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    Greater China
     Jul 18, '14

Raising unneeded tension in Hong Kong
By Shannon Gong

On the issue of political reform in Hong Kong, one must never lose sight of the big picture. China is an emerging superpower and intends to keep the Communist Party in power for a very long time. China also values internal stability more than anything. So what does Hong Kong ultimately want? More importantly, what does Hong Kong ultimately want that is realistically practical? And how to get there?

The Occupy Central's controversial "civil referendum" that took place last month is just another item in a long list of counter-productive things that the society is doing in midst of the grand

exercise of political reform. It is not constructive in gathering any sort of consensus to move forward but rather generates far-reaching consequences that deepen the divide on the issue.

The biggest problem with the referendum is that it is severely biased. It is not representative of the voices of the Hong Kong people to begin with. All three political reform proposals on the ballot consists of the element of "civil nomination". Although about 79, 000 people took part in the poll and roughly 91% of them voted for one of the three proposals, the poll does not reflect the diverse voices along the wide political spectrum in Hong Kong. It provides no insight as to exactly what is the most preferred direction to undertake.

It is also ironic that the 2,500 people that decide which three proposals are to put on the referendum ballot are not even "broadly representative" of the Hong Kong people. All 2,500 people that had a say are those who voluntarily signed the Occupy Central "Manifesto" upholding the conviction statement for the entire campaign. It may be a reasonable deduction that that the people who signed the "Manifesto" in the first place only represent a certain group of biased views among society regarding political reform.

The second problem with the referendum is that it does not build bridges. Civil nomination has repeatedly been deemed by both the Central People's Government and the Government of the HKSAR to be contravening the Basic Law in that it does not fit the definition of a "broadly representative nominating committee".

With these crystal-clear stances from both governments on one hand, and the society's seemingly unwavering determination advocating for civil nomination on the other, could we ever come to a consensus on political reform?

The third problem with the referendum is that the results of the poll indirectly discourages consensus or peaceful negotiation. It seems to send an unequivocal message to Beijing that the Hong Kong people will not compromise anything less than civil nomination. Because the turn out rate for the Occupy Central referendum is so high, it bears a certain persuasive force in the political atmosphere that may influence the entire dynamics of political reform. It certainly will affect how the local Legislative Council will vote on the government's final proposal, and it will certainly affect how the government will respond. It also discourages moderate politicians to continue to devise and advocate moderate reform plans that aim to compromise between different parties and with the Beijing authorities.

The only practical way to refrain from a political deadlock is to be sensible and moderate in our approaches. For this to happen, Hong Kong desperately need stronger, more robust proponents of moderate reform plans. These advocates need to team up and explain clearly and coherently to the public why moderate proposals are in the best interests of Hong Kong. They need to display courage and prowess and bear the political consequences of these types of advocacy.

The Occupy Central referendum is neither conclusive of Hong Kong people's opinions nor does it show that there is a lack of support for moderate approaches. Advocates such as Ronny Tong should not admit defeat and shelf his reform plan so soon. They should instead be proactive and determined to push hard for best reform package for Hong Kong.

History should serve as a lesson. In hindsight, the students in Tiananmen Square in 1989, with their passion and love for the country, actually delayed progress of democracy in China by decades. Direct confrontation often does not end in anyone's desires.

Ultimately, Hong Kong wants a democratic package that entails genuine universal suffrage. But what is realistically practical is something that should be both in line with the Basic Law and can be accepted by Beijing. We can get there if we learn to accept our differences, be rational and negotiate a win-win situation for all.

Shannon Gong is a law student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

(Copyright 2014 Shannon Gong)




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