Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Beijing can't afford a slip in HK

By Zhou Bajun (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-01 08:05

NPC Standing Committee rules out 'civil nomination' for chief executive in 2017 election in special administrative region

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has categorically framed the method for the election of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's chief executive (CE) in 2017 through universal suffrage. The NPC Standing Committee's decision on Aug 31 rules out the opposition's demand of "civil nomination" and "three-track proposal", and clearly says that the nominating committee alone is authorized to choose two or three CE candidates who win more than half of the nominating committee members' votes. This dashes the opposition's dream of "genuine universal suffrage".

Some local commentators, however, have criticized the NPC Standing Committee's decision for being too stringent to match Hong Kong's political spectrum.

It was the SAR government that put forward a "mainstream package" for public consultation to modify the methods for the 2007 CE election and 2008 Legislative Council (LegCo) election, as well as for the 2012 CE election. But it didn't come up with any concrete proposal for universal suffrage in the 2017 CE election during the first stage of the five-month public consultation. During the second stage of public consultation, the SAR government will detail the framework laid by the NPC Standing Committee.

The reason for this significant change is that the CE election through universal suffrage is not a political reform. Instead, it is a constitutional development that will have a profound impact on the relationship between the SAR and the nation, and between the SAR government and the central authorities.

In the modifications of the two methods for the 2007 CE and 2008 LegCo elections, and the 2012 CE election, the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing was only partly affected. But the election of a CE through universal suffrage will completely change the relationship. Only by conforming to the Basic Law and the decisions of the NPC Standing Committee can Hong Kong achieve universal suffrage without breaching the "One Country, Two Systems" principle.

But ignoring this basic fact, the opposition camp in Hong Kong and its foreign supporters have been demanding "genuine universal suffrage" based on so-called international norms. They even organized the "Occupy Central" campaign to compel Beijing to let them have their way, because they want to overhaul the constitutional arrangement between Hong Kong and Beijing and violate the "One Country, Two Systems" principle.

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