Sunday, 7 September 2014

Hong Kong Politics

Hong Kong Politics

It is not easy to understand Hong Kong politics. In 1997, the British returned Hong Kong (HK) to China - the operative word is "return". Hong Kong belongs to China, period. Since 1997, China has systematically "nursed" Hong Kong back to healthy normalcy as part and parcel of China. British's 150+ years neglect of Hong Kong education, housing and public health is historical. Hong Kong people now enjoys a first-class citizen status, better economic living standard and political democracy to the extent that they never ever had under the British, nor expected to enjoy during their lifetime before 1997. And now, some HK politicians had actually headed to London 17 years after being liberated and expect the British to return to "rescue" them? From what? or whom?

Popular Nominations and Democracy

The current political spat evolved around nominations for the 2017 Chief Executive (CE) elections needing the support from 50% of a 1,193 Selection Committee of prominent HK community, religious and business leaders instead of the previous 12.5% in the 2012 CE Elections.   The final 2-3 nominees, who cannot be members of political parties, would then be elected by popular votes (“universal suffrage”), instead of merely by the Committee as in 2012.

Effectively, the latest decisions by China expanded HK democracy beyond the practice of mature democracies like the US and UK.  In the US, Presidential nominees are made by the 2 main political parties, Republican Party and Democratic Party.  One can also stand as an Independent Presidential nominee, but few Independents can succeed without the nearly US$1 billion usually spent by the 2 parties for their respective candidate.

In 2011, a poll suggested that 40% of Americans identify themselves as Independents, 31% as Democrats and 27% as Republicans.  The US Presidential nominees are NOT popular nominees.

In the final result, the US President is NOT elected by the popular vote but by an Electoral College.  In 2000, President George Bush Jr was declared US President by the Electoral College even though Al Gore gained more popular votes.

The UK Prime Minister is also NOT elected by popular vote but by his political party.  The Prime Ministerial candidate has first to win Parliamentary elections in his own Constituency.  Prime Minister Cameron first won his Witney constituency seat with 22,740 votes (39% of votes cast).  In 2005, He was elected Leader of the Conservative Party – for the Prime Ministership – with 134,446 members votes.  The total UK electorate is over 45 million.  Truth is the UK Prime Minister has NEVER been elected by “universal franchise” directly by the UK electorate, unlike the way the HK Chief Executive would be in 2017.

Not About Pro-Beijing vs Pro-Democracy
Hong Kong must take this chance to improve its electoral system

Democracy is a continuous work-in-progress. Hong Kong democracy, birthed on 1 July 1997, is doing well! Hong Kong politics is NOT about Beijing vs Democracy.  Hong Kongers, not educated in democratic processes during 150 years under colonial servitude, have to choose between its future as a prosperous Chinese city vs being an unstable, acnti-China bastion.
In the 2012 Chief Executive elections by the Selection Committee, the “pro-democracy, anti-China” candidate managed to garner only 6.3% or 76 of the 1,193 votes available.

The first 17 years under the Chinese have been vastly better than the last 17 years of Colonialism, when billions of HK vast reserves were siphoned off to London and British contractors and agencies through expensive infrastructural projects instead of improving much neglected education, schools, housings and medical services. Remarkably, in 2001 just 5 years after the return of Hong Kong, the number of white Britons in HK actually nearly doubled from less than 20,000 in 1997 to more than 35,000 thereby attesting to its better social conditions.   Before 1997, less than 20,000 white Britons had enslaved HK under “white privilege” for more than 150 years!

The “anti-Beijing” forces have been unable to adduce evidence as to how the first 17 years of Chinese rule over HK had done any harm to HK.  HK continues to struggle to remain relevant in the context of a greater China, especially for its banking and financial services which face tough competitions from Shanghai and Beijing.  Its entire manufacturing sector has already been lost to China much earlier even before 1997.  

HK leaders would remember the 1992-1997 years when the last British Governor had adopted aggressive anti-Chinese actions and nearly scuttled the return of Hong Kong to its rightful owner China.  Fortunately, Chinese restrains and Hong Kong pragmatism prevailed to assure a smooth handover in July 1997.

A HK Chief Executive has to be first and foremost, pro-Hong Kong.  Can HK continue to prosper and progress economically by being anti-China?  Indeed, the best Chief Executive is described as one who “loves the country (China) and loves Hong Kong”.  How apt.

By 2013, HK has invested US$78.3 billion in China followed in second place by Singapore with US$7.3 billion investment, then Japan, Taiwan, USA, Korea, Germany, the Netherlands, UK and France in that order. Hong Kong leads the global investment in China. And, the importance is that when HK invests in the mainland, it also bounds up itself profitably with the huge Chinese economy. The benefits are mutual. China's investment in HK rose from 22% of the overall investment in 1998 to 50% by 2012.  About 70% of tourists in HK also come from the mainland. 

It is therefore only natural that the next Hong Kong Chief Executive should be expected to be someone who knows and cultivates the “guangxi” or relationship with its biggest customer and neighbour.

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