Archive for March 21st, 2007

Hong Kong: Halfway Democracy

Time Asia publishes an article today written by the convenor of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, who proposes a uniquley half-democratic – perhaps realist – political path forward. [link: China Digital Times]

I’ll admit that I’m no expert in Hong Kong politics – but what is disconcerting about Leung Chun-Ying’s article is his blatant endorsement of the status quo; the system of officials elected by citizens of Hong Kong, but held accountable to officials in Beijing. He argues that this is a pragmatic reality, and that there are other things more important to people than universal suffrage:

The case for expeditious introduction of universal suffrage has been built on the aspirations of the Hong Kong people. Yet survey after survey has shown that compared to issues such as housing, the environment, employment and education, universal suffrage rarely makes it into the top five of the public’s priorities.” [TIME]

(2005 Hong Kong, originally uploaded by Eddie Law.)

But former HK legislator Christine Loh paints a picture – within Time’s Hong Kong article series – of a much different and more corrupt electoral system:

The current system is unsustainable for all stakeholders. The Chief Executive cannot claim a popular mandate, relying instead on the support of a narrow group of electors with vested commercial interests—a system that leads to backroom horse-trading […]

The system is unfair because it favors a few over the whole. Hong Kong needs full democracy.” [TIME]

Leung appears to be making a case for complacency. What he overlooks is that true representative democracy is a vehicle towards improving the state of housing, education and the environment – despite his subtle assertions that the two are disconnected.

Leung says that Hong Kong’s system is not a carbon copy of democracies elsewhere, and I’ll give him that cookie-cutter democracy does not work – but I’ll have to agree with Loh that there are still many poor political practices in HK that are the detriment of society overall – and stasis is not the answer to these problems.

You can’t just fix it halfway.

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March 2007