Hong Kong: Best Option is Gradual Reform

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Photo:  Wikicommons
Occupy Central Leadership, Hong Kong, September 14th, 2014. Photo: Wikicommons


As a Chinese mainland student, I believe two skills I learned recently from SAIS professors can help me better understand the Occupy Central movement and political reform in Hong Kong.

At first glance, there seem to be irreconcilable disputes between Beijing and the Occupy Central leaders regarding election procedures and the existence of the Nomination Committee. However, if we use the stakeholder analysis taught by Professor Trager, we can find vital mutual interests. After talking with Professor Tai Yiu Ting and many students from Hong Kong, I realized the basic needs of most Hong Kong people may include but are not limited to identity, democratic value, and sense of security. Meanwhile, the leaders in Beijing may care more about the political stability of the country as a whole and the overall well being of the Chinese people. That being said, I contend a gradual reform can best serve the needs of all stakeholders. Moving the process forward step by step will build mutual trust rather than confrontation.

Professor Haskett encouraged us to think critically to avoid being misled by the biases of experts and media. According to the Basic Law and the National People’s Congress decisions, universal suffrage can be achieved in 2017, and changes to election procedures need the approval of the NPC. Thus, we can trust Beijing will keep its promise especially after Xi Jinping stressed in 2012 that rule of law is the basic principle of running the country. According to Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom, Beijing’s commitments to Hong Kong are “to advance democracy in an orderly, step-by-step way.” This suggests that the NPC is likely to approve a moderate procedural reform as long as it does not threaten the integrity of the country and can prevent further confrontation between Hong Kong and Beijing. If the Occupy Central leaders want to make any real progress, they need to understand the needs of Beijing and follow the Basic Law.

I highly recommend interested readers to examine the full text of the Basic Law. I welcome more thought-provoking academic debates about the extent of autonomy and the connotations of democracy. Since China is undergoing political reform, and Special Administrative Regions are an unprecedented institutional innovation, the future of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and China is in the hands of its people. With more people participating in the political process, there will be more representative public policies. I contend that it is time the stakeholders reached a phased consensus on the 2017 Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive election procedures based both on the Basic Law and the political reality.

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