Down near the bottom of tomorrow’s Legislative Council agenda (part V. 1), the Civic Party’s Ronny Tong moves the following motion:
That, as the SAR Government and the Chief Secretary for Administration have repeatedly stated in public that the existing functional constituency elections do not comply with the principle of ‘universality’ and ‘equality’, and as universal suffrage models should comply with this fundamental principle and Hong Kong people also hope that discussions on universal suffrage models can commence as soon as possible, this Council urges the Government to proactively motivate various sectors to engage in extensive and in-depth discussions and studies on the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination in accordance with ‘democratic procedures’ as provided under Article 45 of the Basic Law and on the way to deal with the issue of functional constituencies, so as to forge consensus on universal suffrage models and implement dual universal suffrage as early as possible.
In plain English for the young folk: “We all know functional constituencies suck, so start kicking some ass on election systems.”
Two amendments follow, one from toy manufacturer Jeffrey Lam, transforming the passage into a call to pass the non-reform reform package, and one from radical Long Hair Leung Kwok-hung turning it into a demand that anyone should have the right to run for Chief Executive.
At the same time, deputy boss of the National People’s Congress Qiao Xiaoyang defines what universal suffrage in Hong Kong means – or tells the city’s opposition to forget any concessions on the reform proposal – depending on taste. Qiao is the man whose job it has been for some years to announce one delay after another to the Big Lychee’s democratic development, notably the 2005 decision to pretty much freeze everything for 2012.
What he is saying – or not saying – essentially responds to the motion and to Long Hair’s amendment, but as usual the phrasing is oblique. It would make life a lot easier if Qiao were to come clean and say openly that the Communist Party requires total, unchallenged control, and Hong Kong’s electoral system post-2012, post-2017, post-2020, or post-anything-you-want must accommodate that. Instead, you have to infer it, or simply accept it as a leap of faith and then watch how everything suddenly makes more sense. Neither pro-government nor pro-democracy camps do this; both prefer to read what they want to see into the Delphic comments from the nation’s capital.
Beijing must keep something like functional constituencies because it needs to control sufficient votes in Legco to block bills or amendments that possibly threaten it. Under the current system, shoe-shiners with commercial interests like Jeffrey Lam do Beijing’s legislative bidding. In return, as a glance at Lam’s platform shows, these mercenary lawmakers feel entitled to numerous free lunches at the expense of the general population; this leads to disgruntlement and disharmony, which would be far worse if the pro-democrats were not so inept at exploiting it. The grasping excesses of FC representatives need to be reigned in, but Beijing must retain ultimate control over that bloc of votes. How to do it?
Long Hair’s amendment to the motion is aimed at pre-empting the answer. Qiao’s definition of universal suffrage is that everyone has the equal right to vote; he says nothing on the right to nominate candidates or run as one. The Chief Executive is currently chosen by Beijing. We are heading towards a system where Beijing chooses two possibilities, possibly two-plus-a-joke to make it look better, and the rest of us will get to vote on which we prefer. The FCs seem increasingly certain to follow a similar model: a dependably rigged nomination system will produce several candidates per seat, all guaranteed to obey any voting instructions from the Liaison Office, and everyone will have an ‘equal and universal’ vote for such a representative. It is pretty clear that this is where we are going, yet the Ronny Tongs, Jeffrey Lams and Long Hairs remain oblivious to it.