HK elections must avoid confrontation

By Zhang Dinghuai Source:Global Times Published: 2014-4-22 21:53:01

There is over one week left for the Hong Kong public to send their views on the electoral methods after the Hong Kong government published the Consultation Document on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive in 2017 and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2016 in December. After rounds of fierce debate, the Hong Kong society has remained divided in the three channels for nomination: political party nomination, civil nomination and nomination by the nominating committee.

The method of nomination by the nominating committee has been written in the Basic Law. While Hong Kong society has a great deal of divergence over the method of nominating candidates for the chief executive, the central government's insistence of nomination by the nominating committee is justifiable no matter from a legal or political perspective.

Undoubtedly, political party nomination and civil nomination are more democratic. But the central government doesn't accept these two channels due to the following reasons.

First, sticking to the rule of law is the best option. Hong Kong is a society ruled by law, which is also valued by the Chinese mainland. When the Hong Kong society remains divided in the nomination method of selecting chief executive candidates, the central government can only resort to the Basic Law to show its respect for the rule of law.

The central government will never allow someone who is anti-central government to be the chief executive. It is the bottom line that cannot be compromised due to concerns about national security and the central's political dominance of the special administrative region.

Some in Hong Kong demand an international standard in the elections, while political party nomination and civil nomination cannot guarantee that anti-central forces will not be elected. Under such circumstances, resorting to the law is the only solution to win a majority.

Second, the nominating committee can restrain the confrontational politics in Hong Kong. If political party nomination is adopted, the elections will evolve into a confrontation between pro-Beijing and anti-Beijing forces, and Hong Kong society will be divided. This will pose a threat to the final objectives of the principle of "one country, two systems."

Hong Kong is a special administrative region that enjoys highly autonomous rights under the central government. No political forces in Hong Kong can deny this fact. The political party politics in Hong Kong will develop by following the rules of democratic politics, but should never be divided over whether to support the central government or not. The nomination committee exactly avoids this problem.

Third, the essence of "one country, two systems" is a sense of tolerance that allows two different systems within one country. The nominating committee will deselect those politically extreme people who do not have a sense of tolerance, such as those anti-central forces and those who cannot maintain the interests of Hong Kong.

A potential defect of democratic politics is that it may turn into populism which can lead to rule by the mob.

Fourth, when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, some described Hong Kong's capitalism as primitive instead of modern. In terms of the development of Hong Kong's democratic politics, we need to look at if the nature of society has changed fundamentally.

While the low-level capitalism is about elite democracy, modern capitalism is about public democracy. Current Hong Kong society is transforming from a low-level to modern capitalism.

Nomination by the nominating committee reflects the characteristics of Hong Kong in its transition as both elite democracy and public democracy are involved.

Last, the central government has the right to appoint chief executives. The Basic Law regulates that "The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government."

The elections in Hong Kong are equal to regional elections in other parts of China. If the results become anti-Beijing, a constitutional crisis may take place. This must be avoided in these elections.

The author is professor and vice director of the Center for Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, Shenzhen University.

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