HONG KONG - Hong Kong people will be on
the march again on Sunday to protest the spurious
democracy advancement package handed down by the
National People's Congress (NPC) Standing
Committee in Beijing last month.
neither Beijing nor the organizers, the Civil
Human Rights Front, is keeping their fingers
crossed. The Front has officially told the police
to expect a 20,000 turnout, a very far cry from
the half million who marched in 2003 to protest
Article 23 (a Draconian Beijing-backed
anti-sedition law), express dissatisfaction with
chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and call for
The surprise is in the
ready acceptance by many of the constitutional
development package. Before the NPC's decision,
successive opinion polls had shown that more than
60% of Hong Kong people favored full universal
suffrage for the elections of their chief
executive and all members of the Legislative
Council by 2012. Chief Executive Donald Tsang
Yam-kuen reported to Beijing accordingly but,
nevertheless, recommended staggered introduction
of universal suffrage, for chief executive in 2012
and the whole legislature in 2017.
Standing Committee has allowed for possible
"direct" election of the chief executive in 2017
and, perhaps, direct poll for the whole
legislature in 2020. But both enterprises are
hedged in with so many ifs and buts that there is
no guarantee of Hong Kong getting anything at all.
For the direct election of the chief
executive the NPC Standing Committee requires
Tsang to secure enough support from a legislature
dominated by pro-Beijing and entrepreneurial
elements that are opposed to universal suffrage as
well as the support of a much larger body, the
Election Committee, to create a vetting committee
that will ensure whoever gets elected will be
approved by the central government.
other words, Tsang is being asked to create a
fool-proof system for the "direct" election of a
chief executive fully acceptable and accountable
Universal suffrage for the
full legislature is a huge "maybe" even if the
current legislators, Tsang and Hong Kong citizens
can come up with a method to guarantee the
election of 30 functional constituency members
(half the legislature) by universal suffrage
without diluting their unquestioning support of
As yet there is nothing
certain about any of these moves because they are
subject to further discussions, amendments to
electoral laws and agreement on how to go about
all these matters.
The only certainty is
that Hong Kong will get exactly what Beijing wants
it to have, which is exactly zilch.
have begun to wake up to the realization that the
Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, has been
worded in such a way that full democracy as the
world understands it will remain a pipe dream long
after the Basic Law has outlived its usefulness.
Nevertheless there are "experts" both
inside and outside Hong Kong who will go along
with the view that everything is going "in
accordance with the Basic Law principle of gradual
and orderly progress".
That's one refrain
Beijing has never tired of singing. Lest anyone is
tempted to refer to this as the Beijing lexicon
meaning of "eternity", Tsang warned against
testing the Central Government’s patience with
more criticisms of the NPC Standing Committee's
As if on cue, mainland
authorities announced a freeze on exports of wheat
flour to the city, raising fears of a shortage by
month's end. Thousands upon thousands of noodle
shops and bakeries rely on the 100,000 tones or
more than 60% of annual imports from the mainland.
However, after two days of pleadings the
authorities relented and promised continued
This may be just a coincidence
and too much should not be read into the incident,
but it was still enough to remind Hong Kong people
how things stand a decade after the handover and
the transformation of China from an abysmally poor
country to the world’s most powerful economic
development engine in 30 years. Not long ago
mainlanders were grabbing for Hong Kong dollars.
Today they spurn it.
The impotence of the
pro-democracy camp in these circumstances is
underscored by the call for a general strike by a
Civic Party leader Ronny Tong Ka-wah on the eve of
the NPC Standing Committee's announcement to back
their demand for "double universal suffrage by
Under pressure from his own people
who fear further loss of public support in crucial
Legislative Council elections in the autumn, Tong
subsequently back-pedaled and said he was only
thinking aloud about what "radicals" might want to
This backtracking notwithstanding, the
NPC decisions have set the agenda for those
elections - democracy now.
But to achieve
full democracy the pro-democracy camp must win
two-thirds of the seats - impossible now or under
any of the conditions set down by the Standing
The only thing left is for Hong
Kong people to march - and mourn, hence the call
to dress in black or white for the Sunday march
from Victoria Park to the Office of the central
government in the territory.
Augustine Tan is a freelance
journalist based in Hong Kong.