Central authority should be guaranteed in Hong Kong's universal suffrage

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-28 23:23:01

Editor's Note:

Since the Standing Committee of National People's Congress outlined a timetable for Hong Kong's universal suffrage in 2007, heated debates have emerged around how to implement this policy. What model of suffrage can Hong Kong adopt? What principles should it stick to? Scholars shared their opinions in a recent seminar held by the School of Law, Tsinghua University.

Rao Geping, director of Center for Hong Kong and Macau Studies, Peking University

Hong Kong's universal suffrage for chief executive is an election within a constituent administrative region of China rather than an independent area. It cannot simply adopt or imitate models of national-level elections, but has to be in line with central regulations and laws based on Hong Kong's legal position under the national constitutional system.

Article 45 of the Basic Law regulates that the chief executive shall be selected "by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures" and the principle of a gradual and orderly progress. The Decision of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress on December 29, 2007, confirms the fact that Hong Kong should implement universal suffrage to select a chief executive by the year 2017 and provides guidelines.

The Basic Law and the Decision forms a legal framework, the only legitimate one under which Hong Kong can proceed with universal suffrage.

As for specific methods for universal suffrage, Hongkongers  could work them out based on democratic consultations and then submit them to the central government for approval.

The approach and model of Hong Kong's suffrage would be created during such a process. Under the principle of "one country, two systems," we should do our utmost to safeguard Hongkongers' democratic right to participate in universal suffrage, for another thing, implementation of the suffrage must be in line with laws under the guidance of the central government. This partly features Hong Kong's universal suffrage.

The question of how to implement universal suffrage shouldn't be simply interpreted as an internal affair of the special administrative region. More importantly, the central government has the right to guide Hong Kong's political evolution.

Using populism or radical means to force the central government to accept plans that violate the Basic Law and relevant regulations would be contradictory to the principle of rule of law, and would not help the smooth implementation of universal suffrage. 

Hong Kong is going to have a consultation on universal suffrage for the 2017 chief executive selection. It's necessary to closely listen to the views expressed and reach a consensus.

The current controversies focus on how to ensure the representativeness of the nominating committee and a fair nomination. I hope Hong Kong residents are able to seize the opportunity to work on a plan for smooth implementation of universal suffrage in line with the Basic Law and relevant regulations.

Zhang Dinghuai, deputy director of the Center for Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions, Shenzhen University

Hong Kong is a society characterized by openness and freedom, which not only helps promote Hong Kong's prosperity but also helps facilitate interference by external forces in Hong Kong's affairs.

Hong Kong gained a high degree of autonomy after its return to China, but its residents haven't given due attention to how to fulfill the region's political responsibilities to the country.

According to a survey by the Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey with the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2012, there was no major change in Hong Kong's identity recognition after it had returned to China for 16 years, and the number of Hongkongers identifying themselves as "Chinese" even decreased. That was not a good sign.

Given the fact that the Hong Kong society hasn't developed the full political awareness to fulfill its responsibilities to the country, and the authority of the central government has often been challenged, indulging the pan-democratic camp of Hong Kong to dominate the general suffrage could only complicate Hong Kong's situation and ruin its democratic process.

Arguments and debates over the selection of chief executive, if interpreted from a political angle, are a problem of whether the pan-democratic camp is willing to accept the political relationship between the central government and the special administrative region.

If the central government gives up its leading role in Hong Kong's political progress, it's possible that a chief executive who is confrontational toward the central government will appear.

Hong Kong has a strong desire to pursue democracy and its democratic values and pursuits should be fully respected. But meanwhile, Hong Kong should stick to the rule of law and the region should only be governed by those who love the country as a whole.

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