China.
 
Pro-democracy activists fear the government will propose forming a nominating committee also dominated by pro-establishment members who will block the candidacies of anyone deemed insufficiently loyal to Beijing.
 
Lobbying campaign
 
Veteran pro-democracy campaigners and former lawmakers Anson Chan and Martin Lee raised that concern in meetings with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and members of Congress in Washington in early April.
Anson Chan, former Hong Kong Chief Secretary and former lawmaker, speaking to VOA at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, April 2, 2014.Anson Chan, former Hong Kong Chief Secretary and former lawmaker, speaking to VOA at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, April 2, 2014.
x
Anson Chan, former Hong Kong Chief Secretary and former lawmaker, speaking to VOA at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, April 2, 2014.
Anson Chan, former Hong Kong Chief Secretary and former lawmaker, speaking to VOA at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, April 2, 2014.

 
In an interview with VOA at Washington's National Endowment for Democracy, Chan accused Beijing officials of trying to exert undue influence over the electoral reform process. In recent months, those officials have said chief executive candidates must "love the country (China) and Hong Kong," a controversial phrase not explicitly stated in the Basic Law.
 
"The bottom line is, we want credible proposals that give voters a genuine choice," said Chan, Hong Kong's former chief secretary, or number two official. "The proposals should not set down unreasonable restrictions to prevent people from standing for election, and should not rule out people of different political affiliations."
 
She also said Chinese "interference" is eroding the "core values" of Hong Kong, an international financial center whose residents enjoy greater freedoms of the press, religion and assembly than citizens of mainland China.
 
"We share these core values with the United States and many other trading partners," Chan said. "And if we can no longer maintain these core values, then our business prospects at the end of the day will be adversely affected."
 
Different approaches
 
Other members of Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp also want a "genuine" choice of chief executive candidates, but disagree about how to achieve that.
 
The most reform-minded pan-democrats say the nominating committee must approve any candidate who wins significant public nominations from voters or established political parties.
 
Chan's Hong Kong 2020 group advocates a more modest system in which voters cannot nominate candidates directly, but can elect about one-quarter of the members of the nominating committee. The other members would be chosen by various industry group representatives, many of whom favor the establishment. Up to now, those representatives have chosen almost all members of previous chief executive election committees.
 
Chan and her fellow activist Lee have faced strong criticism for lobbying U.S. officials to support their cause. Chinese state media have accused the pair of trying to invite foreign intervention in China's affairs.
 
More criticism comes from Hong Kong's pro-establishment camp.
 
Backlash grows
 
New People's Party leader and lawmaker Regina Ip, Hong Kong's former security chief, told VOA that the actions of Chan and Lee are "totally inappropriate."
FILE - Regina Ip, former Hong Kong Secretary for Security.FILE - Regina Ip, former Hong Kong Secretary for Security.
x
FILE - Regina Ip, former Hong Kong Secretary for Security.
FILE - Regina Ip, former Hong Kong Secretary for Security.

 
"If they want constitutional change, they should lobby our own government and the authorities in Beijing," said Ip, speaking by phone from Hong Kong.
 
"The opinions of big countries such as the United States and Britain are becoming increasingly irrelevant, because Beijing is getting more confident by the day and is very sensitive to external interference. So trying to leverage external forces to pressure Beijing would send the wrong signals and really hurt our democratic cause."
 
Ip said Chinese officials who comment on Hong Kong's reform debate only have stated the obvious - that nominations of chief executive candidates must conform to the Basic Law, which does not specifically give the public a say in the process.
 
Facing realities
 
"The democratic model under the Basic Law is a limited one because we are a part of China, we are not an independent political entity," Ip said. "The constitution was designed to preserve the capitalist economy of Hong Kong, so that we would not become too populist or anti-China."
 
Ip's party says Hong Kong can have a competitive leadership election with a nominating committee modeled on the previous election committee, but whose members are chosen by an expanded group of representatives from a wider variety of social sectors, such as the elderly, youths, women and minorities.
 
But many Hong Kongers are pessimistic about democratic reform.
 
A survey released Wednesday by the Hong Kong Transition Project an independent research group, shows that 72 percent of respondents with an opinion have little or no faith in the government implementing a fair system for the 2017 election.

LISTEN: VOA Interviews with Regina Ip and Anson Chan
  Anson Chan tells VOA’s Michael Lipin what she thinks of Beijing’s role in the dispute about electoral reform. 
  VOA’s Michael Lipin asks Regina Ip what she thinks of Anson Chan and Martin Lee’s lobbying visit to Washington.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid