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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid