Thank you all for your many comments in the last 2 days – I will respond but I am juggling too many things at the moment. In the meanwhile I will try to explain what’s afoot in HK, politically.
Under British colonial rule HK never knew democracy. A Governor was appointed and administered the colony on behalf of HMG. The Last Governor was Fat Pang, otherwise known as Lord Patten or as he simply was then, Chris Patten.
After the Great Chinese Takeaway in 1997 HK became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. We have a Chief Executive answerable to the Legislative Council and ultimately Beijing. The CE is voted in by 1200 legco members who represent a fairly narrow swathe of interests. It is not democracy in any real sense. Beijing has a right of veto.
However Beijing granted HK considerable autonomy under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. In 2017 there was a promise of universal suffrage. In its simplest interpretation this means one person, one vote. The current brouhaha is about who is allowed to stand as a candidate.
The democrats in legco want ‘civil nomination’. That is to say the public can nominate anybody to stand. Names would then be screened by a nominating committee and everybody eligible would cast their vote. At the last legco election candidates needed the support of only 12.5% of members to stand. This enabled a democrat, Albert Ho, to stand against the 2 establishment candidates, Henry Tang and C Y Leung. Ho could never have become CE because Beijing would not have approved him but if sufficient legco members voted for him it would have created a political embarrassment. As it was C Y won and has since proved to be the perfect puppet for Beijing. He is almost universally loathed.
The democrats have been lobbying vigorously for true democracy. At the weekend Beijing delivered its verdict. Max 2-3 candidates allowed to stand. Each candidate needs to be approved by 50%+ of the nominating committee. This means no democrats can possibly be on the ballot paper. And of course Beijng has a right of veto.
Well known and respected democrat Martin Lee asked “But what’s the difference between a rotten orange, rotten apple and a rotten banana?”
Emily Lau, a legco member said: “This is one person, one vote, but there is no choice. They have that in North Korea but you can’t call it democracy,”
The biggest issue now is the role of a democracy movement called Occupy Central. They have promised a campaign of civil disobedience (with love and peace) in protest. The figurehead is a university law professor, Benny Tai. Many people worry however that it is the younger generation that will end up in the front line, fuelled by idealism. A prime example is Joshua Wong of Scholarism. They can mobilise hundreds of thousands of protestors and some fear a repeat of Tiananmen Square. It is evident already that the police will take a vigorous approach towards protests. Expect to see tear gas, pepper spray and lots of arrests. The PLA is on standby in its HK Barracks. How will it end? It will end up with Occupy Central being crushed and defeated. I don’t think Beijing wants bloodshed but it wants civil disobedience less and if bloodshed is the price to pay, so be it.
The other angle here is that currently the democrats have a blocking minority vote in legco. So they can theoretically block Beijing’s proposal. They have promised to do this. Then any form of universal suffrage is off the table and it is back to the 2012 method to re-elect CY in 2017. I am not so sure how this will play out.
Minor protests have started and there is a visibly high police presence all over HK’s Central business district. I saw it at first hand on Sunday night and Monday morning. We live about 45 minutes away by car from Central and our approach will be to stock up with food and water and hide in our bunker until the fallout has drifted away.
Whatever your idealism true democracy was never going to happen. Beijing will not let the genie out of the bottle. They would rather smash the bottle, contents, genie and all. What does it mean for the future of Hong Kong? Well the expats here are, in my discussions, more optimistic than the locals. They think it will ‘blow over’. HK will muddle through. We shall have to wait and see. For now though the tension is high and it would not take much to set off the tinderbox.