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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora