Beijing announces final result, Occupy Central draws up game plan

Irresistible force meets immovable object. Beijing makes clear the limits to political reform in Hong Kong, saying that public consultation on universal suffrage in 2017 depends upon broad public agreement that an individual who confronts the Chinese government cannot be elected Chief Executive. Meanwhile, the Occupy Central movement sets out its grand step-by-step strategy to achieve a fully democratic poll with no screening-out of candidates deemed hostile to Communist Party rule.

OK – irresistible force meets easily-tossed-aside object.

The last time Beijing was this assertive and unambiguous in defining the parameters was in the wake of the 2003 mini-revolt, when a peremptory Basic Law ‘interpretation’ ruled out meaningful moves towards democracy for the 2007-08 elections. The aim then, as now, was to nip in the bud any unrealistic hopes. The Occupy Central movement can be credited for convincing Beijing to come clean and spell it out, rather than go on muttering coded hints in the hope that we will come to understand the message about semi-democracy via some sort of subliminal osmosis.

In short: sit down in the streets of Central for a few days if you want, but it’ll make no difference. With one pronouncement from Qiao Xiaoyang, there’s nothing much to fight for. The experience of Article 23 and National Education has shown Beijing that the best form of defence against Hong Kong’s habit of pushing back is swift and early attack.

While predictable, it’s a shame, because Occupy Central has a moral simplicity and purity about it that could have been a stirring sight. The South China Morning Post gives a page to academic Benny Tai’s vision of a four-step process drawing on the principles of deliberative democracy, civil disobedience and self-sacrifice. To the extent that it goes ahead, the overseas media will love it. Whether it gets serious local support depends on how Beijing acts following its clear, no-nonsense edict on what will and will not happen in 2017.

If Chinese officials treat the Occupy Central movement with benign neglect, much of Hong Kong public opinion will tend to do the same. But if they turn up the vitriolic rhetoric, the local mood will swing more strongly behind the pro-democracy underdog.

What would make Beijing lose its cool, and thus harm its chances of getting most of the city to accept the ‘no confrontational candidates’ rule with little fuss? How about this

Tai suggests that the discussions [among the public] take place in schools across the city and that participants vote electronically for their preferred proposals.

“The key point of the movement is about developing a democratic culture of rational discussion and consensus building by the people themselves,” Tai said…

A citywide ballot of preferred proposals, either in the form of a civil referendum or a by-election triggered by the resignation of a lawmaker, would then take place by April or May next year to obtain “the citizens’ authorisation” – the penultimate step in the plan.

Former Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan … has already indicated that he is willing to resign to trigger such a referendum if it can help the movement.

These phrases and concepts are almost designed to turn the calmest and most amiable Beijing official into a mouth-frothing ranter. Through Communist Party eyes, only the state, not the public, has the right to decide on a people’s consensus; for activists to hold a referendum is to usurp the sovereign power; and citizens do not authorize anything except via the institutions controlled ultimately by the one-party state. What to Benny Tai seems a reasonable and trendy approach to civic activism could be interpreted by hardcore Beijing ideologues as an attempt to wrest control of Hong Kong. (If you need a clue about who would be behind such a thing, note that deliberative democracy is basically an American concept, and Benny Tai shows little interest in, say, Confucius.) This will be yet another illustration of the cultural divide between Beijing and its awkward Special Administrative Region.

Beijing has announced its bottom line, and that’s fixed. But there’s an easy way to go about it, and there’s a hard way, and that will largely depend on whether Chinese officials can bite their tongues in the face of Occupy Central’s (mainly inadvertent) provocation. The coming 12-18 months will be an interesting test of the Chinese Communist Party’s sense of humour. (And everyone else’s, as the Hong Kong government’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs officials revert to mind-numbing, zombie-like ‘tape recorder’ gibberish.)

All concerned have a four-day Easter weekend – which I take pleasure in declaring open – to consider the best course of action.

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16 Responses to Beijing announces final result, Occupy Central draws up game plan

  1. Real Tax Payer says:

    There’s an alternative if only HK has a Ford’s theater ( well – 3D cinema) and Benny Tai goes there to watch 3D – Batman …. and if I can only find a gun.

    (But come to think of it a chopper would do just as well)

  2. Don’t knock Eddie Qiao Xiaoyang. He is being groomed to leap from his lowly position as bouncer at the Liaison office to higher things – next year’s World Cup!

    With the revised CCP Soccer Rules, victory for the PRC is assured.

    Could the coronavirus be a manufacture of People’s Daily? They must be praying for a SARS rerun!

    The CCP does not have a sense of humour. Easiest people in the world to plant bogus stories on… and satire really gets through to the humourless. What a pity so many people take them seriously.

    Occupy Central sounds like a rerun of William Tell and Helvetic direct representation, including Volksabstimmung. And we all know what happened to Wilhelm. Are we going to have Swiss communes too?

  3. Real Axe Player says:

    Hey RTP …. you stole my line !

  4. darovia says:

    You have to hand it to the Party, in modern parlance, they ‘manage expectations’ well when they have to.

    Does anyone know how many tanks the Hong Kong – Macau bridge can take at any one time? I only ask because I want to know.

  5. Chris Maden says:

    Oddly enough, there was a very successful experiment a few years ago in Southern China, where the residents of a town (I’ve forgotten its name) were encouraged to deliberate how best to spend money on public utilities – the list containing parks, sewage works, and so on. The whole thing was run under the eye of the Communist party, with a couple of U.S. academics along to guide things, and built a sound consensus for how the money was to be spent (after deliberation, the villagers chose the sewage works over the glitzy stuff).

    So Ben Tai is not out of his mind. But of course, that was an irrelevant village in Sourthern China, while Hong Kong is, er, oh yes, an irrelevant village in Southern China. Or at least, well on its way to becoming one they way it is currently being run.

  6. Stephen says:

    Who is Hong Kong’s most popular Politician? Well based on the last election for the super seats – its James To, Democratic Party – decent enough bloke, but hardly inspiring. I’m assuming To, like most Pro-Dems, is banned from entering China therefore making him extremely unlikely to be able to serve as Chief Executive.

    This, to me, is the mess that China has made for themselves. If To and his likeminded moderate Pro-Dems had been allowed to freely enter China over the last 16 years or so I think an element of trust would have now been possible, afterall China and the Democratic Party did reach a consensus over the 2012 Legislative elections. If China holds out the olive branch now to The Democrats and Civics this doesn’t have to end in a mess – allow a To or an Audrey to run against a Starry (second most popular politician) and a CY and who do you think will win ? History shows it could be very close. However if Beijing throws a tantrum this ‘Occupy’ movement could get very interesting?

  7. Big Al says:

    Thank god it’s the long weekend and I can slope off to Macao where they don’t give a shit about democracy, just sleaze …

    We all knew at the time of the Great Chinese Takeaway that 50 years hence Hong Kong would be just another Chinese city, with no more democracy than any other under allowed under a one party state. All this arsing about regarding the Chief Executive “election” and any other election-related discussion is pointless. There is no democracy. We’re Chinese. Get used to it.

    In order to reduce all the hot air from the next few years of pointless discissions on democracy (and thereby help reduce global warming), please can the CCP tell us right now who will be the winner of the 2017 CE Election, so we can all get back to our lives?

  8. Property Developer says:

    Stephen, There’s no way the screening committee — which incidentally has to reach a “consensus”, as distinct from democratic procedures like voting — will allow the pro-CCP vote to be split. But I agree that otherwise it would have been be a close-run thing — if it was allowed to happen, which it won’t.

    If the pan-dems play it straight, they do risk being finessed, blackmailed and intimidated into supporting, or at least participating in, the unacceptable, which is basically what Donald tried to do by offering a few crumbs. “Therefore”, as we say in HK, they have to play dirty, to make Peking lose its cool, by provoking, teasing, lieing and cheating — in a word behave like Peking and its paid acolytes and trolls.

    Using the threat of subverting public opinion is undoubtedly the best way forward, via a referendum, plus legalistic challenges, the whole to be done slowly for maximum effect.

    Watch this space!

  9. Maugrim says:

    While Im not quite sure why the occupy Central movement are telegraphing their tactics so early (surely such face based brinkmanship won’t always work with the Chinese), I can’t argue with Hemlock’s analysis, the occupy Central stunt, well managed could be quite useful, and as said, the foreign TV networks will love it. I wonder if part of the problem is the term ‘democratically elected’? When first mooted, the brains trust in Beijing must have had a good wink and a nudge, guffawing at how they interpreted the phrase. We also have academics and others for whom the phrase has a particular other meaning in process in mind. This is going to get interesting to say the least. At least we can be sure of some goat from the Mainland making an inflammatory statement about dogs or similar at the wrong time, leading to a situation moving from apathy to hostility. NME anyone?

  10. Sojourner says:

    Democracy With Hong Kong Characeristics:

    The Monster Raving Loony Party decides the candidates you will be voting for.

    There is much rejoicing!

  11. Real Tax Payer says:

    Hey – did it ! I actually beat Bela for once ! ( but ’twas only by accident – there are better goals in life than beating the Bela)

    @ Sojourner : Thanks for reminding us about the Monster Raving Loony Party. I recall a Laisee column in the SCMP a few years ago reporting that they actually won more votes in the last UK election than the official British Communist Party. It was a Pyrrhic victory because both parties only got a couple of hundred votes nation-wide, but victory it was indeed.

    And as a quick google of the MRLP turns up it has …

    “… an advantage over all the other parties, in that they know they are loonies.”

    That’s a point that both the pro-dems and and the DAB still need to learn

    PS: It’s worth a google into the MRLP policies, as I just did. Some really make sense like selling socks in 3’s instead of pairs so when you lose one there’s a spare, and creating a 99p coin to save on change ( the UK still has no Octopus card)

  12. Real Tax Payer says:

    Please pardon a double posting this evening but this is just too funny for words.

    Hot off the SCMP website ( I joke not) :

    “If you have blocked Facebook, then at least have the guts to admit it.

    Apparently this doesn’t work for China’s censors, who, of course, have also said on numerous occasions that there is no internet censorship in China.

    This might explain why in a recent article published on a website run by the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, readers are given an ambiguous, yet amusing account of the status of Facebook in the country.

    Here goes the lead:

    “Myanmar recently unblocked the popular social networking site Facebook, which means only four countries in the world still ban the website: North Korea, Cuba, Iran and another country”.

    Another country? Since when did China refer to itself in that way?

    Does it mean I am now obliged to fill in “‘Another Country” in my passport forms?

    Why are state leaders so ashamed of the Great Fire Wall they single-handedly built? Or do the censors really believe Chinese people are too stupid to figure it out?


    Back to the Monster Raving Loony Party . ” Facebook should be banned in all countries except another country”

  13. Dream Bear says:

    @Stephen. Uninspiring does not come close to describing James TO. Consider that his first wife left him for a taxi driver. Speak volumes.

  14. Chopped Onions says:

    I thought ” Another country” was all about pooftas at my old school….ho hum

  15. Sojourner says:

    “Back to the Monster Raving Loony Party . ‘ Facebook should be banned in all countries except another country'”

    @RTP … Indeed!

  16. Apparently the Monster Raving Loony Party once had a rule that any candidate who won an election would be thrown out. They changed it when, much to their great surprise, one of their candidates actually won a mayoral election.

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